WOODLAWN — A candidate for the hotly contested 20th Ward aldermanic seat says he put campaign fliers that look like parking tickets on car windshields in the ward to drum up interest in his campaign.
“YOUR TICKET FOR CHANGE!” the bright orange campaign ad for Dernard D. Newell reads.
But his shock tactic quickly drew backlash from residents who didn’t appreciate the scare.
Community activist Kofi Ademola posted three pictures of the fake parking tickets on Twitter Thursday. One side looks like a city ticket, the other an advertisement for Newell’s campaign for alderman.
“Everyone on my block thought they got a ticket this morning, awh hell naw. No vote!” Ademola tweeted.
Newell said he made the fake tickets — and he plans to use the fliers all around the ward in the coming days.
“What I do know is that when I get a ticket on my car my interest is raised, and so what I wanted to do is I wanted to let people know that that I was in the race,” said Newell, the former pastor of Logan Street Baptist Church in Batavia.
Ademola found the tickets tucked under windshields on the 6400 blocks of South Woodlawn and South Dorchester Thursday morning.
A resident of another block, Kimberlyn McNutt of the 6500 block of South Woodlawn, said her street was hit, too.
“It was overwhelming. We had someone drop their children off to us in the morning for us to take them to school and they were freaking out. How does a whole block have tickets?” McNutt said.
“I checked and then I saw it was an advertisement, so I was happy it wasn’t a ticket,” she said. “But when I talked to my friends they said if that was their way to advertise, that wasn’t a good branding strategy because you have people who are hard working, they’re trying to go to school, drop their kids off at school, go to work. The last they want to see in the morning is what looks like a parking ticket.”
Newell, who has not yet filed with the state for the February election, said he made the fliers without any intent to be insensitive or to make any sort of joke. He said in the past he’s gotten tickets and has even had his car booted on several occasions.
“It was an attention getter; it wasn’t meant to be a ha-ha joke. And I don’t know how he could look at and think it was funny,” Newell said. “What we do these days is we get easily offended when we don’t have the entire story.”
Newell said he has lived in the Bronzeville and currently lives on the 6300 block of South Drexel Avenue in Woodlawn.
“When I say that I am a guy that’s a relatively newcomer even though I’ve been in the city of Chicago for 22 years and so I’ve been serving in every capacity possible as a lawyer, investigator. I want people to know they have another option in the race and that option is me,” he said.
Newell welcomed an opportunity to speak with Ademola about the fliers. He said he saw the parking ticket fliers previously used years ago — and has already received some positive feedback for the idea.
Ademola, however, said roughly 15 people who saw the fliers had “a very distasteful, hurtful experience.” The ramifications of receiving a ticket in black and brown communities can be very disruptive including fines, boots and even losing the car, he said.
ProPublica Illinois reported in February that motorists in Chicago’s predominantly black neighborhoods are often ticketed at a much higher rate than other communities.
“This is tone deaf and needs to be taken into consideration. If you’re going to be representing people in City Hall you should be advocating to have fair and equal policies and be very cognizant of how racialized the criminal justice system is in targeting poor black people. So to replicate [the tickets] you are perpetuating that very system that we are trying to reform or abolish,” Ademola said.
Ademola said the issue isn’t just about his own thoughts but rather the collective sentiment and reaction from his neighbors. He said he’s interested in hearing Newell in a debate with the other 20th Ward candidates to learn more about his policies.
“If he is elected I really hope he is going to be more mindful of who he is servicing,” Ademola said. “He is servicing the 20th Ward which is predominantly black people, middle class and poor folks, so he’s got to be very hypersensitive and aware that people don’t want to be targeted and lose their hard income because of unfair ticketing practices. To replicate that with your material seems a little insensitive.”
“For him to earn my vote, it’s not about sitting down with me personally, it’s about being the right person who is going to conscientious of the community that he represents,” he said.
McNutt, the resident who got a “ticket” said the stunt won’t help Newell in her mind.
“As far as a warm feeling? For me, no, because I’m just going to remember the fact that I was upset about thinking I had a parking ticket,” she said.
The fake parking ticket stunt isn’t new to Chicago. In 2015, a man running against Ald. George Cardenas plastered the South Side’s 12th ward with 10,000 bright orange tickets slamming Cardenas, who went on to win a fourth term in the City Council a month later.