License plates to support your cause, too

By Ned Cantwell: state columnist

Some New Mexicans decorate their vehicles with what the state laughingly calls “prestige plates.” For an extra 15 bucks you can honor your cat, FLUFFY, describe your personality, IMWILD, or boast your own name, JACKO1.

These are commonly referred to as “vanity plates” and the purpose is “LOOKTME.” This whole idea of vanity plates is cheesy, of course, and I should know. I once had one. You’ll never, ever be told what it said.

Vanity plates are common. So are other variations of run-of-the mill license plates. Who hasn’t been passed at 85 mph by an SUV whose plate announces the driver is a member of the state Legislature? For some, speed laws are merely a suggestion.

There are several variations of plates for military veterans, the drivers thereby getting the opportunity to receive the honor they deserve. War veterans also are afforded the right to listen to Rush Limbaugh and even admit it in public. In the history of auto transportation, there is not a single reported instance of a guy with military plates listening to a Dixie Chicks song all the way through.

What I didn’t know about license plates, until recently, is that in addition to the individual specialty plates we can all buy, you can arrange for the state to manufacture a plate supporting your cause.

Just how one gets the state to smile benevolently on your particular area of interest is a mystery, but I suspect it involves lobbyists, late-night dinners, ample wine, and suitcases full of cash.

Shame on me. My friends at Animal Protection of New Mexico were the ones who persuaded the state to come out with their own specialty plate, and the animal rights folks wouldn’t be involved in such shenanigans.

Brand new at your local MVD office is a plate for pet lovers. Its slogan is “Don’t Litter, Spay and Neuter.” Don’t litter. Get it? Took me awhile. So what you do, you pay $37 for this plate and $25 of that goes to your county to fund spay and neuter programs. Pretty good deal.

But what about other causes, and how do they go about getting their own New Mexico specialty plates?

SNICKER — Tooth decay is not OK! A license plate recognizing the governor’s craving for super-sized Snickers bars and its deleterious effect on the dental health of thousands of New Mexico kids. Two dollars will go to the Dental Association to promote flossing, $23 to the Bill Richardson for President Campaign.

THIRSTY — Welcome to the parched state! This plate will focus attention on the drought that grips New Mexico and shows no sign of abating. Soon, the only water in the Land of Enchantment will be that sold by supermarkets. The fee will be used to finance yet another inconclusive study about how to solve the problem.

And, of course, my favorite:

CROAKED — He fought his bloody best. This plate is a tribute to New Mexico fighting cocks who have given their all so that rural families starved for entertainment can drug them, strap blades on them, and watch them claw one another to death. This plate will cost $500, all proceeds going into a lobbying fund to match that of the cockfighting lobby. It may be the only answer. Why else would our legislators allow New Mexico to be one of two states still allowing this brutality?

The NEDSTER is a syndicated New Mexico columnist. He welcomes input at: