For years, the Chicago vehicle sticker design content gave local kids an opportunity to showcase their art, and residents a chance to vote on the pricey sticker they have to look at all year. The 2012 contest, however, has become mired in controversy -- and the city has decided to come up with its own design this year.
Last week, City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced that the winning design -- a tribute to first responders -- would be scrapped after some police blogs and law enforcement officials said the sticker contained gang signs. The 15-year-old boy who created the winning design denied those allegations, but Mendoza said she had no choice but to use the runner-up's design instead.
This weekend, however, the family of runner-up Caitlin Henehan told the Chicago Tribune that they don't want the Resurrection High School student's design on the sticker, either.
“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," Marty and Maria Henehan said in a statement. The family told the paper that the “unwanted media and public scrutiny and criticism of her artwork that soon followed,” led them to make the decision.
The Expired Meter weighed in on the matter Saturday:
The Clerk’s office would not specify what type of “undue attention” the teen was receiving, but is most likely connected to negative comments directed at her via social media platforms. In addition, at least one internet news source implied Henehan’s design had racial overtones because none of the three superheros in the artwork were black.
Pulgar, a Lawrence Hall Youth Services freshman, told CBS Wednesday that reports of gang signs on his design were "not true at all" and one of his teachers said the hands drawn in the design were based on an art book -- not the Maniac Latin Disciples.
He added that, after winning the contest and meeting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he felt proud. But now, he is sad, disappointed and wishes Mendoza had met with him so he could better explain his design's inspiration -- or even be given an opportunity to redraw the controversially shaped hands.
The sticker will now be done in-house, and all finalists will receive the $1,000 savings bonds that come with winning the design contest.
Mendoza told the AP her office is reviewing the contest and whether it should continue.
“I don’t want to put any other child through what our entrants this year have gone through,” she said.