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Images of Florida: Give your 25 worth

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

If you could choose one image that captures the essence of Florida, what would it be?

A palm tree? A flamingo?

Maybe a bulldozer or a string of beachfront condominiums. How about a boatload of refugees?

Gov. Jeb Bush will make the call sometime next year when it's finally Florida's turn to be on the money.

You've no doubt seen those special quarters that carry a different state's symbol on the back. You probably have a few jingling in your pocket or purse right now or stuck in a jar at home for the grandkids.

Since 1999, the U.S. Mint has been producing five state coins each year in the order that the states joined the union. Florida became the nation's 27th state in 1845, so our quarter will debut in 2004.

The big question is, what to put on it?

As governor, Bush gets to decide, but he's not acting alone. He has been soliciting suggestions for several months and his office in Tallahassee is being flooded with ideas.

As you might have guessed, most of the proposed designs have something to do with the space shuttle. According to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, those designs show the shuttle "flying past rising suns, rocketing over palm trees, soaring through clouds, paralleling the state, crossing the state and even nestled among a cluster of fruit-laden orange trees."

Then there is that other universally recognized symbol of Florida: a football.

Buried in the pile are drawings of a conquistador, a golfer, a Lowe's parking lot, Seminole Chief Osceola, fish, oranges and orange blossoms, alligators, shark fins, dolphins and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse on legal tender? I know that Disney has unfathomable clout in this state, but that's stretching it a bit. What's next, Walt Disney bumping George Washington on the flip side?

Luckily, the Mint frowns on that sort of thing. Designs can include landmarks, landscapes, historical buildings, state resources or industries, flora and fauna. But no state flags, state seals or portraits of any person, living or dead.

That's bad news for those who want to nominate little Elian Gonzalez for the honor.

Heeding the call from our governor, I've thought of a couple of symbols that might work. If you are of similar civic spirit, perhaps you can do the same.

Sure, a manatee would be nice, but make it realistic and have a powerboat running it over. How about a whooping crane being chased by a bobcat? Or a shark with a surfer in its jaws?

Maybe we should use an image we see in the news from time to time, an alligator sunning himself on a golf course. Or a swarm of love bugs splattered on a truck's windshield.

There are some images that are known to everyone regardless of where you live in the state: a Bob's Barricade sign on a road under construction; a flagman waving traffic past a construction site where five guys are leaning on shovels; maybe a bulldozer plowing under a gopher tortoise hole, or a golf course spraying fountains of water during a drought?

Speaking of highways, how about a coin showing an elderly driver (just the top of a head peeking over a steering wheel?) driving slow in the left lane with the blinkers on? Or maybe a teenager with suitcase-size car stereo speakers blaring so loud his ears are bleeding?

Florida will never live down the disastrous 2000 elections, so why not a quarter showing dimpled chad or a butterfly ballot? We could show a Supreme Court justice telling a citizen his vote doesn't count.

As you can see, it's not going to be an easy decision for Jeb.

My suggestion? Weed out all but the best two ideas.

Then, flip a coin.

-- Design proposals can be sent to Gov. Jeb Bush, Executive Office of the Governor, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001. All entries must include entrant's name, address and telephone number. For any questions, e-mail the governor at or call (850) 488-4441.

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