Golden Bobcatbucks

The Badlands Journal editorial board was concerned about how UC Merced would pay for Michelle Obama's visit this Saturday. We are great fans of Mrs. Obama and would not like to see the glory of her visit tarnished by any more unpaid debts owed by UC Merced.  
Asking around, we were told that the Oldest Living Valley Advanceman would know how such glorious events actually worked. We found him in a 6-bedroom McMansion recently repurchased on the courthouse steps and reopened as a Home for Old Hacks.  We asked Mr. Oldest how it was done Back in the Day When California was This Great Big Number One State of Ours and before it became the Basket State.
"First," he said, "realize that your national advance teams do not give a (bleep) about how you pay for anything. Second, on a deal like this from the White House, you exist to obey. Third, the people who will hound you to your grave are the patriotic bunting dealers. You can probably make a deal with most of the other vendors or providers, but do not cross the bunting people."
He shook a fist full of angry-looking letters in our face.
"And I been out of the game since early '75," he said.
Given that the Mrs. Obama event will exceed $1 million and UC Merced admits to having raised only $130,000 four days before the event, we were stumped as to how the campus would raise the money, particularly in light of its $200-plus million debt to the community at the moment. In our desperation, we turned to others for ideas. After Michelle Obama fans and friends and supporters of the cause of public higher education in California sent us the two articles below, we realized the solution:
Golden Bobcatbucks!
Debate ensued on the editorial board. Even a local currency has to be based on something. Some on the editorial board insisted that historically, local currencies are based on things like good faith or work. Others countered that all UC Merced has ever been based on is its own propaganda, Bobcatflak. What about milk or almonds? someone asked. Wouldn't it be better to base it on something that was increasing in value rather than decreasing? someone asked. Ideas for the basis for Bobcatbucks flew about the room. Organic blueberries? Fighting cocks? Even simple skills like the ability to spell were considered. The solar panels on the Merced home of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer, were considered, since he's moved his family to Annapolis, MD.
"Look," one editor suggested, "they could buy a farm in the river corridor, get a common sense exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act -- hey, it's UC after all -- and strip mine it for real gold."
Another replied that UC doesn't buy land. It only accepts donated land, at least in Merced County.
"What's wrong with eminent domain?" one editor asked. "It's public higher education, after all."
The hard scientists in the room argued that since the dollar was a fiat-based currency backed by solid military power, the Golden Bobcatbuck, through UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, could also be a fiat currency, backed by nuclear and biowarfare weapons.
Mr. Oldest, the former advancemen, counseled that the basis made no difference at all as long as it was acceptable to "your ordinary patriotic bunting dealer, who is your real market in a deal like this."
Debate on the topic continues.
Badlands Journal editorial board

Funny Money...Emily Lambert
New York - The dollar has some competition in Traverse City, Mich. The contender is the Bay Buck, a colorful currency launched last fall. To be sure, it isn't about to replace the dollar anytime soon. And at Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks, it's as useful as Monopoly money.
But Bay Bucks can be used to pay for real goods and services, just like dollars can. And supporters say that using Bay Bucks promotes the local economy.
Bay Bucks are a local currency--one of a handful circulating in the U.S., including Burlington Bread, Ithaca Hours and, soon, BerkShares in Massachusetts. Besides being fun to trade and talk about, these currencies are meant to circulate near their home base, not to be ferried off to corporate headquarters in Arkansas or Seattle.
Local currencies are an old idea. Thousands of them were used during the Great Depression, according to Bernard Lietaer, author of The Future of Money and a former currency trader who helped implement the euro. They're a subset of a grouping called complementary currencies, which also includes airline frequent-flier programs.
At present, local currencies don't affect the conventional economy--our dollar economy--much, because they have such limited circulation. Only $12,000 worth of Bay Bucks have been issued, for example, compared with some $700 billion worth of dollars. But the point of local currencies is also to boost the value of resources, such as local labor, that are undervalued in the dollar economy.
So are these things legal? Lewis Solomon, a law professor at George Washington University and author of a book about local currencies, says local currencies are legal with some stipulations, including that they have to be printed (not coined) and that local money cannot resemble dollars.
By most accounts, local currencies resurfaced in the U.S. in 1991 in Ithaca, N.Y. Then-resident Paul Glover, now living in Philadelphia, says many of his neighbors were unemployed or underpaid, and he was looking for a way to fatten their wallets. He and a group of supporters created the Ithaca Hour, each one equal to either $10 or one hour of work.
