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Goofy regs and possible political retaliation

Monday, Aug 18, 2014

* The headline

Rauner firm faces fines for illegal sign in West Rogers Park

* The lede

A Cook County judge will decide whether Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, and his business partners must pay fines for illegally erecting a digital billboard on a building in West Rogers Park.

* The offense

The company has signs across Chicago and in some suburbs. It ran into trouble with City Hall over a 10-foot-by-10-foot sign it put up about a year ago above the corner doorway at 6958 N. Western Ave.

It got a permit from City Hall on Dec. 14, 2012, for an electric sign but didn’t also obtain a required public-use permit from the City Council, which has to sign off whenever a sign extends onto public property.

“The sign was hanging over the public way, and they didn’t have a permit,” said Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th). “It was quite a large sign, and the neighbors were complaining about it.”

As we’ve discussed before, Chicago is crazy about its regulations of business signs, awnings and the like. It’s ridiculous and unjustifiable. I mean, according to the article, the company is facing fines of as much as $15,000 a day, dating back to Feb. 25.


* Back to the story, which notes that Rauner is a “passive investor” in the company

The Rauner campaign has received $188,000 in free advertising from the sign company in the past five months, according to financial disclosure reports that it’s filed with the Illinois State Board of Election.

* These photos aren’t in the article, but perhaps the subject matter of the above 50th Ward sign is what got Ald. Silverstein so fired up…

Yeah, I’m sure that had nothing whatsoever to do with the alderman’s hissy fit.


…Adding… Apparently, this fight has raged for awhile, even before the signs started flashing pro-Rauner messages

The approximately 100-square-foot sign went up in early June [of 2013], facing north on the busy intersection.

Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) also has heard criticism from her constituents about the sign erected by Digital Greensigns above the corner store at 6958 N. Western Ave., she said.


Joseph Mancino, CEO of the digital billboard company, wouldn’t comment on other signs, but said the sign in West Rogers Park was erected lawfully and in compliance with a building permit.

The city confirmed that the company obtained the proper building permit and that it was located snuggly enough up against the single-story commercial building not to need a public-use permit.

Just absolutely ridiculous.

Look at the building

Which is uglier, the business or the sign?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - MrJM - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:29 am:

    Supremely goofy, but still doesn’t crack the top five goofiest things about this race.

    – MrJM

  2. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:30 am:

    == as much as $15,000 a day ==

    That is insane for a situation like this.

    This could turn out to be a gift, however. While Quinn will try spinning this into some sort of “scandal”, it allows Rauner an excellent opportunity to address the issue of government regulation.

  3. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:34 am:

    If the city council has to sign off, then why was the permit issued in the first place?

    Is it up to the applicant to read through every nuance of the city code to look for gotchas?

    Ultimately a win of the Rauner side.

  4. - Louis G Atsaves - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    That sign is considered to be overhanging on a public way or sidewalk? What about that box air conditioner? Which one looks safer? Oh, yes! It isn’t a sign.

    This is a gift to the Rauner campaign about silly regulations hurting business.

    When I grew up in Chicago, my father had the audacity to put up GOP yard signs on our property. We then faced visits from the precinct captain, then mysteriously a series of inspectors. The signs came down after the garbage truck forgot to pick up the garbage in the back alley. Nice to see things haven’t changed much in Chicago.

  5. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:38 am:

    It isn’t about the sign - it is about the message. This is Chicago and in Chicago the message you publically display is regulated when it intends to have a meaning and impact.

    If it was a sign with a pair of breasts on them - no prob.

  6. - OneMan - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    Gosh darn it the city controls the sidewalk and all the space above it up until the edge of space and don’t you forget it.

    I mean, who will think of the children…

  7. - John A Logan - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:41 am:

    Free speech is costly in the big city, especially if your not speaking from the majority point of view.

  8. - Adam Smith - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:44 am:

    Fight on every front you have available. Sensible thing for Silverstein/Quinn to do.

    I disagree that it raises the over-regulation issue any more than it reinforces the Rauner=Rich issue. Just two campaigns fighting it out.

    BTW, living in the city, I’ve seen these signs in many locations and they are very eye-catching, in places you wouldn’t expect them. Many Dem pooh-bahs must be seeing them and fuming.

