The District's Quarter Finalists

DC Quarter Designs
These designs of a potential D.C. quarter featuring Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker and Duke Ellington will be sent to the U.S. Mint, which will hold a public vote before announcing a winner. (David A Nakamura -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 3, 2008

Duke Ellington resting his elbow on a piano. Benjamin Banneker getting ready to peer through a surveyor's transit. Frederick Douglass sitting at a writing table.

The three final design candidates for the D.C. quarter have been completed and are nearing public unveiling by the U.S. Mint, which will ask residents for comment before selecting a winner. The designs were unveiled yesterday before a smaller audience at a breakfast meeting between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council.

Months ago, city officials submitted three other designs to the Mint featuring the slogan "Taxation Without Representation," in an attempt to highlight the city's lack of congressional voting rights. But the Mint rejected the designs, saying they were inappropriate. The city then developed new "design narratives" featuring musician Ellington, scientist Banneker and abolitionist and author Douglass, all of whom lived in the city.

Each of the new designs features the slogan "Justice for All," the English translation of the city's original Latin motto, "Justitia Omnibus," said D.C. Secretary Stephanie D. Scott, who is overseeing the city's submissions. Scott said the Mint will solicit public input from about May 21 through June 20, and the quarters will be minted and ready for circulation in January.

But the council members couldn't wait to weigh in.

Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) squinted at the designs and complained that Banneker's name -- shown at an angle near the bottom -- seemed harder to read than the names on the competing designs, which are more centered. "Whose decision was that?" Thomas asked.

"The artist's," Scott replied.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) had another concern. He said he feared that the quarters did not represent the District as a whole because individuals were pictured. For those outside the city who were not familiar with them, Evans said, the designs would be "inside baseball."

"It's an educational opportunity," Scott said.

Other council members then jumped in to poke fun at Evans, who is known as friendly to businesses and who championed the arrival of a Major League Baseball franchise in the city four years ago.

"They're not going to put the Marriott hotel on it, Jack," Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said.

"They're not going to put the stadium on it," Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) added.

Everyone laughed.

"Okay, anyone else want to put in their 25 cents' worth?" Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) asked.

No one did.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company