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Published: 11/19/2010

Strickland pledges to keep high-speed rail project

COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland said Thursday he remains governor of Ohio and has no intention of backing away from his policies while he is.

He will forge ahead with a $25 million study now under way of a planned passenger rail line despite Gov.-elect John Kasich's intention to kill the project.

He called for the Republican-controlled Senate to explain each rejection of casino commission and other appointments he has placed before it.

He also intends to fill a number of judicial vacancies, appointments that do not require Senate confirmation. Among them are vacancies in Lucas, Putnam, and Paulding counties as well as the Ohio Supreme Court.

"I'm the governor of Ohio until the ninth of January," Mr. Strickland said. "While I'm governor, I'm obligated to do what I think is right for the state of Ohio."

Mr. Kasich - a former congressman, Fox News political pundit, and regional manager for Lehman Brothers - garnered 49 percent of the vote on Nov. 2 to Mr. Strickland's 47 percent, part of a GOP sweep of state government.

Mr. Kasich had asked the Democratic governor to halt the study of restoring passenger rail service using existing freight lines between Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. The state has been given $400 million in federal stimulus dollars for only this project.

"I would hope the governor-elect would find a way to change his mind," Mr. Strickland said. "I am absolutely convinced that this is the right thing for Ohio's future. We're talking about nearly $400 million being returned and going to some other state that will use those resources to create jobs and vital infrastructure. There's a reason why other states are stepping forward and asking for it - New York, Illinois, Michigan."

Republicans have criticized the potential spending of millions in state dollars annually to subsidize operation of a passenger rail line they maintain would be too slow to attract sufficient ridership.

Mr. Strickland criticized the GOP-controlled Senate's intention not to confirm his appointments for the new Ohio Casino Control Commission to license and regulate casinos that voters approved last year for Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Among these appointees is Jerry Chabler of Sylvania.

"They are breaking precedent," Mr. Strickland said. "I'm not the one who made the decision that the Senate would not be in session for five or more months. The only thing I'm doing is carrying out my responsibilities. I was elected to a four-year term."

Mr. Kasich defended the Senate maneuver earlier this week.

"This is a very important commission," he said. "I'm going to be the governor, and it's important that I have my say on how we approach gambling in this state. I don't think it's been approached right. It's been a hodge-podge. I think we have to slow down and take a comprehensive look."

Mr. Strickland said he will fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy before leaving office. The vacancy will be created on Jan. 1 when Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, resigns her seat to ascend to chief justice.

He is also seeking applicants to replace resigning Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles J. Doneghy; Paulding County Court to replace Judge Tiffany Beckman, who was recently elected to Common Pleas Court, and Putnam County Probate and Juvenile Court to replace resigning Judge Daniel Gershutz.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.



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