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Ralph Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland: 'Liars' & 'politicians' redundant

| Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
The Trump International Hotel & Tower, with a huge 'TRUMP' sign on its side, stands among Chicago's downtown skyline on its redeveloped riverfront. (
The Trump International Hotel & Tower, with a huge 'TRUMP' sign on its side, stands among Chicago's downtown skyline on its redeveloped riverfront. (

“Trump lies all the time,” said a liberal friend of mine the other morning at Starbucks, focusing on Trump's sales job in pushing the GOP's tax-cut plan through Congress.

“All the time” might be an exaggeration, but I can see his point about Trump regularly engaging in falsifications, fabrications and fudging, generally linked to satisfying his base, promoting economic policies that would reimburse his moneyed funders, or strengthening his personal puffery and self-aggrandizement.

Trump's puffery inspired Chicago to rewrite its rules on absurdly large building signs after he installed an unsightly “TRUMP” sign on his 96-story riverfront hotel and condo in 2014.

“As brash as a cowboy's belt buckle, the freshly installed sign flaunts stainless steel letters that reach more than 20 feet high and stretch 141 feet across, or nearly half a football field,” reported Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune architecture critic since 1992, calling it “a self-disfiguring act that blights Trump's … skyscraper and threatens the riverfront's dignity and beauty.”

Chicago's “ongoing, $100 million expansion” of its “downtown Riverwalk promises to bring everything from floating gardens to kayak rentals to the river's south bank,” explained Kamin. “It could be the city's next Millennium Park, a mix of mass and class that wows the public and energizes the local economy.”

The hitch is that the improving milieu of Chicago's burgeoning riverfront development was encroached upon, cheapened and marred by Trump's oversized sign and flagrant tastelessness.

“(T)he Riverwalk will look as tacky as a Trump casino if building owners follow the developer's lead and plaster their high-rises with massive signs better suited to Las Vegas or Atlantic City,” contended Kamin. “Goodbye, graceful public space. Hello, schlock alley.”

Kamin pointed to brazen lying and illusion in the controversy: “When the reality TV star claims that everybody loves the sign, he reveals himself to be a master of un-reality. … (T)hree-quarters of those responding to a Chicago Tribune poll said they disliked it.”

Trump called Kamin, also an Architectural Record contributing editor and winner of a 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, a “third-rate architecture critic.”

Trump's lakefront high-rise with that sign sits where Michigan Avenue meets the Chicago River.

“It's a very Midwestern version of a metropolis,” Kamin stated, adding that Trump brought it “a touch of Atlantic City.”

Regarding Trump's allegedly “all the time” deceptions, here are excerpts from his Nov. 29 tax-reform speech in St. Louis:

“I will tell you in a non-braggadocious way. There has never been a 10-month president that has accomplished what we have accomplished.”

On Puerto Rico: “(T)hey're doing well there.”

On reforming America's tax code: “It is riddled with loopholes. … This is going to cost me a fortune.”

On farmers: “Where if you had a little puddle in the middle of your field, you go to jail if you touch it, right? … Not anymore. Not anymore.”

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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