So long, 2010 stickers
these years sure do fly by fast
06/29/2010 8:58 PM
I completed the parking pass changing of the year payout ritual yesterday, a mere 60 hours before friends who visit me who want to park in Dearborn Park 2 turn into trespassing fools. That's what happens if you don't have a handy supply of current, properly colored stickers on hand for anyone who drives. I stood in line at City Hall for one full hour, reading a book and eavesdropping on conversations, all for my pals--and I hope they appreciate it when I hand them a sticker that allows them free parkage in zone 365.
by Bonnie McGrath (June, 2009)
A young guy in a tank top is yelling at the elderly gentleman in the pastel pink broadcloth shirt at the door of the big bustling city hall room that sells vehicle stickers. The young guy is holding an application in one hand; the older man is directing foot traffic into the room, depending on what you need. A city sticker? A residential parking pass? Something else? He sends you to one line or another.
“You’re selling over a million,
hundred-thousand stickers and
making all that money, and the roads still look like crap,” says the young
guy. The older gentleman leans in
to listen and then leans back and shrugs.
He starts to say something, leans in again, and then seems to give up,
gently pushing the young guy into the room so he can transact his business.
Instead, the young guy walks off
mad. “It just really gets me that
they take in all this money--and for what? They don’t spend it on anything worthwhile.”
And then I realize
something: The young guy hasn’t
been talking to a lowly patronage worker charged with directing the massive
crowd of Chicagoans needing to buy stickers into the proper queue. He has been talking to the city clerk
himself, Miguel del Valle, the second highest elected official in Chicago. The city clerk is the one directing the
crowd into the room.
I ask the young guy if he
realizes who he is talking to. He
says he does. But he says he’s
like you’re complaining to the mayor, I tell him. “Oh, Daley would never do this, he’d never stand around listening
to people like this.” And then the
young guy walks away, still upset that the sticker revenue is being wasted.
I am then at the front of the mass that is waiting to face del Valle, awaiting
“You’re the actual clerk, aren’t
you,” I ask, because I still can’t believe my eyes, that it’s really him doing
this lowly job. “I guess you
really have laid off a lot of people here at city hall!”
The city clerk doesn’t pay much
attention to what I’m saying.
“What are you here for today?” he asks me. I tell him I need some daily parking passes. And then I tell him, “This is very
admirable, what you’re doing, coming down to face the people.”
He puts one of his hands on my
back, and with the other he points to the line I should get into. Then he gives me a little push and I am
very well propelled in the direction that I should be going. And he goes on to face the next person
And so it goes. I keep my eye on him at the door during
my whole time in the second line, until I get my stickers and walk past him on
the way out. He is steadfastly
there for the constituents, chatting up to one degree or another anyone who
wants to. But if you don’t want to
talk, if you just want to make your purchase and leave, he is very efficient at
telling you where to go.
So what gives?
“He’s there every day, eight
hours a day, May through July,” says his spokesperson Kristine Williams. “He comes in early, and shuts down at
night during the sticker season.
Our office is the most visited in City Hall and he likes to find out
what’s on people’s minds and get feedback.”
But what if he has meetings,
phone calls, every day administrative business? Doesn’t he have better things to do? And who stands in for him when he goes
“He really never leaves,” says Williams. “He just eats a power bar at lunch.”
So the second highest elected official in the city has no other business to transact?“
If there is a meeting or a phone call that he absolutely can’t miss, he’ll make a rare exception,” Williams explains, “but that rarely happens and he does it fast; he doesn’t make too many exceptions during sticker season, and when he does he has a member of his staff go out there.“
He likes to hear feedback from the constituents. He wants to hear and see the people and he wants them to see who he is as a person.”
So what kinds of things does he hear from the people?
“Well, like today, he heard from a woman who lives on the south side and she told him that there needs to be more opportunities to buy stickers on the south side. You see what I mean? He gets a lot of ideas. All the time.”