Wheeling City Council members continue to be bombarded with complaints about their plan to eliminate nearly all funding for the municipal Human Rights Commission. But council members, working with limited federal funding, have had to establish priorities - and in this situation, they are right.
Wheeling's share of federal Community Development Block Grant money has dwindled steadily, by about 37 percent during the past two years. That prompted council members to re-examine how they distribute CDBG money.
One major change will be in how much the HRC is given. During the current year, the agency is receiving nearly $66,000 in CDBG money. Council's proposal for the coming year would slash that to $7,000.
Advocates for the HRC have said that would virtually eliminate the agency's ability to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Wheeling. City officials have pointed out such concerns can be handled by the state HRC.
During a public hearing on the CDBG program Tuesday, council members heard once again from proponents of funding for the city commission.
But for a change, they also heard the other side of the story.
As the city's CDBG allocation has been reduced during recent years, council has cut funding for other social service initiatives. Among them has been Wheeling Health Right - an organization that provides care for local residents who have nowhere else to turn.
Council's CDBG proposal for the coming year calls for Health Right to receive $30,000. On Tuesday, several people urged council to resume supporting the agency. One, Ruth Osborne, said that without Health Right, "my parents wouldn't have lived as long as they did ..."
In addition to funding for Health Right, the CDBG proposal includes $50,026 to help the Wheeling Police Department keep city streets safe, $33,000 to provide minimal support for the Nelson Jordan Center, $10,000 for the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, $5,000 for the Greater Wheeling Homeless Coalition and $4,250 for the Seeing Hand Association.
Clearly, council is attempting to stretch CDBG funding to do the most good for Wheeling residents. The funding list is appropriate in that light and should not be changed.