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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Anti-toll group wants a Kasich apology, which they won't get

There are some Northern Kentucky leaders – those who oppose tolls to pay for a replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge - who are saying that Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, is no longer welcome in their part of the state.

And they don’t seem to care which bridge he crosses to get there.

It seems that Ohio’s Republican governor, who is not the shy and retiring type when it comes to speaking his mind, left some noses out of joint Wednesday when he hooked up with Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, at Covington’s RiverCenter.

Kasich and Beshear said the two states would work on trying to reduce the estimated $2.6 billion price tag for replacing the bridge and re-doing the highway corridor. And they said they would have a 50 percent discount on tolls for daily commuters. Kasich said, too, that Ohio will now split the costs with Kentucky, even though it is Kentucky’s bridge.

This was aimed at convincing state legislators in Frankfort to accept the idea of tolls and move forward with funding for the project – something that the anti-toll legislators from Northern Kentucky have been battling for a long time now.

In the midst of all this, Kasich said some things that had smoke pouring out of the ears of Northern Kentucky’s anti-toll crowd – even though, by Kasich standards, they might seem fairly mild.

Kasich said that Beshear “can’t force a group of legislators who want to put their heads in the sand to go forward and do something that needs to be done.”

And this:

“I would say to the business leaders across Kentucky and my friends in Ohio that we work with these legislators who, for whatever reason, operate with blind and extreme ideology (and) are stopping progress.”

And there was more:

“I think the vast majority of people who understand the economics, the safety question – they’re all for this. And you’ve got a pocket of people up here who are not. Well, God bless them, but they’re standing in the way of significant progress.”

Well, this did not go over really well with the anti-toll people. And it steamed them, too, that he said it at Covington’s RiverCenter, which once housed Omnicare – a business Kasich lured across the river to Cincinnati.

“I’ve got news for him, he’s not the governor of Kentucky,’’ said Steve Frank, a Covington city commissioner who opposes a toll of any kind. “What business does he have telling the legislature in Kentucky what it should and shouldn’t do?”

NKY United, a group opposed to tolls for construction of a Brent Spence Bridge replacement, put something up on its website taking Kasich to task and asking Northern Kentuckians to sign a petition to Kasich demanding he apologize.

“Governor Kasich has personally lobbied to take businesses and jobs from NKY, and yet he stands in the very building that once housed some of these businesses and makes personal attacks against our elected leaders?,” the website said.

Kasich, NKY United said, “should apologize; and if he cannot control himself he should stay out of Kentucky.”

It’s not clear if this means all of Kentucky; or just the northern part. After all, he may want to take his kids down to see the Kentucky Horse Park someday.

At any rate, as of mid-afternoon Friday, there were 2,162 signatures on the petition.

Frank put a link to the petition on his Facebook page.

“I don’t expect Kasich will apologize,’’ Frank said. “I just want to see if some of the legislators downstate might be influenced that tolls are a bad idea.”

The whole project, Frank said, could be devastating to Covington, with the proposed widening of the corridor taking out areas that are developed or could be developed.

“We don’t even know if (Covington’s) exits are in this plan,’’ Frank said. “They say it’s a preferred option, but it’s not set in concrete.”

Beshear, who is in his final year as governor, made it clear Wednesday that if any legislation comes to his desk this year that bans tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge project, he will veto it – just as he did last year.

Build Our Bridge Now is a coalition of businesses and organizations on both sides of the river that wants to see the Brent Spence Bridge project get off the ground as soon as possible.

Patrick Crowley, a spokesman for Build Our Bridge Now, said the group was “very happy” with the announcement by Kasich and Beshear.

“Gov. Kasich is putting out a message that the public wants its elected officials to act,’’ Crowley said. “This bridge is unsafe. Doing nothing is not an option. And the message from Ohio’s governor was loud and clear.”

Kasich, Crowley said, “is welcome in Kentucky any time he wants.”

Kasich’s office had no direct response to the petition, but Kasich's press secretary did give WVXU a written statement.

“Every month this project is delayed adds $7 million in additional costs,’’ Rob Nichols said. “Everybody needs to immediately roll up their sleeves and get this done.”

It’s too soon to tell if the Kasich-Beshear plan will work. The devil, as always, is in the details.

But if the anti-toll advocates of Northern Kentucky are looking for an apology from Kasich, they’re probably going to be disappointed.

John Kasich has never struck us as the apologizing type.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.