Russ Stewart reviews Alderman Banks and John Rice 36th Ward Video

It's a "Cinderella Story" – driver to driven. It could only happen in America. Or, I mean, only in Chicago. Or, I mean, only in the 36th Ward.
John Rice is Alderman Bill Banks' (36th) driver and bodyguard, although he's officially listed on the payroll as Banks' "chief-of-staff." And now he's going to be Banks' successor as alderman.
It's the stuff of Hollywood. It's got movie potential. It's got "success" written all over it: The Driver goes to City Hall, and gets his own Driver…and his own bodyguard.
Parents can tell their kids: Forget the cramming. Who needs college? Forget the lawbooks. Be a good driver, memorize the Rules of the Road, and not only will you get an insurance discount, but you might grow up and become a Chicago alderman.
Banks, alderman since 1983, and Democratic committeeman since 1981, has announced his intention to retire from the city council by the end of 2009. That's precipitated a seismic reaction in City Hall, prompting a plethora of aldermen to begin angling for the chairmanship of the powerful Zoning Committee, a post held by Banks for 20 years.
The early favorite is Pat O'Connor (40th), also an alderman since 1983, and current Education Committee chairman. From O'Connor's perspective, grabbing the Zoning chairmanship could be a prelude to a mayoral run. And, unlike his failed, under-funded 2009 congressional bid, O'Connor would then be in a position to emulate Banks, and raise mega-bucks.
According to the latest campaign disclosures, the three committees controlled by Banks – Committee to Elect Banks, Friends of Bill Banks, and the 36th Ward Democratic Organization – had a Jan. 1 cash-on-hand of $837,349. In the two previous calendar years (2007 and 2008), those committees raised $302,371.
Here's a multiple choice question: Did Banks raise that kind of dough because:
(a) He's just a swell, sweet and wonderful guy, a family man, and has a dog? (b) He's able, as zoning chairman, to dictate committee approval of zoning variances and expeditiously get council ratification, much to the delight of developers, who reap mega-profits and then buy gazillions of tickets – along with their zoning attorneys — to Banks' fundraisers? (c) He's just the beneficent, inadvertent object of everybody's gratitude? Or (d) he gives donors discounted tickets to Great America?
If you answered (a) or (c), you just flunked your UCPT – Understanding Chicago Politics Test – and probably believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and clout-free democracy in the Windy City. If you answered (d), you may want to seriously address your drug dependency.
No "Battle for the Succession" is raging, however, in the northwest side 36th Ward (Galewood, Montclare, and the Cumberland Corridor), where Rice is primed to be his boss' successor – at least until the end of Banks' current term in 2011. The mayor appoints new aldermen to fill vacancies, but there is no doubt that Rich Daley will ratify Banks' choice.
Rumors were once rife that the alderman was poised to emulate so many other Chicago "family business" politicians, and facilitate the appointment and election of son Joseph, a third-year law student, as alderman. But, quite astutely, Banks understands that the 36th Ward Democrats are a political powerhouse, flush with precinct workers and money, only because he is the city's "Zoning Czar." Once he's gone, his ward's "clout" evaporates. Banks can make his son alderman, and remain committeeman to protect him, but Joe would be a junior and inconsequential council member, and the spigot of contributions from developers would be a dribble, not a torrent.
So Banks, who once aspired to be county assessor, will deftly move into the private sector, and join the "land use" (a euphemism for zoning) law practice of his brother, Sam Banks, and nephew, James Banks, along with his son. He'll be the de rigueur lawyer for every get-it-done-now developer in Chicago and the suburbs.
Banks denied that his imminent departure was precipitated by the ongoing federal Operation Crooked Code investigation, which has focused on alleged bribery by developers of city inspectors in the zoning and building departments; fifteen arrests have been made and, according to press reports, some of those indicted were members of the 36th Ward Democratic Organization or clients of his nephew.
