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Published: Sunday, 7/21/2002

Tough times for CEG

An inability to market itself, to convince community-minded individuals and businesses to continue a high level of support, to expand its enrollment, or to develop an endowment that would leave it financially independent has led to the apparent demise of the Center for Effective Government. Thankfully, resurrection remains a possibility.

This agency, which brought in corporate and other volunteers to study problems public bodies identified in themselves or had identified for them, laid the groundwork for significant reforms. These led to greater efficiency and money-saving proposals in agencies as diverse as Lucas County government, Toledo Municipal Court, and the zoo, and won public support for others, such as the 911 emergency reporting system.

The center has had a few misses, including its proposal that Lucas County sell the Mud Hens baseball team, plus land the county owned, to generate one-time income.

Clearly the county's retention of the team and its participation in the creation of a downtown ball park in which the Hens now play has proved the better investment.

CEG, which has its own board of directors, needs $175,000 each year to pay for staff and office space. It has recently been able to raise only $95,000 and requests for studies, the fees from which supplement its budget, have fallen off as they have done from time to time since the organization was born in 1935.

Some wonder at the size of CEG fees. The sums are said to be competitive with those of the private sector, even though the work is done by volunteers. This is an issue warranting consideration if and when the center's board succeeds in reviving it.

On the whole this organization has proven a welcome addition to public governance, from school boards to municipalities.

So it is encouraging that its executive board will keep meeting to try to find a better way to support its activities. CEG may be in line for a vacation, but with luck it won't die. It has done too much to enhance the community and give a host of experts a chance to serve. That's an asset in any town.

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