  9. - Chicago Resident - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:46 am:


    Your political insinuations about Alderman Silverstein’s motivations are completely baseless.

    Alderman Silverstein said that constituents were complaining about that sign over a year ago, in June 2013 according to this DNAinfo article

    Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) also has heard criticism from her constituents about the sign erected by Digital Greensigns above the corner store at 6958 N. Western Ave., she said.

    “There are some people that are not happy about the sign,” Silverstein said Monday. “I’m hearing from my constituents.”

    Campaign finance records show that the first in-kind from Digital Greensigns to Rauner wasn’t until May of 2014. You owe Alderman Silverstein a retraction and an apology

  10. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:46 am:

    === You owe Alderman Silverstein a retraction and an apology===


  11. - augustar - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:47 am:

    Just fyi, many neighbors objected to the sign when it first went up. They didn’t know who owned the company, but found the bright lighting and size of the sign offensive. Some of us noticed that the only ads on the sign were for charitable groups or, more recently, Rauner campaign info, as well as an ad for the sign company itself. We wondered how it was making anyone any money.

  12. - Angry Chicagoan - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:49 am:

    After the T R U M P fiasco, I have every sympathy with Chicago being strict on large signage. The real issue with Chicago signage regulations is a subset of a broader issue Chicago has with over regulating small business.

    Also, for reporting purposes, this should be counted as a campaign donation to the Rauner campaign.

  13. - Angry Chicagoan - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:55 am:

    Oh, and Pat Quinn needs to come up with something better to beat Rauner with than letting his surrogates have a hissy fit over #amiright on an LED sign on a strip mall. Something along the lines of how Rauner’s platform is like a diner who gets up and stiffs the restaurant and server for the meal he’s just eaten. We had three governors in a row that said you could have something for nothing, two of whom ended up in jail, and now the one who says that no, you cannot have something for nothing, gets beaten up for it. Madigan and Rauner may deserve each other, but the only respect in which Illinois deserves either one of them is from not being sufficiently engaged in politics.

  14. - Team Sleep - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    How many complaints could Alderperson Silverstein and her staff have received - or at least legitimate (i.e. non-political) complaints? About a sign?! What is this - Kenny Rogers Roasters?!

    Alderpersons in Springfield do this quite often. Their line when opposing a business zoning request or being upset about a proposal from Mayor Houston is that they “have received plenty of complaints and concerns”. When pressed it is impossible for them to remember the specific number or even quote a ward figure (such as a pastor or business owner).

  15. - Stuff happens - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:11 am:

    === Which is uglier, the business or the sign? ===

    The sign. At least the building doesn’t emit 100 square feet of light ten feet above the ground after dark.

    I thought the third photo gave a better perspective and sense of setting.

  16. - justbabs - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:14 am:

    Residents in Chicago often complain about signs. Especially signs that are lit up and bounce light into residences. Digitally lit billboard signs are still relatively new to small commercial streets and the laws are evolving. They should be treated differently than painted, one dimensional signs. Anyone who has worked constituent service offices would know that complaint calls are highly likely when any new commercial advertising hits a neighborhood. Not surprised at all.

  17. - Shemp - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    ===Which is uglier, the business or the sign?===


  18. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    I find the sign to be uglier than the business. It’s too big and is a misfit for the building.

    It’s tacky and dangerous-looking. It’s right
    above the business door, where it looks like it could cause some serious harm if it falls on someone.

    I grew up in West Rogers Park. I don’t go there much anymore, but I fondly remember all the small businesses there, including a long-gone drug store named Miller’s (ironically).

  19. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    –The Rauner campaign has received $188,000 in free advertising from the sign company in the past five months–

    Something doesn’t seem right about that number. That seems awfully high for such a lousy board.

  20. - anon - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Chicago aldermen are the little despots in their wards. Don’t try to build, or open a business of put ups a sign without first paying them obeisance ( and perhaps a campaign donation).

  21. - Judgment Day - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    Old Russian Saying (loosely translated):

    “For my friends, everything. For my enemies, the Law”.

    Alderperson Silverstein is coming across as a Technophobe (irrational hatred of technology). Has she, or any of her staff driven along any of our Interstate highways in the last few years.

    I mean, like, come on….. these type of signs….. they’re everywhere….