Over the past few years, the Banks Clan has gotten some very negative exposure. Banks' committee handles roughly 1,000 zoning variances annually. During 2004-05, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, nephew James handled 32 36th Ward zoning variances before his uncle's committee, and won 29. In addition to being a zoning lawyer, James Banks is also a realtor, developer and banker. The alderman recuses himself from any committee vote on cases brought by his nephew.
Another Sun-Times expose, in 2008, detailed how the Belmont Bank & Trust, founded in 2006 by James Banks and located in the 36th Ward, was his own veritable piggybank, with a third of the $155 million in mortgage loans made to James Banks' family, friends and clients, including $12.2 million to his sometime developer partner.
Ald. Banks has been quoted as saying that "it is time" to retire. Firefighter Nick Sposato, who ran against Banks in 2007 and got a paltry 23.8 percent, vociferously concurs. "He (Banks) is an oppressive force. He tries to bully and control everybody and everything. Now," added Sposato, who intends to run again in 2011, "we have the opportunity (in the 36th Ward) to elect an alderman who will serve the people, not the developers. I won't be running against the Million Dollar Man."
According to Sposato, Banks can field up to five workers in each of the ward's 55 precincts, 250 workers on Election Day to get out the vote, and pay for five of six mailings into every ward household. If Banks retires, "those days are over," said Sposato. "It will be a level playing field" in 2011. "Rice is not Banks, and anybody could win."
Hugely impacted by a Banks retirement would be his close ally, State Senator Jim DeLeo (D-10), who is up for re-election in 2010. As of Jan. 1, DeLeo, an assistant Democratic majority leader, had $658,549 in his campaign account. But DeLeo, one of disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich's key Illinois Senate allies, was passed over for chamber president, a job won by another Chicagoan, John Cullerton.
With legislative service stretching back to 1985, DeLeo, age 57, could retire with maximum pension, and become a highly-paid lobbyist. DeLeo reportedly owns interests in various Rush Street restaurants and, with his associations, could become Illinois' premier "entertainment industry" lobbyist. Hotels and eateries would be as eager to put him on retainer as developers would be to snare Bill Banks.
But count on this: DeLeo won't quit unless he can hand off the job to another 36th Warder – and that will be either ward sanitation superintendent John Donovan Jr. or assistant city zoning administrator Mike Tinerella. Former Harwood Heights Mayor Peggy Fuller is gearing up to challenge DeLeo in the Feb. 2, 2010 primary. But she has neither money nor organization, and she retired after one failed term as mayor. In a primary, DeLeo would demolish her; he'd win with 65 percent.
So here's what will likely happen: DeLeo will resign his seat and senate nomination in April or May of 2010, and the 10th District's Democratic committeemen, dominated by Bill Banks, will choose Donovan or Tinerella as his ballot replacement and as the new senator. Since Banks and DeLeo have an unwritten "non-aggression pact" with the 41st Ward Republicans – Alderman Brian Doherty and State Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20) – in the north end of the 10th District, there won't be a Republican state senate candidate. So Donovan or Tinerella will then waltz into the seat unopposed.
As for the zoning committee chairmanship, black Alderman Ike Carothers (29th), the current chairman of the Police and Fire committee, has evidenced interest. His council service, however, only dates to 1999. The most senior black is Alderman Ed Smith (28th), first elected in 1983. If Smith used his seniority card to checkmate O'Connor, then another white alderman with longer service, such as Dick Mell (33rd) or Gene Schulter (47th), both elected in 1975, could opt to take that plum.
If O'Connor succeeds Banks, and if O'Connor uses the post to build a $1 million campaign warchest, then O'Connor will be well-positioned to run for mayor when Daley retires.
Being a "chief of staff" seems to be in vogue. Rahm Emanuel gave up his congressional seat to be President Barack Obama's chief-of-staff.
Here's a final multiple-choice question. Emanuel's White House job description does not include one of the following: (a) Advising the president; (b) determining who talks with or sees the president; or (c) driving Obama around.
E-mail or visit his website at

