Citizens praise Missoula for considering Wells Fargo divestment

A number of cities have divested from Wells Fargo in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Sherry Devlin/Missoula Current

Earning praise from one councilman for the care they showed for their neighbors, Missoula residents this week encouraged city officials to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline by severing all ties to Wells Fargo Bank.

In a unanimous vote, the Missoula City Council asked staff to write a resolution that would guide the divestment of city accounts held by the bank.

Missoula currently has about $2.6 million invested in one money market account with Wells Fargo.

The bank is under fire for its financial support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, its aggressive marketing of subprime mortgages during the housing bubble, and its unauthorized opening of new credit card accounts for customers.

Citizens at Monday night’s council meeting endorsed the action, and encouraged more scrutiny of city investments.

“I appreciate the council’s willingness to move forward and consider divesting in Wells Fargo,” said Joseph Grady. “This is a step in the right direction – a small step.”

“What has happened in North Dakota,” Grady said, “is not something that this state or this city can sit back idly and say nothing. What we have seen happening in North Dakota is not something we want to see happening in Montana.”

Lily Emerson told council members that she has lived in Missoula her entire life and that she is “so empowered that my city is working toward truly responsible investments.”

Divestment from Wells Fargo is “the perfect first step in creating a resilient Missoula,” she said, encouraging council members not to remain silent as “indigenous people are being ignored.”

Feather Sherman reminded those gathered that Missoula has long worked to protect its valley’s environment and to address significant national and global issues.

In the late 1970s, the city declared itself a “nuclear-free zone.” In the 1980s, council members adopted wide-ranging measures to clean the valley’s polluted air. Pipelines and high-voltage transmission lines have been turned away from the valley, she said. “And all that is fantastic.”

“I encourage Missoula to speak up for the future,” Sherman said. “This issue is about the future of water and the future of our planet. These pipelines have the potential to pollute 20 percent of our world’s water.”

Added Will Adams: “Every week, there are new injustices done to indigenous people: Nigeria, the Amazon, DAPL. We need to go beyond Wells Fargo and look at all banks and industries.”

In fact, Adams said, if Missoula wants to “be the change it wants to see,” the City Council should consider requiring solar installations on all new building projects.

The citizens later drew praise from Councilman Jon Wilkins, who said he was touched by their concern for one another and for their neighbors – here and in the larger world.

Mayor John Engen said city staff members will now prepare a divestment resolution, which will come before the council for another round of public comment, discussion and a final vote.

Sherry Devlin is a longtime Missoula journalist and part-time reporter and editor for Missoula Current. She can be reached at info@missoulacurrent.com.