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Orofino license plate discussion touches on ‘Maniac’ issue


Contributed photo

Idaho Capitol Building

— The Idaho House Transportation and Defense Committee was torn last Thursday after representatives from Orofino High School asked the committee for permission to create a new specialty state license plate that would include the school’s mascot - the Orofino Maniacs.

Five people testified against the bill, claiming the mascot - a cartoon man screaming and wearing the school’s letters - is offensive to people with mental illness.

The school is located near Idaho State Hospital North, an adult psychiatric hospital.

Kathie Garrett, vice president of Idaho National Alliance of Mental Illness said the term “maniac” is offensive and that the mascot perpetuates a negative stigma about people with mental illness.

“By allowing the Orofino Maniacs name to be put in our Idaho code and their mascot to be placed on our Idaho license plate, it will signal that Idaho officially sanctions the use of the word and the image that is hurtful and stigmatizing to every Idahoan whose lives have been touched by mental illness,” Garrett said.

Some pointed out that the mascot appears to be dressed in a hospital gown.

Jill Woolsey of the Clearwater Community Foundation said the mascot is a huge part of the Orofino community and positive representation of it and the school. She quoted the Webster Dictionary definition of “maniac” as “a person who is extremely enthusiastic about something.”

Woolsey also acknowledged the controversy the mascot garners, reminding the committee they were not there to weigh in on the mascot itself.

“We are asking for you to approve a terrific method, through the special plate program, to assist with funding in a school district in desperate need of funds,” Woolsey said.

All Idahoans would have the option to purchase the specialty license plate and donate a portion of the payment to Orofino High School.

After the testimony, and some back and forth discussion by the committee, representatives made three different motions, eventually voting to send the bill to general orders to be amended by removing the word “Maniacs” and including the mascot only.

Representative Paul E. Shepherd (R), District 7, said he thinks the vote to compromise saved the license plate, which might not have passed the split committee otherwise.

“In the end all we want is the license plate and the funds that generates for our school — for their school,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s district represents the city of Orofino in Clearwater County. Shepherd said he was representing his people.

Woolsey also supported the decision.

“I think it’s terrific,” she said after the hearing. “It’s all about the funding for the schools and it’s a great first step.”


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