This is a very special episode with Ben Bartlett, Vice Mayor of the City of Berkeley and Jeremy Gardner, VC in Blockchain, Co-founder of Auger, Ausum Ventures, and BEN who both sat down with us in the famous Crypto Castle of SF.
Ben’s journey into politics is a very personal one and was set in motion just a couple of years ago, when his mother, a 4th generation Berkeley native was faced with an antagonistic landlord determined to clear out his apartment building filled at the time with mostly low income older tenants. The experience was a realization for Ben of the sad state of senior housing, where it takes as long as 17 years to be approved for subsidized senior housing.
Ben got into politics to ensure that this experience wouldn’t happen to other local families. He
decided to run for city council, knowing that with his experience in environmental law and as a designer of business ecosystems he’d be able to apply real world applications to fixing problems around housing and create opportunities for people.
Since getting into office, Ben has tallied up a long list of impressive accomplishments from a micro-housing initiative for homeless, to divestment from Trump’s border wall, to funding body cameras for every Berkeley police officer, to implementing Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging requirements for new construction… the list goes on and can be found in its entirety here.
The issue that motivates Ben the most, is the the issue of homelessness which has unfortunately become a horrific epidemic in the bay area with people at serious risk of harm and even death.
The problem is slated to only grow in size, Berkeley’s homeless population is now over 1,000 and in the state of California there are estimated to be 150,000 homeless people with an average age of 60, which Ben sites as clear proof that the status quo has failed us. To resolve this issue requires new innovative models in thinking, what’s needed is new funding and delivery models.
At the center of this, Ben points to the electron. He sees leveraging the power of electron, which has evolved into multiple uses beyond just electricity, to being a mechanism for information delivery (the internet) and now with bitcoin, the electron is also a currency! Electrons are unlimited and everywhere. Following this thinking, Ben realized a new delivery model was in fact possible through blockchain. He is now leading the city of Berkeley’s ICO project which will take municipal bonds straight to the people thus democratizing a traditional investment vehicle typically only available to the very rich at the same time as he is disintermediating the traditional bond supply chain. This means Berkeley residents for the first time will be able to buy into municipal bonds and the interest which will be delivered via the token will be deployed programmatically to incentive purchases in local businesses. It will also serve as voucher to homeless with parameters embedded into the smart contract that dictate where the coin is used so that it can’t be used for things like alcohol or cigarettes.
But this is just the start for Ben who is also running for State Assembly and whose position will be in a place to affect change.
Ben has put together a doctrine called the Smart Path which is all about putting the power back into the hands of the people, to unlock sources of capital to fund community driven projects and initiatives, and to create new sources of wealth for the people to combat what he calls the zero assets future we have to look forward to where asset ownership is non existent. The smart path is means to combat that future.
It’s three main elements are:
Community wealth creation - by extending capital investment opportunities and democratizing the municipal bond investment to make it available to the community through the blockchain, Ben sees an evolution of public finance that removed the disintermediaries, lowers administrative costs and enables fractional ownership in community assets.
Programmable markets - the ability to combine smart contracts, with programmable currencies will open up new pathways for capital, such as the roughly $2 trillion of impact investment dollars locked up due to compliance restrictions. Smart contracts create the transparency needed to open up these sources of funds. The currency itself can also be programmed to incentivize spend in projects that benefit the community, with local businesses and / or with restrictions needed to support an at risk population.
Personal data sovereignty - Did you know that the average person has their data transacted 170 times per day? The smart path commits to giving people the rights to their own data as well as any monetization that could happen through data exchange, which today could add up to $200 a month for the average person.
If electrons are the new currency, data is the new oil.
~ Jeremy Gardner
This was a great dialogue by two brilliant minds of blockchain, both of whom are actualizing the promises blockchain technology brings with it of decentralizing power and putting it back into the hands of the people, while also opening new channels of wealth creation for all.
Excited to watch this future unfold!
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