Government’s limitations

Sometimes we want too much from government. We want it to be compassionate, as long as it does so in someone else’s backyard, with someone else’s money. When it doesn’t do the impossible, we decide rascality must be to blame.

Pity the poor Wheeling city officials who have to decide what to do about the Catholic House of Hagar, which is operated by Kate Marshall at her home on 14th Street.

Since 2012, she has been helping the indigent with meals, sometimes shelter, and other aid.

Because the neighborhood is a residential one, Marshall obtained a special use permit from the city last year. She agreed to 16 stipulations on how she will operate the charity.

Now, some of her neighbors are upset and seem to want the permit revoked. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at the City-County Building.

Marshall is defending herself with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. “I am troubled by the fact that many of these complaints are about legal activity,” commented Jamie Crofts of the ACLU. “For instance, there was a complaint about someone lying on the ground. I believe I am allowed to lie on the ground in my front yard.”

It’s not quite that simple. There have been other complaints, about foul language used by some of those going to and from the House of Hagar, about littering and about where visitors to the house park their vehicles.

But let’s go back to Crofts’ comment. How would you react if, upon arriving home from work some evening, you saw a strange person lying in a neighbor’s yard? You’d probably check to ensure he didn’t need assistance, of course. But assuming there was no medical emergency, you’d probably be a bit miffed.

And let’s be honest: How many of us would be happy about seeing a constant parade of people we don’t know going into and out of a neighbor’s house? Don’t forget that some of them will be, well, scruffy in appearance.

Do many of them need help? Yes, but why does it have to happen in my neighborhood?

Be honest. That’s what you’d think.

Regardless of what the Planning Commission does about the House of Hagar, a substantial number of people are going to be upset. Rule one way, and you’re heartless jerks. Rule the other, and you don’t care about people on 14th Street. You can’t win.

President Donald Trump and members of Congress understand.

Last week, Trump said his administration will end a program established by former President Barack Obama that, in effect, gives amnesty to about 800,000 illegal immigrants who were children when they came to the United States.

What Obama did was compassionate — and unconstitutional. Trump is right to get back to enforcing the laws as written in Congress.

Now, lawmakers have to decide whether the 800,000 “dreamers” should be allowed to stay.

Give them the boot, and you’ll be labeled as uncaring brutes. Let them stay, and you’ll be accused of letting illegal immigrants take jobs Americans ought to have. Again, you can’t win.

Look also at the Affordable Care Act, or, if you prefer, Obamacare.

Tens of millions of Americans think it would be inhumane to kick 16 million to 18 million people off the Medicaid rolls by rescinding that program’s Obamacare expansion.

Many of the same people are worried sick over the $20 trillion national debt. And, by the way, they want taxes cut.

Getting back to local government, in Wheeling, quite a few people want storm drains separated from sanitary sewers, both for environmental reasons and to curb flooding after rainfalls.

The idea that the city may increase sewerage rates to pay for the work isn’t palatable, however. Stop me if you’ve already heard this story in your town.

By now, you may think I actually feel sorry for the politicians. Sometimes, at the local level, I do.

Not for those in state and national government, however, because here’s the thing: Many of them got elected by making voters think they’re miracle workers. They have only themselves to blame when they get caught between that rock and a political hard place.

Myer can be reached at: