Explain what you do and how long you’ve been doing it.
I founded and run a community currency for the Bay Area called Bay Bucks. I've been doing that since 2012.
Describe one of the most critical challenges facing the East Bay economy. How does your organization or business help?
The most critical challenges are often the ones we are not aware of yet. One that I care deeply about is how our economy runs on a debt based currency that allows big Wall Street banks to extract wealth from local communities through charging interests on money they create out of thin air. To build a truly sustainable local economy, we must build it on interest-free local community currency that will never leak out to Wall Street. Bay Bucks is building such a currency for the Bay Area.
What does your organization do specifically to help out locals?
We help local businesses barter their excess inventories for things they need. We also act as a community funding resource as BayBucks members can get up to $10K interest-free credit line to meet their urgent needs.
If you were mayor, what one thing would you do to improve the local economy?
I would create an Oakland Bucks which residents can use to pay local taxes and which the city can use to pay its suppliers. The city of Wörgl in Austria did that in 1932 and within a year, had a thriving local economy while the rest of Austria and Europe were still mire in the great depression. I had pitched this idea to various city officials. I hope one day someone will understand how much a city can empower itself by doing this.
What is the biggest obstacle to achieving your organization’s goals?
It is the inability of many people to realize that our money has value only because we each are willing to accept it. The moment we choose to also accept a local currency that does not exploit us, is the moment we are creating a local economy that empowers the people.
What keeps you passionate about your work?
My three wonderful teammates: Mike Lomuto, Aaron Fernando, and Eron Liddie. They give me hope that we can keep growing BayBucks until it start to make significant impact.
Describe your organization’s biggest success.
Many local currency endeavors close down after one or two years due to insufficient planning and forethought. We are in our fourth year of operation now and continue to grow.
How do you anticipate your industry will change in the next decade?
We anticipate as the old economy continues to deteriorate, more will start exploring alternatives, and become more willing to embrace something different.
What is your biggest fear? Describe the most exciting possibility for your industry.
The most exciting possibility for us and for I think everyone, is when enough people realize that if we want the new economy to come bad enough, we will each do what is necessary to bring it about. My biggest fear is that before we reach this stage, too many are seduced by fear and anger instead and fall prey to in-fighting.
How can we cultivate the next generation to keep caring and spending their dollars locally?
By caring enough about it ourselves and by walking our own talk.
What other local businesses do you love to support?
I want to shout out to HUB Oakland, a home for mission driven local entrepreneurs.