City Sticker Fiasco Continues To Smolder

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City Sticker Fiasco Continues To Smolder
By RAY HANANIA • Friday, April 20, 2012 — This past February, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza stepped in it, so to speak, when she claimed to see street gang symbols in the winning artwork of a Chicago school child that was to be used for the city’s new sticker.

It was really rather pathetic. Mendoza selected the design from a number of entries drawn by school kids. The whole process was to serve as a lesson in civil involvement for children that they can have a say in what their government and public officials do.

The winning drawing was submitted by 15-year-old Herbert Pulgar. But apparently, there were rumors about gang involvement and an anonymous police blogger quickly denounced the winning design as having street gang hand signs.

Pulgar’s sticker design showed people raising their hands. All of the hands showed the same finger configuration. None of them looked like street gang symbols, except to those few who see sinister things in everything.

Mendoza quickly backed down rather than standing by the winning student’s entry. The boy denied it had anything to do with street gangs, but why believe him? Mendoza then said she would select the winning design from the runner up, by student Caitlin Henehan.

But Henehan showed some true moral courage when she refused to allow her design to be used in the place of Pulgar’s design.

The whole thing was a mess.

Now, the stickers are on sale in Chicago. Mendoza, hoping it will all go away and be forgotten, has submitted her own bland design. It still references the original theme of the design contest, “Honoring Chicago’s Heroes.”

But even the design is controversial. It has a Chicago flag, white with two large blue stripes. But, instead of having four stars, it only has three stars representing the police, firefighters and medical emergency responders.

What about the fourth star? Who cares? This is Chicago politics. At least it has Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s signature on it. And, of course, Mendoza’s signature, too.

I think Mendoza made a serious mistake. I think that Mendoza chose to protect her own political career while throwing the young student to the media dogs who danced around the Mendoza screw-up like a bonfire of scandal.

She should have stood her ground. She should have shown herself to be independent. Instead, we have this terrible memory of a contest for students that went wrong.

Maybe she should have just put her own photograph on the city sticker to promote herself. Because that apparently is all she cared about.

But the stickers, while showing that vehicle owns have registered their vehicles legally, also stands as a reminder of how Mendoza screwed up.

She’s not new to politics. And she should know better.

I can’t wait until next year’s contest. Or maybe, having lost faith in the ability of students to learn important lessons about our government, she’ll design the sticker for 2013-14 herself.

Did Clerk Mendoza ever apologize to the people of Chicago for this screw-up?

She still has time to do so.

(Ray Hanania is the host of a Sunday morning radio show on WSBC 1240 AM in Chicagoland and on WCFJ 1470 AM in Chicago Heights and the southlands from 8 until 10 am. Visit for more information.) — City & Suburban News-Herald)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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