District Submits Quarter Design Proposals

By Martin Austermuhle

Barring any unwelcome intrusions, sometime in 2009 the U.S. Mint could roll out an official D.C. quarter bearing the city's slogan, "Taxation Without Representation," to great fanfare. But considering that unwelcome intrusions are part and parcel of living in the District, we're not yet holding our breath.

Yesterday Mayor Adrian Fenty formally submitted the District's three proposals for its own quarter to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, arguing in a memo that the voting rights message accurately reflected the mission of the 50 State Quarters program. While all three suggested designs would feature the "Taxation Without Representation" slogan, one bears the stars and bars of the District's flag, another the image of abolitionist and inventor Benjamin Banneker, and a third the image of legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington. In a memo to Paulson, Stephanie D. Scott, the Liaison to the U.S. Mint for the District, stressed the importance of the voting rights message for the District's quarter:
"As the phrases 'In God we Trust' and 'Out of Many, One' have come to symbolize us all as Americans, 'Taxation Without Representation' has become an enduring representation of the District of Columbia...[It] stands as an apolitical and non-partisan motto; a declarative and defining fact about the District of Columbia."
But whether the final quarter will actually bear the message is ultimately up to the U.S. Mint -- which already expressed discomfort with the voting rights theme -- and Paulson. According to the U.S. Mint's own guidelines for the seven-step process, Paulson will eventually have to sign off on the design, but only after the U.S. Mint, "at its discretion," produces one or more designs for each proposal while focusing on "aesthetic beauty, historical accuracy, appropriateness and coinability." Even before it gets to Paulson, who could summarily reject the design, the District faces a U.S. Mint that seems to think that voting rights is just too controversial a subject for a coin.
We're proud of the three submissions; any of them will reflect our city well. Now we just have to make sure that one of our proposals become reality -- and that we don't get stuck with a D.C. quarter bearing the Washington Monument.

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