Plate owners have lots of license

Posted on June 8th, 2008 – 8:42 PM
By Roadguy

Here’s my column from the Sunday paper. If you’ve already read it elsewhere, please skip on down to the comments below. Thanks.

IS OFFENSIVENESS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER?

Alert reader Paula wrote in the other day with license plates on her mind:

This morning I was behind a BMW with the license plate “GLBLWMR” — I couldn’t decide if I was more appalled that someone would be boasting about the fact that they are apparently wealthy enough to pollute the rest of the world or that MnDOT would allow this on a plate.

First, to clarify, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is in charge of gusset plates, not license plates, so Paula should direct her unhappiness accordingly.

Tom Evans, supervisor for special and impounded plates at the Department of Public Safety, notes that state law says plates can’t be “of an obscene, indecent or immoral nature, or be of a nature that would offend public morals or decency.”

According to state records, that means “PORN” and “PORNSTR” are OK, but “KIDPORN” isn’t.

“We have to walk that tightrope,” Evans says. “The state doesn’t really decide what is moral and immoral, so we do let a lot of things slide and wait for the complaint to come in. … But generally it’s just common sense.”

His office doesn’t get many such complaints, less than one a year, but when one comes in, he’ll forward the concerns to the plate-holder to give the person “a chance to explain what the message behind their plate is.”

For example, he said, a plate with the letters “OLDPEDO” was seen by a complainant as promoting pedophilia, but the owner said that “pedo” was the Spanish word for “fart,” which is allowable. (The all-English version, “OLDFART,” belongs to a 91-year-old in Blue Earth County.)

IT’S OUR PROBLEM

Alert reader Don from Alexandria has a question about the goings-on in Winona:

I’m wondering why we aren’t hearing more about the closing of the bridge from the Wisconsin side? Isn’t it their bridge, too? Are our inspectors the only people that determined whether to close the bridge down?

The Hwy. 43 bridge connects downtown Winona with an island that’s also part of Winona, while another, smaller, still-open bridge connects the island to the Wisconsin riverbank. So unlike the soon-to-repaired Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior, the Winona bridge is solely Minnesota’s baby.

Workers who commute from Wisconsin to Winona are having a tough time of it, but Winona residents might be suffering more on the weekends — no quick beer runs to the Wisconsin side, where liquor sales are legal on Sundays.

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