Clerk Pulls Plug On Controversial City Sticker Art
Standing in the same place on the second floor of City Hall where she awarded Herbert Pulgar his prize for winning this year’s city sticker design contest less than a week before, City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced her decision to change the artwork for this year’s vehicle sticker.
Poised next to Chicago Crime Commission President Jodi Weis, and visibly upset over what had transpired over the past 24 hours, the Clerk made the decision to use the artwork from contest runner up Caitlin Henehan, a senior from Resurrection High School, on this year’s city sticker.
“This was not a happy day for me or those involved,” said Mendoza. “We had a lot of tears in our office over this decision. But clearly I had a choice to make.”
Pulgar’s work came under withering scrutiny yesterday after a local blog alleged the city sticker had overt gang symbols in the design.
According to Mendoza and Weis, the symbolism in Pulgar’s artwork was too controversial for it to be printed on 1.3 million city stickers.
“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,” said Mendoza. “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.”
Weis, the former Chicago Police Commissioner, explained that the position of the hands, the use of pitchfork type icons within the heart and the red and black colors in the design looked suspiciously like the same icons used by the Maniac Latin Disciple street gang.
“It’s a tough call, I wish I could read his mind, I wish I knew what was in his heart,” said Weis. “Then it would be a very easy decision, but we need to make a decision that’s best for Chicago.”
In the end, despite the possible innocent intentions of the design, it was the perception that the image was gang related forced Clerk Mendoza’s hand.
“I am very sorry for this young man,” said Weis. “He’s someone, who by all indications is turning his life around. But we can’t have a city sticker that even one person can interpret as being affiliated with a gang when 60% of all homicides in this city are attributed to gangs.”
Perhaps the only remotely possible good news was the fact the 2012-2013 city stickers had not gone to press yet. The stickers, were just days away from printing. If this issue had arisen after the stickers were printed, the city would have been out tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to reprint them.