As if he didn’t have enough on his plate already.
In the past few days, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s office has faced questions about how he happened to get Diamond medallion status from Delta Air Lines – a perquisite including free seat upgrades and bonus frequent-flier miles for him and his wife, valued at $8,000 – after signing into law a fuel tax break that will save the Atlanta-based airline millions of dollars.
Shortly before that, Deal’s office came under criticism for not offering full disclosure – although, in fairness, the law doesn’t require it – as to how he spent $1.6 million in donations from other Georgia corporate heavy-hitters like AT&T and Georgia Power in connection with his inauguration and transition into the governor’s office.
And now, the seemingly innocuous task of choosing a new design for Georgia vehicle tags is – or at least, it could – present Deal with either a ticklish political choice, or a tough artistic choice, or both.
On Friday, the Georgia Department of Revenue posted the eight semifinalists in a public contest seeking designs for the new Georgia tags. Three of the eight designs, chosen by a panel of Georgia university and college art professors, include – as was allowed in rules promulgated by the Georgia Department of Revenue – the phrase “In God We Trust.”
And thereby is the governor potentially placed upon the horns of a dilemma. Between now and July 8, the eight designs will be the subject of online voting via the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website at https://etax.dor.ga.gov/TagContest.aspx. The three proposed license plate designs receiving the most votes will, according to the Department of Revenue, “comprise the finalists to be presented to Gov. Nathan Deal, who will announce the winning design on July 15.”
Now, it’s certainly possible the three finalists won’t include any of the plates incorporating “In God We Trust,” although in a state as socially conservative as Georgia, it’s a safe bet that at least one of those plates – or, in a best-case scenario for Deal, all three – will earn a top ranking from voters.
If at least one of the finalists does feature “In God We Trust,” it is – as Atlanta Journal Constitution political reporter Jim Galloway might have been first to observe Monday – hard to envision Deal, as a conservative Republican, opting for a plate design without that phrase, regardless of whether other finalists might arguably have greater artistic merit.
Which brings up another problem for Deal. It may be that the Department of Revenue, in a rule for the contest requiring that all submissions “must promote Georgia as the ‘Peach State,’” somewhat artificially limited the scope of the 500 designs entered in the contest. In fact, six of the eight designs – available for viewing, and voting, at the department’s aforementioned website – are all but indistinguishable from each other. All include a straightforward representation of a peach, or peaches, with pastoral backgrounds of varying detail. The remaining two designs comprise more stylized representations of a peach, but they are peaches nonetheless.
It’s hard to believe that, among the 500 designs submitted, there weren’t at least a handful that were more imaginative in promoting Georgia as the Peach State. Be that as it may, the governor certainly is left – with no disrespect intended toward the artists, who certainly are more accomplished in that arena than this editorial board – with a narrow range of choices.
Obviously, choosing a new vehicle tag design isn’t likely to rank among Deal’s top heartburn-producing moments as the state’s chief executive. It is, though, a reminder for him – and for the rest of us – that there’s not much an elected official does than doesn’t have at least some political ramifications.