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Chicago mayor, billionaire clash over TRUMP sign

By Don Babwin

CHICAGO (AP) - The installation of 20-foot-tall letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P on the side of the billionaire's gleaming Chicago skyscraper has triggered a war of words between Donald Trump and Rahm Emanuel - with the city's mayor saying he's looking for a way to undo the "architecturally tasteless" sign, and the developer in no mood to take anything down.

The spat pits the abrasive billionaire and relentless self-promoter who turned the words "You're Fired!" into a personal motto against a mayor who did not get nicknames like "Rahmbo" and "The Rahminator" because he shies away from a fight.

The backdrop is a city that takes its architectural history seriously, where adorning some of the tallest and largest buildings on the planet with the owner's name is seen as poor form.

"If this sign was in Atlantic City or Las Vegas, nobody would care - but it is in Chicago, and in a part of Chicago full of great buildings from the 1920s to the 1960s and onward," said Blair Kamin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, who became part of the scuffle with his withering criticism of the Trump sign. "None of the other towers have signs on them."

In fact, many of the city's tallest buildings have large signs near or at ground level, but not even landmarks like the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower have the kind of banner - high above street level - that the Trump International Hotel & Tower does.

For his part, Trump blames Kamin, whom he calls a "third-rate architecture critic," for stirring up trouble when the letters recently began to appear on the side of the building.

Trump also stressed that he got city permission to put up exactly the sign that ultimately was emblazoned on the building. Not only did the city zoning administrator sign off on it, he said, but the City Council did as well.

Trump pointed out that the city had actually approved an even-larger sign when Mayor Richard Daley was still in office, then last year the City Council endorsed a smaller version of it. A spokesman for Emanuel, Bill McCaffrey, said the council approved it, as it routinely approves signs at its meetings, and the mayor was not aware of it.

"We got full approval," Trump said, a preview of an argument that will certainly come up if the city tries to bring his name down.

But perhaps more important than any legal argument he might make, Trump said he's baffled that anyone would object to the sight of his name on the side of the building, going so far as to suggest that they should be thanking him.

For starters, he said, his skyscraper replaced an "ugly" Chicago Sun-Times building and its equally unattractive sign. Not only that, he said, but he expects the insignia to someday be as revered in Chicago as the iconic Hollywood sign is in Los Angeles.

"I have the hottest brand in the world right now and there are those who are saying I'm doing Chicago a favor," he said. "I've got thousands of people saying, 'Don't do anything with the sign.'"

Emanuel, clearly, disagrees.

"Mayor Emanuel believes this is an architecturally tasteful building scarred by an architecturally tasteless sign," his spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement, a day after Kamin reported that McCaffrey used the word "awful" to describe Emanuel's opinion of the sign.

What the mayor may not disagree with is Trump's contention that the city may not have much choice but to get used to his name in big bold letters.

"The sign - which was already reduced in size and scope - does comply with the provisions of the planned development ordinance and the City Council sign order, but he has asked his staff to determine if there are any options available for further changes," Quinn said.

Join the discussion

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Fred June 12 2014 at 8:36 PM

The Mayor is an idiot for not knowing that the sign had building Dept and City Councel approval prior to the sign being installed. Wake up Mayor! By the way Mayor, how much revenue in payroll, permits and construction did Trump contribute to Chicago? Big numbers!!! Fred Gramcko

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22 replies
amore8844 June 12 2014 at 8:30 PM


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46 replies
mr. wilt June 12 2014 at 8:46 PM

As mayer , you should be more concerend about , education and the high murder rate in your city !!!!

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33 replies
deusnonestsorry June 12 2014 at 11:53 PM

However, had the sign read "0BAMA", Emanuel would have been on the sidewalk clapping like a little circus monkey.

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41 replies
ajt1025 June 12 2014 at 9:07 PM

Another worthless politicians. There are more things more important then a sign to worry about. The people are more important but this ass is more worried about a sign??? The voters in the Windy City are really screwed up I think.

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5 replies
Anne June 12 2014 at 11:08 PM

"Tasteless and tacky" - just like Trump.

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11 replies
rj5611 June 12 2014 at 9:38 PM

That sign has nothing to do with nothing. Mayor Rahm is giving Donald Trump grief, for going against his buddy Obummer..... ! How is that for fair politics... but if it were fair. Rahm Emanuel would not even be Mayor of Chicago because he gave up his residency when he with with Obama to begin with.... Politics at its finest....! Can't stand either one of them...

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16 replies
gianni465 June 12 2014 at 9:34 PM

Trump contributes $$$ to the city - what does the mayor contribute? just criticism and annoyance and arrogance. Yes it is true that in ol' Chicago there are by far more urgent issues to deal with. Let Donnie have his sign. And let him put it ,as the article further reports, in that part of Chicago that has "great" buildings from the1920's onward, and now to include the 2000's...why not? it is part of modern architecture, so shut the hell up and mayor the city.

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12 replies
Cindy Gootee June 12 2014 at 9:16 PM

I think everything about the structure is classy and appealing to the eye.

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6 replies
chuck June 12 2014 at 10:58 PM

hay lib mayor, are you going to make every one else take down their signs too or are you just after real americans?

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15 replies
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