Road trip update: The Spirit Tours motor coach is in Pennsylvania, about 50 miles from Breezewood.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – It took a Congressional hearing for Mike Kelly to find his public voice. And just after the attention-resistant banker from River Forest did start respectfully speaking up this morning, his cheering section from the West Side and Oak Park met up with him to suggest a next step.
“We’re bold. We’re here. We’re demanding accountability for what happened, and we’re demanding a reversal,” Beth Harvey, owner of Harvey House Bed & Breakfast in Oak Park, said to Kelly, looking him straight in the eye.
In a room at the Rayburn House Office Building that’s on loan for the afternoon from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Harvey coached her fellow bus riders – and Kelly, “Say it: Right the wrong.”
“Right the wrong. Right the wrong,” chanted dozens of members of the grassroots Coalition to Save Community Banking as a jaw-dropped Kelly looked to his wife, Jana, his FBOP Corp. colleague Jack Crowe and the prayer meeting they’d found themselves in.
“Now, Mike, I have never seen one white man bring together so many black and white folks,” Jacqueline Reed of Westside Health Authority said, calling Kelly over for a group photo. Everyone with a camera jostled back and forth to snap their own pictures, too.
“I am overwhelmed. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the bus to be here,” Kelly said in a whirlwind of hugs, pats on the back, and observant conversations, even with the press.
Plain talk in Room 2247, aka the chamber of Oversight and Government Reform, flowed from everyone. Jackie Leavy, the veteran community organizer who’s been steering the coalition, walked up, shook Kelly’s hand, and said, “I’ve lived in Oak Park 25 years and I’d never met you. But for all you’ve done, and for as big as Park National’s impact is, at the end of the day, this is not about Park National. This is about us. It’s about whether we get a fair shake,” Leavy said.
A lot got said today, tucked into conversation or flat-out punctuating it. Kelly, who started his testimony before the House finances subcommittee so timidly he had to give his name three times, wound up his time on the panel having boldly covered several points:
- He donated 28 percent of profits to community causes
- He didn’t get promised government help – twice
- He didn’t get one more week to stave off a takeover.
“I believe U.S. Bank was already lined up and that was it,” Kelly said in answering the last question.
In the written testimony that he filed, a conclusion shows he’s proud of a standard and able to set out a challenge: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Expectations are running high among the local group still pinching themselves that they scored a hearing on Capitol Hill because of the stink they made about a community loss. In his testimony on behalf of the coalition, Steve McCullough of Bethel New Life, was clear in asking for Congressional action to rescind the takeover of Kelly’s banks.
In one follow-up question to Kelly, a subcommittee member used the phrase “unring the bell.”
In the testimony that Oak Park Village President David Pope filed in writing, he said: “We had a bank that cared, truly cared, about Main Street; about our shops, about our neighborhoods, about our schools, about our parents and our children, and about us. The FDIC has taken that away from us. We hope that you will help to give it back.”
Harvey, who says she’s in business only because of a loan that Kelly shepherded through Park National seven years ago, was the last one aboard the bus for the return trip to Chicago. After this meeting, she’d joined the coalition members who were knocking on legislators’ doors getting information out about the role of community banks. She’s back on board now, running her bed-and-breakfast’s reservation system from the bus on her iPhone.
“When something’s important, you work it. You do what you have to do,” she said over breakfast this morning.