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Published: Monday, 6/7/2010

Bidding for change

With Toledo having just addressed a $48 million deficit, proposing to spend thousands of dollars on a no-bid consultant is at best bad politics and at worst fiscally irresponsible.

Mayor Mike Bell wants to hire Steven Cady, who directs Bowling Green State University's Institute for Organizational Effectiveness, and pay him $60,000 to advise the city on how to save money. The institute Mr. Cady leads at BGSU calls itself "a worldwide leading center for change."

There's no denying that Toledo needs change, and it needs to save money. But City Council members raise legitimate questions about whether this hiring would be the best way to accomplish those goals.

The first question is: Can Toledo afford to spend any money - even to save money - considering its dire financial condition? It might be better to weather the current economic storm and bring Toledo's ship of state to dock before attempting needed repairs.

Even if now is the time to make changes, there still is the question of propriety. Mr. Cady is a Bell insider, having coordinated the mayor's transition effort following his election victory in November. Handing him the job, however qualified he might be, smacks of cronyism.

Of course Mr. Cady, who said he has already "identified items that would have a high payoff," could donate his expertise as a public service to benefit the entire region. But that's not likely.

Failing that, and if Mayor Bell and council agree this is a judicious use of taxpayer money, it would be better to call for bids and allow Mr. Cady and other experts to vie for the opportunity to lead Toledo out of the fiscal wilderness.

That competition could uncover more effective changes and greater savings.

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