FLORIDA

Florida unveils new license tag — and yes, there’s an orange

 

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Florida voters have selected their next license tag.

The green-rimmed, leafed-orange winner in a poll of about 50,000 online voters could be released as soon as 2014. It is scheduled to be phased in over two years on Florida’s 15 million vehicles.

“Sunshine State” is at the plate’s bottom edge, and the center is stamped with seven characters instead of the traditional six, to keep Florida from running out of character combinations.

“The online poll represents one part of the process to select the new plate design,” says a news release from the Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles. “Before the design is manufactured, the public’s vote will be factored in with input from the Governor, Cabinet and policy makers.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles created four designs in-house with input from about 20 people, from Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials to tax collectors.

But Highway Safety Chief Julie Jones faced push-back from the moment she announced the $31 million makeover, with manufacturing groups threatening to take the state to court and critics trashing the tags as dull.

Among other upgrades, Jones wanted to give the plates a flat — rather than raised — surface, and increase state revenue by making the tags more legible for red-light cameras and toll booths. Currently, one in six digital images is declared unreadable at tollbooths by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.

But Jones backed off asking for flat tags after PRIDE, the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit that uses prisoners to make tags, filed a legal protest against the state. PRIDE lacks the equipment to make flat plates.

The plate redesigns got scathing reviews from Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, who shredded the tags as “remarkably bland” and “nondescript.”

“The four choices are so spectacularly insipid that it’s no easy decision,” Grimm wrote of the online poll. “It would be easier picking a favorite from Rick Scott’s most electrifying speeches.”

Kevin Cate, who owns a Tallahassee public relations firm, found the plates so distasteful he offered his own design, which the highway safety department rejected. The new tag should send people to VisitFlorida.com, he argued, which promotes state tourism, restaurants and businesses.

“There’s no winner of the choices the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have provided to the people of Florida,” he said. “Nobody wins with the new tags.”

Contact Brittany Alana Davis at bdavis@tampabay.com or 850-323-0353.

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