By Tami Brigle, Editor
The Bryan Times
Since Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced his idea to possibly sell or lease the Ohio Turnpike, many public officials and citizens of Williams County have been looking for a way to voice their concern and learn more about the plan. However, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Turnpike Commission have made this very difficult.
In July, a meeting in Toledo was open to several northwest Ohio public officials to discuss this issue, but it was closed to any officials who might create a quorum and make the meeting open to the general public. Also, ODOT insisted that they invited several mayors from Williams County — who have a vested interest in the issue — but in fact, these invitations were never extended.
The Times reported on the lack of transparency at this meeting and followed up with input from the officials who did attend.
In November, the governor appointed a new executive director of the Turnpike, Rick Hodges, who originates from northwest Ohio. He met with several local officials and The Times was able to interview him just after he accepted his position.
In January, another ODOT meeting was held in northwest Ohio to discuss the Turnpike. Again, it was not open to the public. This time, our reporter was escorted out of the meeting so public officials could “speak candidly.” It appears, once more, that ODOT did not want transparency in its actions.
After the January meeting The Times’ received a personal invitation to a new meeting, this time with Director Hodges and our county commissioners and mayors. Not only was he able to stay through the entire meeting, but Williams County attendees were able to voice their strong concerns on the sale or lease of the Turnpike. They also voiced their concern with the governor’s selection of a northwest Ohio representative for the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
Our saga with the Turnpike continues, as Gov. Kasich has implemented a study concerning his plan. For our readers — and for Ohio’s Sunshine laws — The Times is committed to following the story closely as it unfolds. We believe this is another example of Gov. John Kasich’s disregard of the people’s right to know, which began when he attempted to close his inauguration to the press, and has been further demonstrated by the lack of transparency in the operation of JobsOhio, a new entity created to encourage business development in the state.