‘Ohio Pride’ an embarrassment; time to drop front plate

The new ‘Ohio Pride’ vehicle license plate is chock-filled with slogans that you can’t read unless you’re up close.
The new ‘Ohio Pride’ vehicle license plate is chock-filled with slogans that you can’t read unless you’re up close.

When the Bureau of Motor Vehicles first introduced the “Beautiful Ohio” license plate three years ago, I was impressed. It was colorful, inspiring, and effectively promoted the Buckeye State, at home and beyond our borders.

Far less impressive is its replacement.

In case you missed it, the state’s “Beautiful Ohio” plate was available for the last time yesterday, not that you could have roused anyone at the BMV on a Sunday. Starting today, when you buy new standard-issue plates or replace existing plates, you’ll be handed the new ones, which are about as bland and uninspiring as a license plate can get.

The new plates already are showing up on vehicles. A whole lot more are coming.

The blue letters and numbers are still there, with a grayish white background. But all I see is that unremarkable inverted triangle in red at the top. What’s up with that?

ROAD WARRIOR BLOG: You think Ohio's license plate is bad? Take a look at Michigan.

The new plate is called the “Ohio Pride” plate, though I can’t imagine why. The “pride” apparently is a reference to the plate’s all but impossible to read background. The BMV conducted an on-line contest to choose suitable slogans to float in the “cloud” behind the numbers and letters.

Dozens were selected, including many that reflect regions or features in northwest Ohio. Here are a few: Glass City (I think that’s us), Home of Edison, Perry’s Victory, Marblehead Lighthouse, Beautiful Farmlands, Lake Erie, Walleye, and Put-in-Bay. Others include America’s Heartland. 17th State. Rock & Roll. Birthplace of Aviation. The Horseshoe (what, no “Go Bucks”?). Discover Ohio. Polymer Capital of the World. 8 U.S. Presidents. Ladybug. Serpent Mound. Johnny Appleseed.

I guess those all relate to Ohio, although I didn’t know about the polymer thing. My bad.

Here’s another that made the cut: State of Perfect Balance. Eat your heart out Michigan — at least we’re not two loosely connected chunks down here. Also chosen was Ohio Burgee, Ohio’s unique swallowtail-shaped state flag. OK, so that explains the mysterious inverted red triangle — we’re supposed to think flag.

There’s one problem. Unless you get within two feet or so of the new plate, you can’t see all these slogans, much less read them.

The new configuration was the handiwork of a design school in Columbus, with a little help from the BMV on the legal requirements. Not to cast aspersions on the fine young folks at the Columbus College of Art and Design — I’m sure they all are headed to grand things in their careers — but c’mon. I’ll bet the reaction of most Ohioans to the new plate is a befuddled “that’s it?”

If Gov. John Kasich is serious about saving Ohio money or generating more of it — and judging from schemes like this one, he is — he should embrace a modest proposal I’ve advocated before: Stop requiring a license plate on the front of the vehicle.

Although a front plate provides a piece of identifying information to a police officer, the same information is available on the back plate. None of the five states that border Ohio require front plates. One state trooper in Michigan whose 16 years on the road came after his state went to rear plates only in 1980 said he could not recall a single time the absence of a front plate caused a problem.

Many new cars don’t even come equipped with a front-plate bracket or holder. Dumping the front plates would save Ohio an estimated $1.5 million a year in production and distribution costs.

Ohio law enforcement doesn’t want to lose the front plate. However, as I’ve noted before, it’s highly unlikely that a bad guy has ever tried to flee from police by driving really fast in reverse.

Columbus has been talking about requiring Ohioans to buy new license plates every seven years, even if the plates still look like new. It’s a revenue generator, nothing more. Currently, new plates are required only if the old ones are no longer legible.

Have your plates rusted to the point of illegibility? Didn’t think so — unless you’re an expatriated Ohioan living in a Brazilian rain forest.

Let’s stop foisting mandatory new expenses on the driving public. How about saving revenue in the first place? The new Ohio Pride plate is an embarrassment. Eliminate the front plate and at least we cut the embarrassment in half. When we travel out of state, only the people behind us will be laughing at us.

One of the 46 slogans on the new plate is “With God All Things Are Possible.” So where was divine intervention when the BMV needed it?

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.

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