“This is going to be a very positive thing for the state,” Gov. Dan McKee said at a State House press conference announcing the five finalists.
Open voting monday online and will run until March 28 at 11:59 p.m.
A team of Motor Vehicle Division officials winnowed a list of 940 entrants to choose the five finalists. There’s no monetary reward associated with winning, but that didn’t stop Smithfield resident and license plate collector Adam Salomon from getting into his design, a sunset bathing the bridge of Newport Pell in an orange-pink light. It also echoes the state’s “Discover Magnificent Rhode Island” welcome sign.
“I’m hopeful, and let’s just say I’m in good company here,” said Salomon, who has a background in graphic design. “A lot of designs are deserving.”
The reaction on social media wasfrankly brutal, reminiscent of the battles of yesteryear around a Fun Sized or Cooler and Warmer.
“Thanks, I hate them,” one person wrote.
Salomon, however, noted that the purpose of a license plate is to display plate numbers in a readable form. Some might call it bland. But it has to be functional for its primary purpose, Salomon said.
Others were calling for the venerable “Wave” nameplate to remain. But keeping the same plate for so many years is a danger, state officials said. The “Wave” plate should have disappeared long ago. By redesigning the plate, the state will be better able to determine who is driving without proper registration and insurance, because by the time the “Wave” plates are gone, any “Wave” plates left on the road will not be legit. .
According to Walter R. “Bud” Craddock, the state’s DMV administrator, about 3-4% of vehicles on the road are unregistered right now.
“It’s a loss of revenue for the state and municipalities, but these vehicles are also potentially dangerous and unsafe for the rest of the motoring public,” Craddock said.
The recoil of the “Vague” plate will take two years. Rhode Islanders must re-register their cars every two years, and upon renewal they will receive a copy of their new plate in the mail. They can keep their old plates as souvenirs. The new plates, once picked, should be on the roads in the coming months.
But drivers will have to pay an extra $8 on top of the normal renewal fee to help cover some, but not all, of the cost of the new plates. The state will have to pay $2.5 million even after the cost of $8 per plate. 3M manufactures the new plates.
Eight dollars isn’t a huge sum, but “to some people that money means something,” said Jairson Ascencao, a Johnston resident who came to the State Room on Monday on a detour to other business that day – to speak to state prison reform officials.
Ascencao is 22 years old. The “Wave” plate is all Ascencao has ever known. He is ready to be convinced by the new design, but is not sure that the “Wave” plate, with all its connotations, should disappear.
“We are the ocean state,” he said.
This decision does not affect the various charity plates people can get, and the “Wave” plate will live in green format for electric or hybrid vehicles.
Willem Van Lancker, 34, was one of five finalists. He tried to adapt to the original, while refreshing it: he lightened up the blue-gray palette, redid the anchor and added more waves. Five, to be exact. Each could represent one of Rhode Island’s counties.
Van Lancker is originally from Providence County (Providence) and now lives in Washington County (South Kingstown). He loves Rhode Island. He wanted the “Wave” plate to endure, the same way Vermont’s green and Florida’s orange and green license plates endure.
“People really like the current plate,” Van Lancker said. “We kept it for 26 years for a reason. If we could evolve it into something new while keeping the same characteristics, that would be pretty good.
As for the reaction to the plates as a whole, Van Lancker said he understands it.
“I hope people will come,” he said. “But change is always difficult.”
Brian Amaral can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.