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Op-ed: Leave the sign on Chicago’s Trump Tower


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Op-ed: Leave the sign on Chicago’s Trump Tower

 

By JACK MODZELEWSKI. CHICAGO TRIBUNE JAN 25, 2021  4:06 PM

 

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https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-trump-tower-sign-riverfront-20210125-a3vc6k2dhnddxmac45zfodqdcu-story.html

 

It’s the most controversial illuminated sign in Chicago — those five huge letters that spell TRUMP on the city’s second tallest building.

Residents, downtown workers and visitors have marveled at and derided it, viewing it from nearby sidewalks, office buildings, hotels, riverboats and even from the air on descending planes.

 

Now Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, says he plans to introduce an ordinance in the City Council aimed at removing the sign overlooking the river from the Trump International Hotel & Tower at 401 N. Wabash Ave.

 

There’s one small problem: The Trump sign was legally authorized. Villegas’ ordinance, if introduced and approved, would compel the sign’s removal contingent on Trump being convicted by the U.S. Senate for treason, sedition or subversive actions.

 

Some believe that the former president’s ouster from the White House and pending impeachment trial are insufficient punishment and humiliation. They want all reminders of Trump’s presidency and his slumping brand sanitized from public life. If the Trump sign was instead a public statue of the man, by now someone may have toppled it.

 

Villegas’ intention may reflect public sentiment, but I take a different view: Leave the sign there.

 

I say leave the Trump sign there in all its backlit garishness so that when kids in the future ask who or what is a Trump, their parents may recount one of the strangest, most contentious and tumultuous presidential administrations in our national history.

 

Leave the sign as a reminder of a time in Chicago’s history when a president of the United States took pleasure in mocking and disparaging the city and its officials. And leave it as yet another reminder of all the slurs Chicago has endured in the past from outsiders as the city grew its reputation as one of the great cities of the world.

 

For anyone not familiar with the history of the Trump building’s sign, it was designed by a Wisconsin company and affixed to the Trump International Hotel & Tower in the summer of 2014.

 

Its letters occupy more square footage than the average three-bedroom home: 20 feet high and spanning 140 feet across the skyscraper’s Chicago River-facing southeast side. The sign weighs almost 12 tons. Its size surpasses other corporate signage on Chicago commercial buildings and hotels.

 

The Trump sign was approved by countless City Hall officials — including two mayors — before it was hoisted on the building. Critics repulsed by its over-the-top showiness included former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had approved it but later called it “architecturally tasteless.”

 

But what were our city officials thinking — and expecting from a developer with Trump’s flashy reputation for the spectacular and the ostentatious? Most Chicagoans probably never have noticed a very small sign on the Trump building’s Riverwalk side, which says: “Subtlety is not our strength — Indulgence is.” That says it all.

 

After the sign went up in 2014, the City Council approved zoning law amendments to block future gargantuan signs downtown along the river. After all, Chicagoans prefer their downtown area with its extraordinary array of architecture not to resemble a neon nightmare like New York’s Times Square or Tokyo’s Ginza district. But the Trump sign remained, grandfathered in its protection under past ordinances.

 

Within a year of its appearance as Trump mounted his presidential campaign in 2015, the sign went from corporate logo to perceived political advertisement. Once he became president, the sign became a political lightning rod, drawing ire and protests from Trump opponents and admiration from his supporters.

 

By leaving it there, will the Trump sign provoke future protests. Maybe. Future criticism? Certainly.

 

Will the sign keep visitors away from Chicago? Unlikely. But more important issues will, such as safety on our streets from gun violence, carjackings and other crime. That’s where Ald. Villegas and his colleagues should be focusing their attention.

 

 

 

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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