Farewell to a Respected Think Tank

Democracy in California just got a punch in the gut.

It has had more than a few in the past and survived. This one will sting for a while.

Anyone who is interested in this state, how it is governed, elects its leaders and establishes public policy knows about the Center for Governmental Studies.

The Los Angeles-based think tank has helped Californians illuminate and understand politics and public policy since 1982.

Now they are closing, a victim of the economic slump.

"The recession has depleted our funding, and we cannot continue to operate CGS in its present form," CEO Tracy Westen and President Bob Stern said in a statement released Thursday. "The CGS board and leadership have therefore reluctantly concluded that it is necessary to close."

For years the center has helped politicians, policy-makers and the media navigate the complexities that face representative government at Capitol, courthouse and city hall.

They have produced more than 70 books and reports on topics ranging from the initiative process and campaign finance reform to enhancing participatory democracy in the nation’s most populous state.

"Over the years, we have been guided by a two-fold principle: that 21st century democracy can only be improved by efforts both to reform the underlying structures of government and to use new communications technologies to inform citizens and help them participate in their governments," the statement reads.

The people who make up this organization had a special connection with those of us who feel privileged to live in this state, and who respect its institutions.

Besides being very good at what they did, they were also a joy to work with.

Studies on how to improve our government are more interesting when they are delivered by folks who love what they do and are committed to a public purpose.

In an era of political polarization amidst so many social and economic problems, we need think tanks like the CGS more than ever.

The road our state and its government must navigate just got a little more challenging.

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