I thought you said this would be amusing.
I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
…or, A Call to Arms for All Chicagoland U-M Alumni (and Fans)
[Warning: this is long. But adequately documenting a gross injustice is rarely trivial. It’s also intended to be somewhat amusing (and dry, and perhaps even infuriating), so please consume appropriately.]
With all of the ND-bashing going on around here, there may never be a better opportunity to pile on with my own ND-related gripe (strike while the iron is hot, and all). And who knows, maybe this could be the start of a glorious grassroots effort by Chicagoland-based MGoBlogFaithful to right yet another ND-inspired wrong (one can dream). As if the NBC contract weren’t insulting enough. Read on.
I lived in MD for 12 years, where the DC chapter of the U-M Alumni Club has smartly taken the opportunity to have U-M alumni specialty license plates fashioned for MD (and I believe they were attempting to do the same for VA). This is clearly allowed under MD Motor Vehicle Administration policy (pretty much any school can do it), and I was thrilled to have such a plate for six years.
Upon moving to IL and faced with the prospect of new plates, I naturally wanted to know if a U-M alumni plate was available. Chicago is closer in proximity to U-M than MD (and has a large/established alumni chapter and base) and I’d seen a number of Fighting Illini plates around (among others), so I figured my chances were good.
If only it were that simple.
My initial visit to the Secretary of State’s website made it apparent that collegiate specialty plates available in IL were limited to state institutions. At the time (April 2008), all of the plates on the page were in-state schools. I was bummed, but all was not lost. If there was a policy/law that provided for the creation of collegiate plates, due diligence would require verification that it specifically excludes out-state schools. So I continued my research.
Before locating the state law that provides for the creation of collegiate plates, I discovered that ND (in South Bend, IN, for the geographically disinclined) had very recently been approved for collegiate plates in IL. This was an encouraging sign! Perhaps ND was blazing a trail that U-M could follow, being the first out-state schools to have collegiate plates in IL. I was invigorated! And there was NO way that ND was going to be the only out-state school to have a collegiate plate! They’re only the second winningest football program!
Sec. 3-629(b) of Illinois General Assembly Public Act 095-0444 states:
The design, color, and format of the plates shall be wholly within the discretion of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may, at his or her discretion, issue the plates for any public college or university located in this State or for any degree-granting, not-for-profit private college or university located in this State or a contiguous state. If the college or university is located in a contiguous state, there must be not less than 10,000 alumni of the college or university residing in this State.
I call your attention to the underlined passages – underlined in the Act itself – which signify changes that were adopted in August 2007. Prior to the revision, the law only allowed plates for in-state public or private institutions. But the revision effectively allows plates for…we’ll get to that in a minute.
Problem is, I got excited, went off half-cocked, and overlooked the “private” criterion. Does U-M have 10,000 alumni in the state? Easily (confirmed by the Alumni Association). Is U-M located in a contiguous state? That begs some interpretation. Definition? Definition:
1. touching; in contact.
2. in close proximity without actually touching; near.
Michigan doesn’t meet #1, but certainly meets #2. I initially argued that the two states are separated only by a useless swath of IN (“Da Region!") and are therefore “near.” But a friend noted that the two states are only separated by a lake, necessitating a border. I was concerned about bureaucratic resistance to this interpretation, so I e-mailed and called the SoS to discuss. After checking with the legal-types in his department, the polite gentleman from the plate division still wasn’t sure how that would go. Then he dropped the bombshell (paraquote):
“This is known [around here] as the ‘Notre Dame law.’”
Excuse me? Shock turned to confusion, which later yielded to outrage. I wish I could tell you that my first thought was, “our politicians don’t have more important matters to attend to?” Sadly, that didn’t arrive until later.
The nice gentleman proceeded to explain how the law was effectively amended for the sole purpose of allowing ND to be the only out-state school to have a collegiate license plate in IL. Re-reading the law, the critical placement of “private” then became clear to me.
Who, as I understand it, pushed the law through the state legislature? None other than the Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael J. Madigan, an esteemed graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
(I would say that now I’ve seen it all, but that would be patently untrue.)
I was dejected, but I refused to be defeated so easily and in such an underhanded fashion. Since that time, I’ve scoured the IL General Assembly website (on three occaions) to identify State Senators and Representatives who are graduates of our beloved U-M, in hopes that a modest letter-writing campaign would persuade them to eventually pursue a similarly covert change to the law that would open a loophole for a U-M alumni plate. I can’t say that such a change wouldn’t open the door for other out-state schools, but the 10,000-resident alumni requirement should effectively limit them to a handful, at most (and likely Big Ten schools).
So I floated this crusade-like idea, without as much detail or direction, to the Chicago alumni chapter leadership, and the response was "Good luck, let us know how it goes!" Needless to say, one letter isn't likely to have much effect.
