State Rep. Ronald Gerberry, D-Austintown, wants the state government to hold a series of public hearings before privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.
That's probably not a bad idea considering how much misinformation Gerberry and some of his colleagues are spewing about potentially leasing the Turnpike to a private operator.
Gov. John Kasich is one of the latest state leaders to call for proposals from businesses interested in leasing the 241-mile road across northern Ohio from Pennsylvania to Indiana. Among other details, if a private investor operates the toll road, Kasich and others want to learn:
l How much Ohio could reap;
l What infrastructure projects for economic develop could be accomplished with the money;
l What safeguards would be in place to stop Turnpike tolls from continuing to escalate;
l How much turnpike maintenance would be provided and many other details involved in allowing a private investor to operate the toll road.
Even though the state has yet to even ask for proposals, Gerberry and State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said they already have the answers.
''The turnpike has created jobs for many in the local communities surrounding it throughout the years, helping to support the local economy,'' Lundy told the Associated Press recently. ''Privatizing the turnpike could cost jobs, hurting those very same communities.''
Somehow, Lundy and Gerberry already know people would lose jobs. A public hearing would enable the legislators to provide the job analysis and pertinent data that enabled the researcher to arrive at this conclusion.
We're being sarcastic, of course. Since there isn't even a proposed lease yet, Lundy's comments are completely unfounded.
Lundy and Gerberry said it's wrong to sell state assets to pay for projects that could stimulate job creation in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Apparently they prefer to use taxes. There have been proposals, and some still desire, to add a toll on I-80 from the turnpike to the Pennsylvania State line. Lundy and Gerberry must also be content with the Ohio Turnpike's steep toll hikes assessed against northern Ohio commuters and businesses, a tax not assessed on our southern Ohio counterparts.
Rather than attend the public hearings they demand, Lundy and Gerberry should focus on a way to make the turnpike free for their constituents. Residents and businesses in our part of the state should have the same access to a free cross-state highway as those who use I-70, from West Virginia to Indiana.