Hilary Niles • www.vtdigger.org • October 24, 2013
A flap over free speech, employee performance and banking policy has erupted at Montpelier City Hall.
City Planning and Community Development Director Gwen Hallsmith took vacation time in October to help coordinate a statewide series of events dubbed New Economy Week. The sponsoring group’s centerpiece grassroots action was to mobilize popular support for placing a discussion of “public banking” on town meeting agendas.
Public banking refers to the concept of a state managing its own money in its own bank, rather than keeping deposits in private financial institutions. Hallsmith is an ardent advocate of public banking, as well as a published author on topics related to sustainability and local economies.
Formation of a state bank could consolidate several Vermont state agencies, including the Vermont Economic Development Authority and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, both of which have offices in Montpelier.
Montpelier Mayor John Hollar and City Manager Bill Fraser have been uneasy about Hallsmith’s public stance on the state bank proposal for several months. Matters came to a head in September. Hollar questions why Hallsmith, who he says serves as the city economic development officer, would advocate for a plan that could result in a loss of jobs in the city.
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