U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd) has a car with this license plate. | Supplied photo
Updated: June 10, 2013 1:58PM
When a new Illinois congresswoman drives a car with vanity license plates that read “MADE N NY,” it’s bound to attract attention.
It becomes especially noteworthy when that congresswoman is Robin Kelly (D-2nd), who gained national renown due to the millions of dollars spent on her race by a SuperPAC operated by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I believe you’re reading a little deeper meaning into the plates than is there,” replied Kelly’s spokeswoman, Kayce Ataiyero, when I suggested that the plates could provoke speculation as to their meaning.
For example, Marcus Lewis, who ran against Kelly as an independent candidate for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional seat in April, wrote in an email that “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Attached was a recent photograph of the “MADE N NY” license plates on a Volvo.
How did Lewis know it was Kelly’s car?
“I recognized her husband behind the wheel,” said Lewis, who, like Kelly, lives in Matteson.
He said he saw Kelly’s husband in a photograph from her swearing-in ceremony.
“I pulled alongside the car and then saw Robin in the passenger seat and rolled my window down to say something, but the car immediately made a U-turn,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the car was on eastbound U.S. 30 near Olympia Fields, not far from Matteson, when he encountered it.
“When I pulled my cellphone out to take a picture, Robin ducked down in the passenger seat,” Lewis claimed.
The license plates are registered to a car owned by Kelly.
“Congresswoman Kelly saw some ‘made in Texas’ plates while driving one day and thought that similar plates would be a fun little homage to her birthplace, which is well known,” her spokeswoman stated in an email.
“It’s also well know that her home base for the past 20 years has been the south suburbs and that she’s spent most of her adult life living in and serving Illinois.”
Lewis doesn’t quite see it that way.
“Made by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” he jeered. “Now I know where Robin Kelly’s head, heart and strength lies. A picture is worth 1,000 words.”
While such an assumption is understandable, the fact is that Kelly obtained the license plates for her car in 2011, long before she ran for Jackson’s seat.
And she has always boasted of her New York City roots. She was born and raised there.
Kelly first came to Illinois as a college student, attending Bradley University in Peoria.
While I can appreciate Kelly’s love for New York, it seems to me that the license plates at this point are a disturbing reminder to many that Bloomberg used his political action committee to purchase TV commercial time and influence the outcome of the 2nd District election.
Billionaire Bloomberg’s SuperPAC is anti-gun. Kelly vowed to support laws banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazine clips if elected.
At this point, at the very least, she might want to consider license plates that more adequately reflect who she is, such as “REP ANTIGUN.”
“MADE N NY” implies not only a place of biological origin, but to fans of a certain movie genre could be associated in a more ominous way with guys named Vinnie and Bananas.
A more appropriate vanity plate might read “THANKS JESSE” in homage to the man who made her U.S. House membership possible.
Or, in a tip of the hat to the state and political party she represents, how about “ALL 4 TAXES.”
Despite the protestations of her spokeswoman, it’s interesting that Kelly identifies more strongly with the state where she was born more than 50 years ago than the one she has lived in for nearly 40 years.
Kelly has served as a village official in Matteson, an Illinois state representative, chief of staff to the treasurer of Illinois and chief administrative officer to Cook
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Yet, when it comes time to proclaim her allegiance to the world, she wants folks to know she was conceived in New York.
Even if you consider that cute or clever, it’s a little insulting to the taxpayers who have provided her with both support at the polls and a regular income.
To people such as Lewis, Kelly seems to be thumbing her nose a bit at the constituents she now represents in Washington, D.C.
If there’s a “deeper meaning” to any of this, it’s that people who live in the 2nd District have been neglected over the years by congressmen who felt they deserved a bigger stage and put their personal agendas above their public responsibilities.
Kelly now is a national spokesman for the anti-gun cause, Bloomberg’s favorite congresswoman and pals with Barack Obama.
She has raised a tremendous campaign war chest, courting donors throughout the country. She may be one of the newest members of Congress but has national name recognition.
How does that translate into more jobs for people in her district who need money to pay their bills?
It often seems that vanity trumps substance in the 2nd District.
Then again, the same might be said of any elected official in Illinois.