OFFENSIVE PLATES: D.O.T. Changes Position

For 23 years now, “GIVMHEL” has been the message on a Johnston woman’s license plates. They fit the car, and the owner.

“I broke a ceiling fan when we made that catch that one year against LSU,” says Johnston’s Julie Boyles. “I jumped so high I hit the ceiling fan and knocked it down and broke it.”

But for some reason, a certified letter forced Boyles to make a drive to the post office, last week.

“And I opened it up in the office, there, and I said ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me!’”

It was from the Iowa DOT. Another driver had found her plates to be offensive and the DOT agreed. Turn them in or lose her title and license. 

At first, she complied.

“We filled out papers with different license plates (to replace the current one), but then I thought this isn’t right because I’m not offending anybody, I’m not swearing at anybody, we need to appeal this.”

She appealed to the DOT, but also to the media—which ran with the story.  She appeared on “The Murph and Andy Show” on KXNO, Friday afternoon and quickly became a cult hero.

Keith Murphy had posted a picture of the plate and its story on his Facebook page, drawing some 700 responses.  But it was when he mentioned it Sunday night on WHO’s “SoundOFF” that it reached the DOT’s Mark Lowe.

“I jumped out of bed,” Lowe said, “grabbed my Blackberry and sent a message that said ‘I think we need to take care of this when I get into the office in the morning.’”

Lowe is the Director of the Motor Vehicles Division and someone in his department had been too hasty.

“It’s not being used as a swear word,” he reasons, “it’s not being used as a pejorative, I don’t see it as intended to be offensive, and I just felt that we were drawing the line too narrowly, and so we agreed that we should change our position on that.”

Lowe says the DOT flags swear words, but ‘Hell’ is borderline—context is everything.  “Give it to ‘em is okay”…”Go there” probably isn’t.

“One of the things I talked about with staff, I said ‘You can walk into Harry Truman’s presidential library and you’d see Give ‘em Hell, Harry’ and that’s really the way this was being used,” Lowe says.

So Lowe—who’s no Hawkeye, mind you—began his Monday with a phone call.

“He said that he had listened to SoundOFF and his exact words to me were ‘I looked at my wife and Oh, we’ve taken this way too far,’” Boyles says.

“I gave her the disclaimer that I’m a Cyclone fan,” Lowe says, “we found some common ground, she wrote a nice email back to me and said she hoped my Cyclones did well except when they played the Hawks, so I think we were on good ground.”

And the plates are on Julie Boyles’ car—to stay.

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