Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration hasn’t gotten around to taking down the honorary “Trump Plaza” sign outside President-elect Donald Trump’s riverfront hotel and condominium tower — but that doesn’t mean the decision to punish Trump for portraying Chicago as a violent “war zone” has been cancelled.
The city’s transportation department “will eventually get around to removing that sign,” said downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the prime mover behind the City Council’s vote to take it down. “A lot of my colleagues would like to have seen it removed already. But, let’s be honest. The city sign shop has to prioritize public safety signage, traffic control signage. That stuff needs to be handled first.”
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s floor leader, warned even before Trump’s stunning upset over Democrat Hillary Clinton that aldermen had made a mistake by picking the sign fight with Trump, who has a reputation for getting even. “Any discretion that he could exercise that would hurt us, I think he would,” O’Connor said then.
Fears of political retribution have only intensified since Trump became president-elect. But Reilly isn’t backing off.
“It’s my hope that Mr. Trump will surprise a lot of people and do some good things for the city of Chicago over the next four years and earn the right to get his sign back,” the alderman said. “My hope is that this administration is so successful for the city of Chicago, we want to honor him with a street sign. . . . God willing, the President-elect does good things for Chicago that earns this honor.”
Reilly said he was encouraged by Trump’s decision to appoint Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“He’s a successful businessman. He’s a Chicagoan. He loves this city,” Reilly said. “I hope he can be a real asset for us as we’re looking to make improvements in our economic development. Having an advocate for our city in the Cabinet is a good thing.”
At a news conference after Wednesday’s special City Council meeting, Emanuel smiled, but took a pass, when asked whether it would be wiser for aldermen to drop the sign punishment now that Trump is president-elect.
But the mayor had high praise and high hopes for Ricketts. He wished Ricketts good luck on his confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate.
“Obviously, Mr. Ricketts and I don’t agree on policy. . . . But, I know him. We’ll have a relationship and a dialogue that will be good for the city of Chicago. Good for the state,” the mayor said. “It’s always good to have people you know who have a relationship and some link to either your city, project or they know of your work.”
In December 2010, Trump contributed $50,000 to Emanuel and $5,000 to Reilly.
That was two years after the opening of Trump Tower with the vanity sign touting the Trump brand that the mayor and the aldermen railed against.
Asked about the hypocrisy of accepting Trump’s money, only to bite the hand that feeds him, Reilly boldly promised to send the money back — along with the honorary sign — on the day after the election.
The sign is still up, so it hasn’t been returned.
The $5,000 has been returned — but not to Trump.
“What I decided to do was to send the money to two charities: $2,500 to Planned Parenthood Illinois and $2,500 to the Illinois Campaign for Immigration Reform,” Reilly said.
“Those are two organizations that will need that money quite a bit over the next four years because of, at least what’s been stated as the president-elect’s policies. I thought the money would be better used there than sending it back to the billionaire.”
Trump has promised to appoint anti-abortion judges to the U.S. Supreme Court. He campaigned on a promise to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, target illegal immigrants and to cut off federal funding to Chicago and other “sanctuary cities where undocumented immigrants can access city services and live without fear of police harassment.