  22. - DuPage - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    Several people I have known over the years have been in small businesses. Their biggest headaches were over-regulation and arbitrary regulation. This is a perfect example of that. It reminds me of that Chick-fil-A being denied a permit because of the owner’s personal religious beliefs.

  23. - js - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    Chicago. A sign of the times.

  24. - walker - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    $188K free advertising for the Rauner campaign, from a company in which Rauner is an investor.

    Hmm. At least they disclosed it.

  25. - Ahoy! - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    If I’m Rauner the glass is filled to the top on this issue, makes a great campaign issue that just about everyone can identify with.

  26. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    It’s very interesting that Quinn’s name doesn’t appear anywhere but the comments. It is almost as if some people have such a visceral of our governor they attempt to tie him to anything they don’t look, no matter how unrelated he is to it or implausible that he would be concerned about it.

  27. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    == $188,000 in free advertising from the sign company in the past five months ==

    $37,600 a month? For that?

    Who came up with that valuation?

  28. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Now I understand how the Rauner budget plan works.

    The person who estimated the value of that advertising must be the same person who did their budget analysis.

  29. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    “it allows Rauner an excellent opportunity to address the issue of government regulation.” Um…what does running for Governor have to do with Chicago city ordinances?

  30. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    A fight in chicago over a billboard/sign? Shocked I say, shocked!

    before you know it somone will be reporting on problems with pigeons and parking…. the world is going mad I say……

  31. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    It is a beautiful old building, the kind that are common in older retail corridors on the Northside.

    It is the trashy signage for the businesses inside and the billboard which are so gaudy.

  32. - Wumpus - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    VM, so what you are saying that if it was a Quinn and Frerichs sign, it’d be okay? DId you say pair of Boobs?

  33. - LincolnLounger - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    There are lots of signs, not just this one. It’s not one sign being valued at $188k.

  34. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 12:03 pm:

    As signage goes, the digital one is an improvement.

  35. - DuPage - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    @Ghost11:14=Shocked I say, shocked!=

    I agree 100%!

  36. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Formerly Known As… == $188,000 in free advertising from the sign company in the past five months ==

    $37,600 a month? For that?

    Who came up with that valuation?

    The Rauner campaign is on just about every greensigns sign I have seen in the city - at least 20. That’s where the evaluation came from.

    Better question is who came up with a $15,000 dollar a day fee on a business for some ridiculous infraction?

    You really think this is not political on the “Alderwomans” part?

    That’s really funny.

  37. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    == Um… what does running for Governor have to do with Chicago city ordinances? ==

    For starters, there is the obvious and direct connection between Chicago city ordinances and their ridiculous impact on a business owned by someone running for Governor.

    Rauner now has something in common with business owners and entrepreneurs from the North Side to the South Side of Chicago. He can honestly say, based on personal experience, that he understands just how hard the city makes it for them to do their jobs.

  38. - Cheswick - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    They ruined what was once a nice corner lot.

  39. - Rufus - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    “It’s too big and is a misfit for the building.”

    Wait until 3D signs start popping up.

  40. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 1:40 pm:

    FKA: I can see that, but how is that Quinn’s fault? Or is the point that it doesn’t have to be? I guess what I’m hearing him say is, “…and we’re going to start by loosening up regulation in Chicago!” and lots of people saying “Good luck with that”, one guy (whose initials start with “Rahm”) laughing hysterically and lots more saying “And what about the other half of the State?”

  41. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    (And just for the record, I hate LED signs any time, any where. They’re distracting and ugly. They contribute to light pollution and of course use electricity.)

  42. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 18, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Skeptic - I hear you. A second, more clear post of mine appears to be caught in the auto-moderator. Imho, it should be easy for Rauner to extrapolate an incident like this and use it as a personal example to pivot to some of his broader and more generic themes concerning “less government”, “overbearing regulation”, etc.

    This is not the fault of Governor Quinn, Alderman Silverstein or any specific person. It is simply an incident that now ties into one of Rauner’s campaign themes, and would do so regardless of whether it happened to occur in Chicago, Champaign, San Antonio, Warsaw or Paris.

  43. - DuPage Bard - Tuesday, Aug 19, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    He might as well just buy the Trib and Sun Times so he can just tell the stories he wants.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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