Glover hoped Hours would encourage local spending, thus stimulating the local economy. Say you purchased something from a local store using an Hour. In turn, the store would have to pay that Hour to a local supplier or an employee. A professional charging $60 per hour for his or her services could choose to charge six Ithaca Hours, or, if he needed some greenbacks, $30 plus three Ithaca Hours.
The first printing was 2,250 Hours, or the equivalent of $22,500. In the beginning, a few dozen neighbors signed on. Glover systematically gave out Hours to people who agreed to accept Hours in return as payment for goods or services. They printed the names of businesses accepting Hours in a newsletter, so residents would know where to spend their new money.
"A lot of my work in the first few years was facilitating connections for the spending of Hours," says Glover. In other words, if a business received an Hour, there had to be somewhere to spend it.
Now Ithaca has six denominations. There is the Hour, the two Hour, the half Hour, the quarter Hour, the eighth Hour and the tenth Hour. More than $100,000 worth of Hours have been issued.
The cash itself features pictures of a local waterfall, a steamboat, children and animals. "Money is a powerful cultural tool," says Glover. "Therefore, rather than dead presidents, our money has images of local monuments of nature."
To discourage counterfeiters, Hours are printed on good-quality paper and have faint graphic elements that are hard to reproduce. Every Hour is stamped with a serial number. Being accepted only locally is itself a deterrent. In Ithaca, it wouldn't be too hard to trace a faked Hour to its source. "You wouldn't get very far before somebody would figure it out," says Stephen Burke, president of the Ithaca Hours board. He says forging an Hour is considered a felony. And by the way, an Hour is taxable.
Residents and curious tourists can exchange dollars for Hours at a used bookstore in town. Alternatives Federal Credit Union keeps Hours in its teller drawers and lets customers use them to pay fees. Several hundred businesses accept Hours, though they may set limits. Ithaca's cooperative food market accepts only $5 worth of Hours per transaction--that way, it doesn't take in more Hours than it can spend.
Following Ithaca's lead, Madison, Wis., launched an Hours program. So did Corvallis, Ore. The Burlington Currency Project in Burlington, Vt., is issuing Burlington Bread, a similar currency. Although Bread is not yet as widely accepted in Burlington as Hours are in Ithaca, a major hurdle was cleared in 2003, when Gardeners Supply Co., a local outfit that generates $60 million in annual sales, agreed to accept Burlington Bread for up to half the sticker price of every purchase. The next step is getting the city to accept Bread for taxes and other city services and to use Bread to partially fund development projects, like a local bike path.
Not everyone sees the point of made-up money in the modern world. Local currencies have closed or gone dormant in California, Florida and Kansas in recent years. Forty miles away from Burlington, in Montpelier, Vt., supporters of Green Mountain Hours couldn't sign on enough businesses to make the program work. "The problem is, it intersects the mainstream economy in so many places, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome," said Steven Gorelick, program director for a nearby nonprofit. Even the town's new-age gift store, he found, had suppliers mainly from outside the region.
In progressive but cynical Brooklyn, N.Y., Brooklyn Greenbacks circulated for five years before petering out in 2001. "The demand really is there," says Craig Seeman, a Brooklyn producer and editor, who supervised the project and had hundreds of people using Greenbacks. But organizing everything was a full-time job, and the organizers needed to pay their rent in plain old dollars.
But hopes for community cash run deep. "I'd just love it if there were a New Orleans currency," says Susan Witt, executive director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, a Massachusetts nonprofit that promotes local currencies. If a local currency were used to pay for rebuilding, the money would go to people who would spend it elsewhere in the community. "It would keep the redevelopment of that important city with the residents of that city."
New Orleans Notes, anyone?

Bay Bucks: Trustworthy Tools for Local Exchange
The Story of Bay Bucks
Printing Money, Making Change
"You can't live if you don't have money," as the Living Theater famously chanted in the sixties. For those of us not living on wholly-owned solar subsistence farms, or holding advanced degrees from Tom Brown's Tracker School, this is undoubtedly true. We ply our skills, exchange our time and energy to make money so that we can buy the things we need. Hard to realize that the only thing backing those hard-earned federal dollars is the widespread, but by no means guaranteed agreement to believe they're worth something. They're what is known as fiat money. Those federal bucks haven't given you a claim on precious metal since l968. Fiat is Latin for "let there be," or "let it be done". Unbacked money is money because someone says it is. Its utility is that it allows economic exchange to go beyond geographic and temporal limits; it provides a measure of value.
