MOUNT VERNON — A wide range of topics were under the microscope Monday night during the monthly Up for Discussion, sponsored by the Mount Vernon News, at Sips.
The evening kicked off with a Mount Vernon High School student questioning the need to restrict freedom of individuality with a more strict dress code this school year.
“We aren’t even allowed to wear hoodies,” the student said. “I understand holes when its inappropriate but hoodies are one of the things all the kids wear all winter. Now you have to go out and buy new clothes with money you don’t have.”
A female participant in the conversation asked why students in the county schools are still able to learn while wearing sandals and flip-flops, along with hoodies, but students at Mount Vernon could not.
It was suggested one of the reasons behind a more aggressive dress code was the concept of cutting down on cliques based on clothing and try to build a more unified school body. The student in attendance said there were some cliques in the building but not an atmosphere that limits interaction between one group and another.
“There is no hate, no discrimination — we all socialize,” he said. “... Everyone has their own sense of style.”
The conversation took a dramatic leap from dress codes to exploring the price of oil and why it remains at $70 to $80 a barrel instead of the $20 to $25 a barrel it should be priced, according to some economists.
One man suggested it was closely related to the demand from China and as that demand grows, and the Chinese continue to pay a high price for oil, the rest of the world will be forced to match those prices.
The gentleman that posed the question said he believes the U.S. government is responsible for the high prices because it is one avenue by which it can control inflation.
“When oil is cheaper it would bring gas to $1.50 a gallon and would be a help with the economy,” he said. “Oil is a way to boost inflation rates the way the government wants because oil is used in nearly everything we make on this planet.”
The merging of the Mount Vernon Christmas Parade and the Christmas Walk led to a passionate discussion of the traditional kickoff to the Christmas shopping season in downtown Mount Vernon.
“There is a huge crowd that vanishes once the parade is over. This allows for people to remain downtown,” said a guest involved in the decision. “The idea of keeping 2,000 people downtown is better than 100. We are planning activities that will keep people downtown for hours. It will be an incredible event.”
There was concern expressed that downtown businesses would lose out on the Saturday traffic the parade would bring.
It was suggested that attendance at the Christmas Walk has declined over the last few years. A guest to the discussion said that it was up to the merchants to have something to offer potential customers to help build up attendance at the Christmas Walk.
The final discussion for the evening revolved around the Woodward Opera House and whether or not the building was worth the projected $14 million needed for restoration.
“It’s like an old painting — they claim they are priceless — and sell for astronomical prices. This building may be worth more than $200 million. I think of it like an old Mona Lisa,” said a contributor to the discussion.
“I don’t think people understand grants are your taxpayer money. There are a lot of projects in town. To put that much money into one building when they are tearing things down all over is not a good idea,” said a woman. She questioned the rationale behind the preservation of the Woodward when the city already has a remodeled Mount Vernon Memorial Theater.
“I think it is a pipe dream” she said. “I don’t think there will ever be an ending date and it will continue to be more money.”
A passionate oration on the dramatic improvement seen in the buildings over the last five years was heard from a man in favor of preserving the city’s historical buildings and atmosphere.
“To restore to the exact specifications is unbelievably expensive,” he said. “Keeping what he have and keeping it in good shape is the key to success. The work done now is a triumph. We have beautiful windows where there used to be boards.”
Up for Discussion meets every third Monday of the month at Sips, 101 S. Main St., from 7 to 8:15 p.m.