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Forcing the federal government to rescind its decision to allow the transfer of assets from FBOP Corp., parent company of Park National Bank in Oak Park, to U.S. Bank Corp., is among the goals of the newly formed Coalition to Save Community Banking, made up of Austin and Oak Park residents.

The group, along with nearly 100 supporters, hosted a press conference Tuesday morning outside Park National’s former headquarters at Madison and Austin. They were joined by elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th), who, along with fellow Congressman Bobby Rush, are calling for a congressional hearing to look into Park National’s seizure by the federal government three weeks ago.

The coalition is looking to get the attention of Congress and the media in the aftermath of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s takeover of Park National Bank. Supporters Tuesday said that what happened to the bank and its owner, Mike Kelly, should not have happened.

“The message has been sent that certain banks are too large to fail, but we’re saying this bank is too good to fail,” said West Side pastor, Rev. Marshall Hatch. 

The group has gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition to save the bank. Last Wednesday, a letter was delivered to Cong. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th), who is chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, demanding congressional hearings on the Park National takeover and the future of community banks in general. The letter includes the signatures of officials and activists in Oak Park, including Village President David Pope, and Terry Finnegan, a member of the Oak Park and River Forest High School Board of Education, who spoke Tuesday.

“African-Americans in the thousands are willing to protest, agitate, and switch banks in support of a white billionaire they know and trust – find me one titan of Wall Street who can make this claim,” said Finnegan about Park National’s owner, who has been known for years to support schools and community organizations in Oak Park, Austin and across the West Side. 

The letter asks Gutierrez for a response by Tuesday, Dec. 1. That also happens to be the deadline for collecting signatures on petitions, protesting the FDIC’s treatment of Park National.

In Washington, meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus initiated a postponement of a vote on a financial regulatory reform bill last week. The Coalition to Save Community Banking says the Black Caucus is calling for the remaining TARP funds ($200 billion) to “go to help Main Street instead of Wall Street.”

In Chicago, Tribune columnist John McCarron wrote about the Park National situation on Monday (“Are small banks too good to save?”), in which he quotes Bob Vondrasek, executive director of the South Austin Coalition Community Council.

To get involved:

You can find a link to McCarron's column here. To get involved in the protest over the Park National Bank takeover, e-mail Jackie Leavy at wleavy8396@aim.com, Terry Finnegan at tfinn.op@gmail.com, Virgil Crawford at virgil_crawford@yahoo.com, or call Bob Vondrasek, 773-287-4570.