8 Replies to “Russ Stewart reviews Alderman Banks and John Rice 36th Ward Video”

  1. Man rescued after spending more than 4 hours in trench

    May 27, 2009

    A man trapped after a trench collapsed near a Northwest Side high school Wednesday afternoon was able to climb out on his own accord after being trapped for more than four hours, officials said.

    “We got him free and before we could attach him and pull him out, he wouldn’t have it. He climbed up the ladder himself,” Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said.

    The man, 44, was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition after spending 4 ½ hours in the trench, Langford said. Since he was in the trench for so long, he was listed “critical” as a technicality, he said.

    The Chicago Fire Department initially responded about 12:35 p.m. to a trench collapse near St. Patrick High School at 5900 W. Belmont in the Belmont-Craigin neighborhood, according to Fire Media Affairs spokesman Quention Curtis.

    The man was working to repair a sewer line in a catch basin when the area collapsed, Langford said. He was about 8 feet down and buried in clay and stone up to his thighs in the 5-by-5-foot trench.

    Crews were initially working to stabilize the sides of the trench to prevent further collapse, and paramedics were administering medicine to the man intravenously, Langford said.

    Still trapped at 3:45 p.m,. crews from the water department began using sewage machinery to suck out the dirt surrounding the trench, Langford said.

    The man was able to free himself just after 5 p.m. out after crews had fully dug out the trench area, according to Langford, who said the man came out and thanked crews everyone repeatedly to a great applause.

    “He seemed to be in pretty good shape but we had a lot of medications in him,” Langford said. “We’ll have to see how he feels at the hospital.”

  2. Hello everyone,
    I do not understand, why do UNTRAINED PEOPLE do work that they do not understand? Clay is like quicksand, it doesn’t let go that easy, “clay sticks to itself” meaning if clay forms around you, you becomes stuck. This man was luck to be alive, why does Mayor Daley allow these people to go into holes to do Sewer work? I think who ever the Private company is that was doing work there should be fined and have to pay for all the Man power that ws there. Leave the sewer work to the “Professionals” at the Water management dept. We that work underground know what we are doing, (Sorry I take that back- some of the water management Chalkers do not know what they are doing, In my opinion Mike doesn’t know what he is doing, he’s a chailker/ in private he was a Deli Manager) The plumbers know what they are doing. So in closing I would like to say thank God the Watermanagement crews were there. Patrick you are only as good as the last guy that went to jail. Meaning you are doing a great job, Do not listen to RG he’s a fool, and in my opinion a thief, he stole barricades from a private company, I got pictures, but what do I do with these pictures of him stealing these barricades.

  3. Carothers indicted for what Daley did 50 times over by taking all the free Educap flights. This is fucked up! Why is Daley not indicted. Im fuckin pissed now!


  5. the answer is Barrack “Hussain” Obama.
    is he protecting the Daleys?

  6. Obama is not protecting the Daleys I feel because look how he threw Jessie Jackson jr. in the garbage can right after his election, and also after Barack had to kiss Daleys ass for all those years in order to rise to power in Illinois, I firmly think his payback for having to kiss Daleys ring every step of his journey has turned him into not caring what happens to Daley. He does not need him anymore and I think he is letting Daley fend for himself. what ever happens happens is Baracks feelings towards Daley. I think Barack would love to see Daley sweat as he is now with the noose tightening around his neck. I am beginning to love seeing Daley go down as seems apparent right now.

  7. I think something is finally happening and Daleys downfall has begun. It’s amazing to see the j*$off on the idiot box give speeches and he acts as if nothing is wrong. And those j@%off p#ssy reporters are all afraid to ask inquiring questions about all his familys crooked deals. The reporters are scared of Daley, but soon as Daleys nephew, son, and Daley himself all fall, the reporters are going to remember how Daley intimidated them into being pu$$ys, and they will attack daley in his last days which are now upon us, Thank you GOD!!!!!!!!!Look how the Democrats on the national level hounded and hated Bush for the torture in Iraq, and not a peep out of them when all those black men in Chicago were tortured and put on death row under Burge. These type of “two sided coin people” disgust me.

  8. There are or were cassettes tapes of the meetings between Vanecko and the pension unions during negotiating for the pension money. Do you want to bet these tapes have now been destroyed. When daley goes down, they go down fighting fiercely kicking and screaming. They are dirty fighters. Bastards what I say.

Comments are closed.