Letter to the editor: Jons would give banks unfair influence

Joe Rippetoe

Chuck Jons is not a reasonable choice for Ames City Council. Not while he remains on the Board of Directors of Ames National Corporation, parent company of First National Bank. That bank already has a board member — Jami Larson — on City Council. During the three-candidate race last month, I questioned this in the Tribune yet the Jons campaign offered no response.

These bank directors receive more than twice the pay of City Council members. They advance the banks’ corporate interests and the private financial interests of stockholders. They approve loans.

The issue was raised in a candidate forum. Some took the view that serving on various boards leads candidates to better understandings of local issues. Sometimes, maybe. But a bank board is not like the board of a charity, arts group or school district. Only the bank director has stockholders to please and gets paid to do it. Other board members are volunteers and have no private financial interests to advance.

Someone said on a comment board that it was OK to be skeptical of Wall Street banks, but First National, well, that was locally owned. Not really. Sure, some local people own shares, but the biggest shareholders include State Street Corporation, Blackrock, Bank of NY Mellon Corporation and Northern Trust Corporation. In the recent financial meltdown, First National suffered losses in Lehman Brothers securities. Are these names with a lot of concern for the public interest of Ames?

The election of Jons could have a chilling effect on local public discourse. Would you ever question the judgment of our city fathers in a public forum knowing two of them had final approval on your next home or small business loan?

No, we need to limit banking influence, not expand it. Say no to First National Bank influence. Say no to Chuck Jons.