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City Sticker Design Contest Ends as Year-Round Sales Begin

By Mike Brockway | December 11, 2012 7:13am | Updated on December 11, 2012 7:45am

CHICAGO — Beginning in May, the city clerk’s office will begin the transition toward selling Chicago vehicle stickers all year long — and city students will no longer be designing them.

The clerk’s office is actively working toward changing the annual tradition of selling 1.3 million city stickers over the course of several weeks in late spring and early summer into a process that parallels the way Illinois drivers renew their vehicle license plates, with vehicle stickers expiring in the same month every year.

First proposed by former Clerk Miguel del Valle, the idea of year-round sales was a major goal of current Clerk Susana Mendoza when she took office in April 2011. Mendoza announced the impending switch at this year’s budget hearings in October.

The change also means the demise of another Chicago tradition — the city sticker design contest.

“Because we are transitioning to year-round sticker sales and the design of the sticker will change, we will not be holding a city sticker art contest this year,” Clerk's Office spokeswoman Kristine Williams said. “There’s limited space on the sticker so it will be fundamentally changed.”

The city sticker design contest was started by former Clerk James Laski, and for the past 17 years, the sticker artwork that has graced the windshields of millions of Chicago cars and trucks had been designed by Chicago high school students.

Hundreds of students entered artwork each year, with submissions eventually being whittled down to 10 finalists and then public voting to determine the winning design each December. Contest winners would receive a $1,000 savings bond, while other finalists received savings bonds in smaller denominations.

Williams said a few schools did ask if the annual contest would be held this year.

"We had a few inquiries this year," she said "But they understood we were making significant changes to the sticker design."

Last year’s contest became engulfed in controversy when the clerk’s office was notified of possible gang symbols being incorporated into 15-year-old artist Herbie Pulgar’s winning design. This revelation came just days after Pulgar had been honored at an awards ceremony at City Hall in early February. According to Chicago Police Department gang crime experts, Pulgar’s art seemed to contain gang icons used by the Maniac Latin Disciples, one of the city’s most notorious gangs.

Pulgar denied the presence of gang imagery in his design, but based on the advice of police including former top cop Jody Weis, Mendoza decided to replace the first-place winner’s artwork.

“Unfortunately, whether or not the design was meant to include potential gang symbols, the perception that now exists is that the artwork could be misinterpreted as containing gang related symbols in the city sticker design that could be misinterpreted as potential gang symbols,”  Mendoza said at a news conference in February. “Based on these conversations with these gang experts and the totality of the information, I made the decision to change the 2012-2013 city vehicle sticker design and use the design of the first runner up.”

After initially accepting the honor, first runner-up Caitlin Henehan, changed her mind and declined because of the surrounding controversy. In the end, the city used an in-house graphic designer for the final 2012-2013 city sticker artwork.

Williams said additional information that will be required for year-round sticker sales will utilize the vast majority of the sticker’s real estate.

“The sticker will include extra security features and a sticker expiration date will vary by vehicle and must be featured very prominently for enforcement purposes,” she said.

In addition to the make and model, plate number and residential permit parking zone number which are already on the sticker, the new vehicle stickers will now include the month and year of the sticker’s expiration — which will be the focal point of the design.

Chicago municipal code requires every motor vehicle registered within the city limits to have a city vehicle sticker each year. The sticker will cost most car owners $85, while larger vehicles such as SUVs must pay $135.