A pat on the back and a $200 check for good ol' Ald. Banks

Legendary newspaper columnist Mike Royko once said, during a debate about giving aldermen a pay raise, that if they aren't smart enough to scam and steal sufficient money to live the high life, then they're not smart enough to deserve a raise.

But Ald. William J. P. Banks (36th) has taken the aldermanic art of grabbing what you can to a whole new level. His driver--reportedly his successor after Banks retires--is throwing a $200-a-ticket retirement party and anyone who wants to attend should make out the check personally to Banks. Don't even bother to feed the kitty in the usual manner in which pols take care of themselves--by contributing generously to a campaign fund.
Read the amazing story here.
That such a well-placed alderman in such a well-placed political family
should have to resort to anything so chincy is, well, a new standard
even in the ever-kinky Chicago.

Banks is the chairman of the
City Council Zoning Committee. How you can convert that position into
ready cash should need no explaining in this town. Banks also is the
boss of the Northwest Side 36th ward, which by itself, entitles one to
grab enough to retire to a Villa in Tuscany. His older brother, Sam,
is, shall we say, politically connected, which is a polite way of
saying it would be fun to see his books. Sam's son (William's nephew)
is Jimmy Banks, one of the city's most influential zoning lawyers, and
how he got to be that has nothing do, I'd guess, with the family blood
line. There are other family ties, to
politicians, real estate deal makers and whatever; suffice to say, in
City Hall, you don't need a family tree to know the lineage.

Who will succeed Banks, then, is a matter of some interest in those precincts, and the favorite

Banks.jpeg

William Banks

is his driver, John Rice, the same guy who is throwing the retirement party, and, gee, isn't that a coincidence.

Let's
put it in the best light possible: Rice and everyone else who writes a
check to Banks is only showing his gratitude. No way is Rice hoping
that Banks, dispensing his own gratitude, will prevail on Mayor Richard
M. Daley to appoint Rice to the council. Or that others who are writing
checks are hoping for the same thing. Or to curry favor with the future
driver/alderman. No, that wouldn't be right to suggest any such thing.

Hey, we keep saying we want transparency in government, and nothing is more transparent than this party.

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  • Mr. Byrne:
    It is once again nice to read your "column". I always enjoyed your writing during your years at the Sun-Times, but alas, I no longer read the fishwrappers. Tied to technology, I guess.

    Above was a good read!

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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