City Clerk proposes rare cut in city sticker fees

SHARE City Clerk proposes rare cut in city sticker fees

City Clerk Susanna Mendoza is reducing a whole host of fees charged by her office. | Natalie Watts/Sun-Times

When you’re running statewide for the first time for an obscure, down-ballot office, every little bit helps. Same goes for Chicagoans struggling to make ends meet.

That could be the thinking behind City Clerk Susana Mendoza’s plan to reduce an assortment of fees that her office charges people for handling city stickers.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the last before a summer recess, Mendoza introduced an ordinance that would give at least some Chicagoans a small break.

The goal, her office claims, is to stop “nickel and diming” Chicagoans and “right-size” the fees to “correspond with the actual cost” of providing those services.

It’s the final phase of the complex transition from annual sticker sales to year-round sales that has boosted annual sticker revenues by $30 million to $120 million.

The good news for motorists includes:

  • A $25 cut — from $30 to $5 — in the fee for replacing a lost, stolen or damaged city sticker.
  • A $15 break — from $20 to $5 — for motorists transferring stickers from one vehicle to another when they purchase a new car, truck or SUV.
  • A 50-percent cut — from $10 to $5 — in the fee for changing the residential permit parking zone that appears on the city sticker when a motorist moves from one zone to another.

Mendoza is the Democratic candidate for state comptroller against Republican Leslie Munger, Gov. Rauner’s hand-picked choice to replace Judy Baar-Topinka, who died in December 2014.

It’s the ambitious city clerk’s first run for statewide office.

Mendoza’s spokesperson Pat Corcoran denied any political motives were behind the cuts, maintaining that the fee schedule was set “many years ago” and that the amounts “no longer make sense.”

“For example, the replacement fee was set at $30 as a fraud reduction measure, or a disincentive to report a vehicle sticker stolen, obtain a new one and place it on another vehicle,” Corcoran wrote in an email that pegged the cost of the reductions at a modest $50,000.

“Vehicle stickers now have unique vehicle information printed on them, meaning they cannot be fraudulently transferred to another vehicle. Moreover, we shouldn’t punish people who are victims of vandalism or a car accident by hitting them with a $30 fee for a product that costs a little over $1 to produce.”

Corcoran noted that the ministerial city clerk’s office was “basically in the Stone Age” before Mendoza took the reins. Two prior city clerks — Walter Kozubowski and James Laski — were convicted in corruption scandals, fueling calls to ask the Illinois General Assembly to switch the city clerk’s office from an elected office to a city department filled by a mayoral appointee.

That never happened.

Instead, Daley chose to fill the vacancy created by Laski’s conviction with then-State Sen. Miguel del Valle. That allowed Daley to run on a rainbow ticket in 2007, in what would turn out to be his last election.

“The clerk’s motivation is to stop nickel-and-diming people when they are already paying an average of $90 to purchase their vehicle sticker,” Corcoran said.

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