MOUNT VERNON — Trains, busses, oil, education and billions of dollars were on the minds of area residents who gathered at Sips on Monday night for the Mount Vernon News’ monthly Up for Discussion.
The night kicked off with a discussion regarding the validity of increased bus opportunities over the need for a moderate-speed rail system.
“I rode a bus from Columbus to New York and I really liked it,” one group member said.
As funds are already designated for a rail system in Ohio, it was questioned whether it would be permissible to transfer those funds into upgrading private bus companies.
The decline in demand for personal transportation raised the question of whether there was a need for either increased bussing or the resurrection of rail.
“This would be a system that doesn’t have the ridership. Pouring money into it doesn’t mean people will use it,” one man said of rail.
“If gas prices stay where they are, no one will need the train. When it goes up, people will want the train but it won’t be ready for the demand,” said another.
With cars traveling at 65 mph on interstates and a proposed rail system expected to average just over half that speed, one member of the group questioned the reality of the proposal.
“There will have to be a cultural change for people to give up speed. I’m not sure how many people will use it,” he said.
There are many pros and cons related to the topic of redirecting U.S. 36 through Mount Vernon from High Street to Chestnut Street as those talking about the topic demonstrated.
A proposal would take truck traffic traveling west down Coshocton Road to Chestnut Street to Norton Street, where it jogs one block to continue traveling west on High Street.
At the heart of the issue, according to Mount Vernon City Council members in attendance, is the ability for trucks traveling north and south to make the appropriate turns on and off Gay and Main streets.
Still in its infancy in the Transportation Committee, the proposal is considering whether there is a better way to move people and whether the potential loss of parking spaces would be worth the change.
In the wake of the recent explosion at the off-shore oil rig, it was questioned whether it was time to end off-shore drilling.
Moderator Russ McGibney said he heard there is oil that seeps onto the ocean floor every day that is naturally absorbed, so it is possible the oil leaking out of the rig might not be as potentially dangerous to the ocean’s environment as originally thought.
“I can take an aspirin every day to keep my body healthy, but taking a whole bottle at once doesn’t mean my body can handle it,” one man said in response.
“I think we have learned a lot from this experience, but it is too soon to call it quits,” said another.
A topic posed late in the session questioned how attendees felt about the Federal Reserve giving $50 billion to the Central Bank of Europe without approval from Congress in order to the save global economy.
“Congress is supposed to be in charge of our money. Fifty billion dollars is a lot of money to be giving away,” said a discussion member.
A common thread through many of the Up for Discussion sessions is education, how it is funded and how schools throughout the United States and the world are compared. This topic resurfaced Monday.
“How do we have an equal education for all of our children?” someone asked. “In the United States we educate all of our children with a result of lower test score averages. Some countries don’t educate all of their children and have really high test averages.”
One member commented on positions and programs schools are starting to cut when levies fail.
“These are things that I think should have been cut a long time ago,” he said. “Elementary art teachers aren’t necessary.”
It was suggested that with the advances in technology and the Internet, it is possible education could change from being structured in a classroom environment to taking classes at home online.
This sparked an exchange on the cultural and social advantages of the current education system and how both systems could work depending on how best the student learns.
The next Up for Discussion will take place at Sips on Monday, June 21, at 7 p.m.