clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Alderman wants massive Trump Tower sign along Chicago River to come down

Ald. Gilbert Villegas plans to introduce an ordinance forcing the removal of the 2,891-square-foot sign on the 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower if Trump is convicted of “treason, sedition or subversive activities.”

The “Trump” sign at Trump Tower along the Chicago River.
Chicago police officers and city vehicles were sent to stand guard outside Trump Tower in the Loop as the city prepared for civil unrest on Election Night.
Sun-Times file

The 2,891-square-foot sign Donald Trump slapped on his 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago could come down, if an influential alderman has his way.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, plans to introduce an ordinance at the Jan. 27 City Council meeting that would force the issue seven years after the vanity sign along Chicago’s riverfront touched off a clash of giant egos with then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The ordinance states the sign permit, which must be renewed annually, “shall be denied, or such permit shall be revoked, if the applicant or any controlling person of the applicant…has been convicted of a crime of treason, sedition or subversive activities.”

That means the sign would have to come down if Trump is impeached for a second time and convicted of “treason, sedition and subversive activities” by the U.S. Senate — or if he’s charged and convicted in court of those crimes.

Trump Tower on Aug. 18, 2016.
The sign on Trump International Hotel & Tower along the Chicago River.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Villegas said the massive sign, which he called an embarrassment, must come down immediately. He cited Trump’s encouragement of those who descended on Washington D.C. to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election last week, then stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent siege that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.

“We had an insurrection take place right in front of our eyes led by a President who was inciting it. … His speech saying it needs to be taken by force. Having the audacity to say they needed to march down to the Capitol and he would be there, even though he did not lead the charge,” Villegas said.

“As a Marine, I took an oath to defend this country against enemies foreign and domestic. That oath has no expiration date. I’m gonna be damned if I allow that to happen in Chicago. … There should be no symbols or signs attributed to any person who leads an insurrection against the U.S. government. We just can’t stand for that.”

Villegas has also drafted a second ordinance that would deprive any individual or company whose officials participated in the Capitol siege from doing business with the city.

In 2014, developer Donald Trump got the last laugh in the sign controversy that threatened to turn Chicago’s riverfront into a cheesy Midwest version of the Las Vegas strip.

At Emanuel’s behest, the City Council agreed to turn the riverfront — from Kinzie Street all the way south to Roosevelt Road — into a sign district similar to one that shields Michigan Avenue from visual clutter.

But the sharp limits on the size, placement and make-up of future signs meant that the 2,891-square-foot sign on the 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower would have far less competition for the eye to see.

The Trump name being installed on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in May 2014.
The large sign on Trump International Hotel & Tower already had been approved before the Chicago City Council passed restrictions on signs along the Chicago River. Here, the sign is being installed in May 2014.
Sun-Times file

To say that made the brash New York City developer of “The Apprentice” fame happy would be an understatement.

“This legislation is not something I’m exactly opposed to,” Trump told the Chicago Sun-Times after the ordinance was introduced.

So Emanuel’s crackdown indirectly helped to promote the Trump brand?

“I guess you could say that,” he said on that day.

Trump said back then that he had applied for the sign that bears his name under the old law and got the necessary permits after getting “everything perfect.” Former Mayor Richard M. Daley approved it at 3,600 square feet. Emanuel cut it to 2,891 square feet before authorizing it himself.

“It’s the Hollywood sign of Chicago. People love it. People are taking pictures out there by the hundreds every day,” Trump said then.

“If they want to change the law from this day forward, that’s up to the mayor. But you can’t go back.”

Two years later, the City Council punished Trump, by then the Republican presidential nominee, when he used a 50% spike in homicides and shootings to paint a “distorted caricature” of Chicago as a “decimated, war-torn country.”

He was stripped of a recognition he covets: “Trump Plaza,” which had been the honorary designation for the east side of Wabash Avenue between Illinois Street and the main branch of the Chicago River.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week a second impeachment and Senate trial — unlikely to begin until after Trump leaves office — would be a “distraction” that a divided nation doesn’t need.

“We need to turn the page from this horrible, hideous chapter in our history,” the mayor said.

“I worry a little bit about impeachment, simply because [of] the time frame.”

Villegas doesn’t share the mayor’s concerns.

“If the Senate can get a Supreme Court justice approved in eight days, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do this if the will is there from [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell,” Villegas said.