Jacqueline Miller of Partnerships for Change in San Francisco said: 'People are open to these concepts now. There is incredible interest. We are very grateful for Y2K because we are getting a lot of phone calls about Bay Area Bucks, Bay Area Benefits and our Resource Exchange Bank.'
Attorney Andrew Michael, who heads Partnerships for Change, talks to groups to explain how to set up systems that tap local resources and use a local or regional currency to reward services.
'Our Resource Exchange Bank is an inventory of people resources,' said Miller. 'If things break down with Y2K, we do not have to depend on the established system but can call upon participants.'
The movement to establish community currencies was under way before Y2K became an issue of general concern. One group, Ithaca HOURS in Ithaca, N.Y., began in 1991, and Partnerships for Change started up in 1993.
According to proponents, local currencies allow communities to control their economic growth by keeping capital, and decisions for using that capital, local. The currencies value labor in terms of time devoted to a task.
Under the Ithaca HOURS plan, each 'hour' is worth $10, the average hourly wage in the area, and can only be spent locally.
Paul Glover, founder of Ithaca HOURS, has created a Y2K Team plan outlining how a community can respond in a worst-case scenario. This plan has been adopted by the Ithaca community Y2K group, of which Ithaca HOURS is a part. 'We are printing up extra supplies of our Ithaca HOURS. This would be distributed in the case of severe and prolonged financial disturbance,' he said.
According to Glover there has been growing interest in the Ithaca HOURS web site, and one man purchased $200 in HOURS to have on hand in case there is a disturbance in the value or availability of dollars. To help other groups, Ithaca HOURS has developed a hometown currency starter kit and video, available for $40 by writing to HOUR Town, Box 6578, Ithaca, NY 14851.
According to Lewis Solomon, a professor of business law at George Washington University Law School, such currencies are legal provided they follow certain guidelines.
'Local currency in paper form is legal, but coinage would not be. Also, paper cannot be valued at less than a dollar. A state, county or city cannot issue paper currency. It has to be done by groups or nonprofit groups,' Solomon said. He noted that because local currency is a taxable exchange, 'You have federal and state income tax consequences.'
Solomon sees the local currency movement as a way 'to build community in a meaningful way. This has taken on an added impetus with people looking ahead to Y2K. It has become a reaction against globalization.'
However, Solomon cautioned, 'To do it properly and establish a sustainable system, it takes organizational start-up time, so people should start planning now if they are looking at Y2K.'
Carol Brouillet, a Palo Alto, Calif., community leader said Y2K has given immediacy to the alternative currency movement.
'We figured that the current economic system might collapse in five or ten years -- look at what has happened in Russia, Asia, Brazil - but Y2K has given more time pressure to the deadline. It is an enormous straw to be put on the camel's back,' Brouillet said.
Conferences Will Discuss Local Currencies
Local currencies and community exchange networks are generating worldwide interest, as exemplified by three upcoming conferences.
One, entitled 'Structure and Economics With a Vision: How to Create New Social and Economic Systems for Our Villages,' will be held May 15-21, in Damanhur, Italy. The second, entitled 'Barataria Seminar on Community Exchange Networks,' will take place May 27-28 at the Conference Centre Kontakt der Kontinenten, Soesterberg, The Netherlands. For information on the Damanhur conference, contact Gazza or Cristina, 10080 Baldissero C.se (TO), Italy, +39-124-512205; e-mail: email@example.com; web site: http://www.damanhur.org. For information concerning the Barataria seminar, contact Edgar Kampers or Claire Vreeburg, Oudegracht 42, 3511 AR Utrecht, +31-30-2-314-314; fax: +31-30-2-343-986; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: www.barataria.org.
Meanwhile, organizers are gearing up for the 1999 Local Currency Conference, planned for June 11-12 at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. Main co-sponsors are the E.F. Schumacher Society, Ithaca HOURS, Local Economic Trading Systems, Time Dollar Institute, Valley Trade Commission, and Open-Air Market Net. For further information or to register, call: 510-339-3801; fax: 510-339-3803; web site is http://cencomfut.com.
Carol Brouillet, Palo Alto, Calif., 650-857-0927; fax: 650-857-0419; e-mail: email@example.com. Jacqueline Miller, Partnerships for Change, San Francisco, Calif., 415-922-1851; web site: http://www.reb.org. Paul Glover, Ithaca HOURS, Ithaca, N.Y., 607-272-4330, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: www.lightlink.com/ithacahours. Professor Lewis Solomon, George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C., 202-994-6753; fax: 202-994-9446; e-mail: email@example.com.
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