City Clerk's office to design next vehicle sticker

February 12, 2012

Alex Keefe and The Associated Press

After a week of controversy, the city of Chicago has decided to design the 2012-13 vehicle registration sticker in house.

On Wednesday, the city axed the winning design by a 15-year-old boy amid concerns that it may depict street gang signs.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced that the runner-up's design would be used instead.

But in a written statement released Saturday, Mendoza said that the runner-up's parents contacted her office and asked that the girl's design not be used "as a result of the unwanted media and public scrutiny and criticism of her artwork."

“While our daughter truly enjoyed participating in the design contest and was proud to see Chicago select her as the first runner up, what should have been a happy accomplishment in her life has now turned sour,” the runner-up’s parents said in the statement. 

Mendoza said the sticker design will be done by the City Clerk’s office. But all finalists will receive the $1,000 savings bonds that come with winning the design contest.

She said the office is reviewing the contest and whether it should continue.

Earlier in the week, Mendoza told reporters at a news conference that she had consulted with gang experts, who said the original design winner could give the perception that it includes gang symbols.

"The experts have felt that, yes, indeed it could potentially be perceived as symbolizing gang relations and, frankly, I, as clerk, cannot ask Chicagoans to put a sticker on their car if there's even remotely the possibility of that being misinterpreted," she said at the time.

Meantime, a spokeswoman for the special needs school where the artist is a freshman said she doesn't see gang symbols in the artwork.

"He's said, 'I love Chicago. I love our first responders.' I mean, we don't see any imagery in that piece of artwork," said Jill Watson, a spokeswoman for Lawrence Hall Youth Services. "What we see is a beautiful piece of artwork created by a special kid."

The city has never had a problem with the vehicle sticker designs during the 17 years it has been running student art contests, said Williams.

The 2012 vehicle stickers must be on cars by July 15.