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Editorial: Ending Christmas in July in city clerk’s office

2013-2014 Chicago city sticker image

2013-2014 Chicago city sticker image

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Updated: May 6, 2013 6:23AM

To hear Chicago Clerk Susana Mendoza tell it, June and July in the old days were like Christmas in her city department.

Every year, the clerk’s staff had to mail out tens of thousands of vehicle stickers before the annual July 1 deadline (really July 15 because of a grace period) for displaying them, and that meant plenty of lucrative overtime, especially if nobody worked too hard or fast.

Officially, the clerk’s office back then would budget a relatively modest sum, say $40,000, for overtime each year. But everybody knew that was a fiction just to put snooping reporters off the scent. Actual OT expenditures topped $200,000.

So think of Mendoza as the Grinch who stole Christmas. By selling stickers earlier and pushing more online sales, she has eliminated half of that overtime and, better yet, she intends to save the city more money and increase revenues by selling stickers year-round. Beginning in 2014, motorists will buy city stickers the way they buy state stickers for their license plates, staggered throughout the year.

This makes perfect sense. The old way, with long customer lines each spring and enormous OT, made no sense. Unless you worked for the clerk’s office and needed a little spring bonus for your summer vacation.

Mendoza, who was sworn in as clerk just two years ago, says she has reduced overtime in her department in 2012 by 50 percent and increased online sales to 21 percent from 15. She estimates the staggered system for selling stickers will pull in an additional $1 million because of better enforcement and because people will be more likely to buy a sticker as soon as they buy a car.

Chicago sells about 1.3 million stickers a year, she says, meaning about 200,000 Chicago car owners are not buying them.

Can Mendoza pull this off? Let’s cheer her on. Christmas is supposed to come but once a year.

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