When the New Albanian asked State Representative Ed Clere to explain his position on tolling Ohio River Bridges via Facebook in August of last year, the question was infamously deleted with Clere telling constituents that Roger was unfairly targeting him by politicizing the issue, even though he’d asked it of every candidate for state office regardless of party affiliation or drinking habits. It was a straightforward question of genuine concern to many voters and Clere refused to answer it for weeks.
Later, in October of 2010 just before the general election, the News and Tribune posed it to Clere this way:
DO YOU SUPPORT TOLLS AS A MEANS TO PAY FOR TWO NEW BRIDGES ACROSS THE OHIO RIVER?
Special interests are trying to use tolls as a scare tactic to kill the bridges project altogether. Politicians have failed for decades to build the bridges, and I won’t use the issue of tolls to score cheap political points. There’s too much at stake, including tens of thousands of jobs. This isn’t a question of being for or against tolls. It’s a question of being for or against jobs, and I’m for jobs. I don’t want to pay tolls. I also don’t want to leave the bridges project as a problem for my children to solve. It’s our responsibility to find a way to move forward. I’m eager to see the financing plan the bi-state Bridges Authority will propose later this year. If the plan involves tolls, I will have the same questions and concerns as anyone else who lives here and uses the bridges. I won’t, however, take a position against something that hasn’t been proposed in a cynical attempt to win an election.
At the time, NAC pointed to Clere’s evasiveness on the matter.
Little did we know.
As local citizens await the outcome of SB 473 in the current legislative session, a bill that would allow the governor to approve tolling deals including the Ohio River Bridges Project with oversight only from a small committee, the News and Tribune‘s Braden Lammers surfaces a gem: that outcome might not really matter.
It seems the governor had already been granted the same tolling authority by legislation passed in 2010 via SEA 382. The language of SEA 382 was decidedly similar to SB 473 and granted the governor tolling authority without the usually required vote in the legislature.
When the bill was passed in the House after being amended by State Representative Steve Stemler to specifically include tolling on the Ohio River Bridges, Ed Clere voted for it (roll call pdf). In February of 2010.
Months before Roger or the News and Tribune asked for Clere’s position on tolls, he’d already volunteered to give up his ability to vote on them. When he said “If the plan involves tolls, I will have the same questions and concerns as anyone else who lives here”, he knew full well that he would have no capacity to directly impact the decision; his district would not be counted. The trouble is that a majority of the public didn’t know that and Ed, having had months to do so and being directly questioned again, purposefully avoided telling them, instead letting voters continue to believe that he would look out for them in reference to tolls with his “questions and concerns”.
I’m not sure how one goes about defining a “cynical attempt to win an election” by scoring “cheap political points” that doesn’t include such egregious obfuscation, but I bet Clere will try. His descent continues to dumbfound.