Friends, I haven’t yet continued the fight, but I haven’t given up hope. Perhaps my account of this injustice, along with the renewed interest in a nationally-relevant UM-ND rivalry, will serve as a call to action for my fellow IL-based alumni. If you feel so inclined (and can envision the pride-swell of having your own U-M license plate), please consider writing a letter to one or both of the following “Blue” state reps, encouraging them to consider introducing legislation to appropriately modify Public Act 095-0444 and allow for a U-M collegiate license plate:
(I would encourage non-Illinoisians (?) to write, but I suspect letters from non-residents don’t carry as much weight with legislators.)
Other suggestions are, of course, welcomed.
(And please, spare me any pessimistic, douchey “you’re silly if you think this’ll really work, like an e-mail petition to get Rosenberg fired” comments. I say to that: The Speaker of the Illinois House didn’t think it was all that silly. Nevertheless, I’m realistic about the prospect of success.)
Go Blue! Crush the Irish!
I thought you said this would be amusing.
But thanks for that helpful comment. A special Go Blue to you, Coach.
I wonder if the respective numbers might explain how Madigan was able to swing this. Aside from God himself stepping in to help ND, I mean.
Fellow Illinoisan, alum, and (which might be helpful maybe?) attorney. I will do my part. I have also wanted an IL plate with "M" on it. I'm a native Illinoisan and spurned my home state's institution twice, causing much consternation and ribbing from friends and family. I want a UM plate. And I want it now. Let's do this.
if I were you. License Plates + better crab cakes.
Don't Illinois and Michigan share a border down the middle of lower Lake Michigan? So wouldn't they be contiguous by definition?
but good luck, and let us know how it goes!
1. This was originally a Board posting. Apparently, it qualifies as "research" and was bumped up to a Diary. Amusing or not.
2. I don't believe numbers are the issue, since I have an e-mail from the UMAA that essentially offers to certify >10,000 alumni residing in IL. Rather, the "private" criterion conveniently excludes U-M. As far as I can tell, there would be no reason to include this unless you were trying to limit eligible schools to just ND.
3. I neglected to mention some potentially useful information in my post:
* Specialty plates are a moneymaker for the state. The additional fees for a collegiate plate are $40 (new issue) and $27 (each annual renewal). I don't know what it costs to produce a run of new plates (a minimum of 1,500 requests are required), but I doubt it's $60,000 (1,500 * $40). Even if it is, the state makes an additional $27 per year for each collegiate plate, without any additional production. Even under the most unfavorable financial conditions, there's a break-even point.
* Specialty plates are [presumably] a moneymaker for the alumni club. The UMDC required a $25 donation to their scholarship program in order to receive an organization-endorsed application for the specialty plate.
It's pretty much win-win all around, as I see it.
otherwise, you'd potentially see Iowa and Wisconsin (and possible Purdue, IU, and Mizzou) plates in Illinois. The only other possible qualifying institution I can think of might be Marquette, although I have no idea how many MU alumni live in IL.
If you can provide a template, I'd be happy to send a letter to the aforementioned reps.
...which also occurred to me (after the post).
Make it easy for people => they'll be more willing to help.
I'll work on a template this weekend. All interested folks please check back next week.
51st district, up in the burbs of Lake County.
According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, here is what you need for your organization to get its logo on a license plate:
1. A completed application form
2. A statement from the organization granting permission for Ohio to use their logo.
3. An electronic file with the logo in a certain file type (.eps, Freehand.doc, InDesign.doc, or Illustrator.doc)
4. Petitions with at least 500 signatures from Ohio residents that intend to purchase these plates.
500 signatures? We can probably get that at any home game. If we get that and Mary Sue's signature, and someone comes up with an MGoLogo, we're all set. I know it would do wonders for my soul to see a few M logos on Ohio license plates around here, since I have to live with all the scarlet-clad cooler-poopers.
For more information:
New plate requirements:
A customer may choose to support any Ohio college or university by displaying license plates with the respective school's logo. A portion of the fees collected ($25.00) is deposited in the general scholarship fund of the college/university that a customer selects.
"Let us know how it goes!"
...Illinois and Michigan share a border:
So, there shouldn't be any issue here. Let's get that plate!
Maybe cross-post this -- or at least get this linked up on -- any Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana or Purdue blogs. If all those alumni in the Illinois legislature get contacted, you'd figure a change might be made.
I had a significant level of distrust for Madigan before I knew he was from ND. Now, that distrust is through the roof! For those of you outside of IL, in addition to these damn ND plates, Madigan has also used his power to get his daughter the IL Attorney General post.
As for getting U-M plates in IL, it's my opinion that you have missed the point that will be most influential with lawmakers - free money. These plates are all about raising extra revenue dollars at a minimal cost and effort. I have to imagine that outside of SE Michigan, the Chicago region likely has the highest concentration of Michigan alums in the world and must be fairly even in numbers with ND alum if not greater. One of my favorite parts of living in Chicago is the fact that the city is a Big 10 melting pot. I see a minimum of 4 or 5 different B10 t-shirts at the grocery store on Saturday mornings in the fall, not to mention the. It would seem like a no brainer for the state to include U-M, MSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue (all contiguous if you include the lake boundaries) and generate what is essentially free money. The only thing likely preventing this would be some sort of silly midwestern xenophobia.