Part of the excitement of Bay Bucks, our own local fiat currency, is that it breaks open the black box of economics, requiring everyone who participates to question their assumptions about money and monetary history. Did you know that the federal government only got its latest monopoly on currency issue in l913, when the Federal Reserve System was created? Or that the Federal Reserve System consists of private commercial banks, and that the way the Fed "creates" money is by lending it into existence, at interest?
Many folks are surprised to learn that local currencies like Bay Bucks, are perfectly legal and potentially very useful in giving the region's economy what "Going Local" author Michael Shuman calls a "Keynesian bounce." The beauty of local currencies is their limited recognition. Bay Bucks can't leave our locale except as souvenirs. At home, though, they can earn our full faith and credit by circulating and recirculating and facilitating a lot of local exchange. Not surprisingly, another term for such homegrown money is "complementary currency" Local currencies (of which there are scores in the US and abroad) are valuable and useful because people in the locality agree that they are and use them (Bay Bucks' locality is roughly the area contained within an ellipse whose center points are Traverse City and Elk Rapids).
The Traverse Area Community Currency Corporation, which has been working for the last two years to think through and organize the issue of Bay Bucks, is starting small, with an initial printing of about $99,000 worth of Bay Bucks which, for the time being, will be pegged to the federal dollar. The dollar may not go as far as it used to, but most of us, despite creeping inflation, share an idea of what a dollar can buy.
Recently, when Bay Bucks Board members Sharon Flesher, a local editor and co-organizer of Traverse City's late car-sharing club and author Stephanie Mills hit Front Street in a quest for businesses interested in joining the system, crafty local shopkeepers grilled them about Bay Bucks. New ideas for using it Bay Bucks came out of these conversations. Sandy at Back Country Outfitters, didn't think he'd be able to use Bay Bucks to buy inventory, but thought they might be useful gifts to foster good customer relations.
One of Sandy's employees was concerned about the security of the printing. He wondered what was to keep the printer from running off a few extra thou when nobody was looking. There are several safeguards, first and foremost, trust. Printer Chad Pastotnik, of Deep Woods Press, has been in the discussion since the beginning. Bay Bucks are beautiful and durable, letterpress printed the currency. There are other security features in the bills -- which have been issued in four denominations: BB1, BB5, BB10, and BB20 -- in addition to Chad's high-quality printing.
At this writing, there were 56 participating businesses (even more now!) in Traverse City, Cedar, and Lake Leelanau. As a participant, as you take a portion of your pay, or sales, in Bay Bucks, then you'll need to find another producer or provider of services who'll do likewise. Bay Bucks members, who purchase their membership with Federal dollars and receive Bay Bucks in return, also receive a listing on the regularly updated Bay Bucks web page. Business members will receive ads in a printed directory soon to be issued. These are handy sources to find places to use your Bay Bucks.
Launching a local currency in the Grand Traverse area is something that's long been a gleam in many a cultural creative's eye hereabouts. Various groups of friends have been discussing the idea since the mid-eighties. It took Chris Grobbel and Natasha Lapinski (now president of the Bay Bucks board) to launch the public meeting in 2002 that resulted in the formation of a steering committee. Members have come and gone, and the committee became a board upon the project's incorporation. Present Board members include Lapinski, who is the Land Protection and Development Coordinator of the Leelanau Conservancy, Kik, Flesher, and Mills, along with Bob Russell, President of the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center, Holly Wren Spaulding, local author and water activist; Liz Berger, Operations Manager of Chateau Chantal Winery, and Jody Treter, co-owner of Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Bill Palladino, Regional Director of the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center has been serving as an ex-officio advisor to the board. Early on, Bob Struthers, general manager of the Oryana Natural Foods cooperative pledged the co-op's support and a healthy donation from. Grobbel, an environmental consultant, provided space, staff time, and covered expenses for the first year of the project. Other community members too numerous to mention have supported Bay Bucks as well.
Because it's a nonprofit organization, democratically run by a small board of directors, all of whom are working on this project for love of the community and from a sense of adventure, Bay Bucks volunteers are interested in keeping the money circulating and will work with Bay Bucks members to find, or enlist suppliers or service providers who accept Bay Bucks. Doing this, we hope, will help weave together small business commerce in our region, and help establish a preference for it on the part of consumers in the region. Bay Bucks can identify opportunities for import substitution and help personalize our local economy. As Bay Bucks grows, opportunities for participation -- like attending potlucks, serving on the board of directors or contributing writing or art to the directory -- will, also.