MOUNT VERNON — More than 30 people attended the monthly Up for Discussion forum held Monday night at Sips Coffee House. Those present discussed a variety of topics, touching on local, state and national issues.
Mount Vernon City Council members John Fair, Mike Hillier, Bruce Hawkins and Rebecca Jordan were present to answer questions, as were State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl and Knox County Commissioner Robert Wise.
Local issues discussed included the city annexing the site of the former American National Can company. Questions were asked about the $400,000 in grant money the city is planning to apply for in order to determine whether, and by what, the site is contaminated. Concerns raised included whether annexation is a precursor to the city actually buying the land and potentially getting involved in a cleanup mess. It was reiterated that annexing the land does not mean the city will ultimately buy the land, nor does annexation mean the city will be responsible for cleanup.
Police escorts for funeral processions was another topic raised. The consensus of those speaking is that the escorts are a good policy. Points raised included whether cadets or auxiliary officers could perform the service for a small donation, to be paid by the family; that in a longer procession, the safety issue still remains after the first few cars pass; that a lot of public education needs to be done regarding proper etiquette when a funeral procession passes; and that jurisdictional issues could be solved through discussion between law enforcement agencies.
The questions, “Why are Mount Vernon schools always having an emergency levy?” and “When is the emergency over?” were asked. One participant said when it becomes a renewal levy, it would seem to be money for operating expenses and no longer an emergency. A brief explanation of the school funding formula was given.
The other major local issue discussed was the former school on Mulberry Street, and what is being done about it. The four city council members in attendance agreed the city has been lax in enforcing code violations against the property owner. One woman said that, after doing a few things to fix up the property, the property owner may have become frustrated in his attempts to rehab the building because of vandalism.
State and national issues touched on the tea parties held on April 15, and what could be done to keep momentum generated from the tea parties going. Also discussed was a suggestion made at the federal level to create a method where people could report what they consider suspicious behavior by their neighbors. The apparent goal is to create a list of potential domestic terrorists who could be watched by government. Those who spoke were angry at the idea that the government would have people reporting on each other. This led to comments that those who carry concealed weapons or attend a tea party would be potential targets.
The subject of lack of integrity of public officials drew laughter, but no discussion. Other subjects briefly mentioned included whether a levy for a senior center should be on the ballot any time soon, whether nonfood items could be sold at the farmers market and whether the change that is now happening is the change people voted for last November.