The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development certainly has the pursestrings and some overinflated sense of government gumption.
HUD has pushed Steubenville around as a city for years, from the days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it forced the city to build housing projects scattered throughout the city by holding its Community Development Block Grants hostage.
It has concentrated rental assistance programs in the city, providing easy tenants for property owners but not holding the tenants to the kinds of rules the average landlord might want a good tenant to meet. There has long been a sense that drug and criminal activities are taking place and that local public housing officials often find their hands tied in dealing with the issue.
City officials and residents aired complaints to U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who held a meeting a year ago to discuss the issues. Now, HUD has requested the congressman's follow-up meeting be held in private.
Johnson is to meet with local officials, various community leaders and HUD Thursday.
HUD, we remind officials of the federal agency, is funded entirely by the tax dollars of property owners and working residents of places like Steubenville.
It should go without saying that, unless specific residents or specific property issues are being named, the discussion should be in public.
The citizens of the city that lives with HUD's policies and decisions deserve the light of day to remain shining brightly on what the agency does.
And, absent HUD opening the meeting to allow the public to hear its response to the issues that have been brought before it, local officials will meet the press and be asked the questions about progress, questions that HUD rightly should be involved in fielding.