To shoot down my own argument, I wonder how much money these things actually bring in each year - it can't be much. Maybe this really is a perfect example of the painful amount of influence ND seems to exert in the Chicago area.
I attempted to address the per-plate fee/income numbers above (we posted about the same time). It would be nice to have an actual idea of what it costs to produce a run of specialty plates, but I don't expect personnel in the plate office to easily know or release that information (although I can certainly ask). There are currently 84 specialty plates available in IL (19 collegiate); it stands to reason that the state wouldn't make them and accept applications for more if they were money-losers. Even if production was a financial wash, the state would make at least $40k/year on one run of plates (minimum of 1,500 plates and assuming administrative costs related to renewal are no different than for regular plates).
I'll definitely include a discussion about the financial benefits in the forthcoming template.
For the sake of making a point, ND is not the second winningest team. That's Texas. ND is only the third, which is not even the first loser.
It seems odd that during a time of economic contraction, the state of Illinois would effectively want to restrict people from giving more money to its government.
The Secretary of State may, at his or her discretion, issue the plates for any public college or university located in this State or for any degree-granting, not-for-profit private college or university located in this State or a contiguous state.
Anybody care to explain how ND is considered not-for-profit?
(Yes, I realize this is akin to the "hey, every other D-I program is practicing way more than 20 hours, too" argument and isn't going to help. But it's nonetheless perplexing to me how this doesn't disqualify ND.)
this status is conferred to a university/college/school the same as it is done for a corporation: if you do not have ownership of the school in the form of shares and excess profits paid out as dividends to "ownership" of the institution, you are a non-profit. That doesn't mean someone isn't making money.
I'm finding $78 per year a little tough to handle as it is (for my regular IL plate). While it'd be tempting, I don't think I could afford the extra costs (at this time). Additionally, I've lived in Chicago-land since '92 and I've never even seen a special ND plate issued by the State.
I've always thought Madigan looks very goblin-like. Now I understand why.
The change wasn't approved until May 2007, and it probably took a while for 1) the GA to publish/circulate the change (officially dated August 2007), 2) ND to submit the requisite number of requests, 3) ND to work with SoS on the official plate design, and 4) SoS to manufacture and distribute the plate. To date, I've seen a handful. And it shouldn't surprise you that I grip the wheel a little tighter every time.
In some states (perhaps even in all states), 50% of the portion of the specialty fee that goes to endow scholarships for the subject institution is tax-deductible. Depending on the state, between $2 and $25 of the additional fee is retained to cover manufacturing and administrative costs, so anywhere from $15 to $35 of the initial fee might go to the scholarship fund. This detail would be worked out later on.
Anyway, just trying to ease the financial burden for you. On the other hand, I have a friend who thinks that a U-M plate in Chicago would only be an invitation for someone to key your finish. So I guess you'd need to weigh that potential cost, too.
Get a bored (or better yet, recession-targeted and unemployed) attorney alumnus to file an equal protection and/or due process claim.
While "alumni of public institutions in the contiguous states around Illinois" is not exactly a protected class, excluding such alumni from the benefits of the state law must at least rationally relate to a legitimate government interest, and not be arbitrary.
If in fact the law is known as the "Notre Dame" law amongst government officials (go find such a reference in the legislative history!), this would be pretty damning from an equal protection standpoint.
It's been a long time since I've taken a bar exam or acutely studied Constitutional law, so attorneys out there feel free to keep me in check if I've mischaracterized the principles at play, but I know if I was unemployed and in Illinois...hell, I'd consider pursuing such a claim.
That said, I volunteer 03 Blue 07 knowing nothing of his current employment status.
I agree Cap'n. Not bad for a old bar passer (no offense). Commerce Clause or Privileges and Immunities wouldn't fly so EP/DP is all that's left. Good luck breaking the 10" solid armour rational basis wall. But then out here in AZ college plates are limited to instate, no exceptions. Gonna stick w/ the Veteran.
Here in AZ I paid over $800 last year.....
Amusing and I wish you all good luck in your pursuit of a maize n blue IL plate. I would just like to point out that the current Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Andy Dillon, is a proud Golden Domer. And I'll be damned if we pass a law allowing ND plates in Michigan. But look for Red Wings, Pistons, Lions and Tigers customized plates on the horizon.
I'm a U-M alum living in Chicago and have wanted a Michigan vanity plate for a long time but have been too lazy to do all the great research you have done. Give me a little time to reread the post and comments and gather my thoughts but i have a few ideas that might be able to help. I'm close to some people who are pretty high up in the Chicago alumni association (maybe they could give us access to the email list or something...) and i think setting up a facebook page to gather support/signatures/etc might be a big help.
Right now i just want to bask in this victory a little more but ill try and get some stuff together soon.
Again, i love all the research and would love to do my little part to help.
Go Blue! Great win yesterday!