Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Even Alexi's Fans Want Answers on Broadway Bank

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    NEWSLETTERS

     

    Even in front of a friendly crowd, Alexi Giannoulias has to answer questions about Broadway Bank.

    On Monday night, Giannoulias spoke at the 49th Ward Democratic Party’s monthly meeting. The room was full of party activists who are going to vote for Giannoulias in November. He was there to persuade them to knock on doors and make phone calls, too.

    “The Daleys and Madigans of the world are not going to win this election,” said Michael James, president of the ward organization and owner of the Heartland Café. “It’s going to be up to us -- progressive people.”

    Giannoulias was a hit. He presented himself as a neighborhood kid who grew up one ward over, in an apartment at Broadway and Thorndale, where his mother still lives. The crowd applauded when Giannoulias talked about getting credit cards off college campuses, and bragged on his support for gay marriage. They were even with him on tax increases.

    “There just isn’t $12 billion to cut,” Giannoulias said of the state’s budget. “Whoever tells you that is irresponsible. I’ve taken the position that we need to have a new revenue stream. My opponent says ‘Alexi’s just for taxes.’ Everyone hates taxes. I don’t like paying taxes.”

    “I don’t mind paying taxes,” a woman in the back shouted.

    It’s hard to be too liberal for Rogers Park.

    Then a party volunteer stood up to ask about “the gorilla in the room: Broadway Bank. We have to go out and be able to answer that question when we are talking to people on the phone or face to face, so you've got to tell us what we have to say.”

    “I’m glad you brought that up,” Giannoulias said. “I mention my parents, my father, who unfortunately passed away three years ago. It was my father’s dream to start a community bank to help people, so he started a branch at Broadway and Thorndale called Broadway Bank. This was a bank that has helped thousands of people, in this neighborhood, even down the street from here, start their first business, open a hardware store. The Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant, a block away, got a loan from my father. Cab drivers that now own gas stations, gas stations that now own hotels, people who have made up the very fabric of this city got their first start from my father. Unfortunately, because of what’s taken place in this economy, they were a commercial real estate lender. We’ve had more bank failures here in Illinois than any other state in the country except for Georgia. In a few years, there’ll be no community banks left. The big banks are coming in and gobbling them up and getting even bigger. There was never any risky lending or any reckless lending practices. They were a commercial real estate lender.”

    The explanation seemed to satisfy everybody. Giannoulias then led the singing of “Happy Birthday” for Ald. Joe Moore’s wife and gave her a big hug (the former pro athlete refused a piece of cake because “I’m trying to watch my weight.”) Reaction to his visit ranged from “he’s great” to “I’m star struck. I just shook his hand and now I’m not going to wash it.”

    It was what you’d expect in a room full of hardcore Democrats. Armed with Giannoulias’s answer, can they now go out and convince their neighbors that Broadway Bank is not a reason to vote for Mark Kirk