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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Strickland touts views during Toledo visit

BLADE STAFF

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland trolled Toledo yesterday for cash and votes while throwing in a plug for a high-tech toll collection program for the Ohio Turnpike.

The Democratic candidate for governor raised more than $100,000 at five events around town.

Organizers said they were shooting for $20,000 per fund-raiser, which they called a rough minimum figure for getting Mr. Strickland to appear in person. At least two of the events appeared to top $30,000, said Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer and Mr. Strickland s deputy finance chairman in the county.

It s easy to raise money for somebody who s ahead 25 points in the polls, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

Still, the money raised was well below the $165,000 that Republican Ken Blackwell received last week during a single South Toledo event.

After a press conference at the University of Toledo that centered on his proposals for higher education, Mr. Strickland expressed support for an E-ZPass system for the turnpike that is used in 11 other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania.

Certainly, we should strongly encourage and consider it, he said.

Spokesman Carlo LoParo said Mr. Blackwell absolutely supports E-ZPass. He noted Mr. Blackwell touted it as part of his plan to lease the turnpike to private investors, calling E-Z-Pass an example of a cost-saving measure that would attract such investors to the toll road.

Toledo City Council candidate Joe McNamara, left, greets Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland during a stop at the UAW hall yesterday. Toledo City Council candidate Joe McNamara, left, greets Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland during a stop at the UAW hall yesterday.
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But both in response to a reporter s questions and during a taping of a television show, Mr. Strickland reiterated his opposition yesterday to Mr. Blackwell s proposal to lease the turnpike.

He called the plan irresponsible and a gimmick. A private operator, most likely foreign, could not possibly make a profit without raising tolls, he told Thomas Walton, editor and vice president of The Blade, during a taping of The Editors.

The public affairs show will be seen at 9 tonight on WGTE, Channel 30, and again Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on WBGU,TV, Channel 27.

In the states with E-ZPass, frequent toll road motorists use dedicated toll booth lanes without stopping.

After they clear the booth, the appropriate toll is automatically deducted from their account by an electronic reader.

The date is recorded by a transponder affixed to a vehicle s window.

Despite an initial startup cost, E-ZPass can reduce the need for some toll collectors.

Some of the states using E-ZPass, which include Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York, allow customers to use their accounts in other states.

Mr. Strickland s day began with a pancake-flipping fund-raiser and ended with an evening event at the home of former local Democratic Party chairman Paula Ross.

In between, the congressman met with African-American ministers and the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

He hit five fund-raisers throughout the day, hosted by union leaders, lawyers, and politicians from every faction of the local Democratic party.

At UT, he outlined his plan to boost savings for parents of Ohio children headed to college and talked about a need to increase the percentage of Ohioans who have a college degree, which is one of the lowest in the country.

The future of Ohio rests with our young people, with those who are engaged in education, he said.

The Strickland campaign has called for creation of a knowledge bank in which the state would deposit $500 initially, and $100 annually thereafter, for children whose parents open so-called 529 college savings accounts. Parents would be allowed to put money in as well and the poor would be eligible for more.

The campaign estimates that between $4,200 and $7,000 would be available after 18 years.

The first-year cost of more than $350 million would come from potential cost savings elsewhere in state government and from the state s allotment of federal aid for the poor.

Reacting to fears that the likelihood of getting a college education is diminishing for those with economic needs, the congressman said, that is intolerable and unacceptable, and it must be changed.

Not everyone at the event agreed and a number of Blackwell supporters flashed their signs amid the Strickland signs.

Fred Cooper, 21, a political science major and president of the university s college Republicans, said it was a typical speech. It was full of rhetoric and little on facts, he said.

He chided the candidate for directing reporters to his Web site for answers to some of their questions.

But for Sierra Esquivel, 19, Mr. Strickland s personal story rang familiar. Like him, she is the first in her family to attend college. She is studying nursing at UT and is president of the Latino Student Union there.

There are so many people who can t come to college because they can t afford it, she said.

Mr. Strickland s day included the taping of The Editors, on which he attributed the scandal surrounding former Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe to arrogance. . . a culture of corruption by officials more interested in enriching themselves than serving the public.

He also said Mr. Blackwell cannot divorce himself from Coingate.

He was [state] treasurer when Noe got his first check from the Bureau of Workers Compensation.

His own administration will set a higher standard of conduct, Mr. Strickland said, starting at the top and holding others accountable.

He noted that he has never accepted subsidized health care benefits provided to members of Congress and has returned $40,000 in midterm congressional pay raises because many in his district never get pay raises or even have jobs.



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