MOUNT VERNON — From city gazebos to waste and fraud in government spending, Monday’s Up for Discussion explored local and national topics.
The first question of the night centered around the new mini-park at Division Street and Coshocton Avenue, how it is being funded and who will maintain the park once it is completed.
Mount Vernon City Council member Nancy Vail explained the mini-parks are a project of the Shade Tree Commission and that most of the funding comes from private donations.
“The city will maintain those parks just like we do all the other parks including Foundation Park,” Vail said.
It was also questioned whether or not a City Council member should be involved in financial decisions of the Heritage Centre Association when the HCA benefits from the bed tax, which City Council approved.
“Council approved the bed tax. Some of that goes to the Heritage Centre Association and he (that council member) has a say in how that’s spent,” said a concerned city resident.
He went on to say that he prefers to spend his money locally and would suggest the organizers of First Friday do the same especially when it comes to booking the bands.
“Four out of six bands hired were from Columbus,” he said. “Local bands bring local people. If you want me to shop downtown then bring in the local bands.”
A member of the HCA present during Up for Discussion confirmed a member of council is involved with the Heritage Centre Association but said he was not a voting member.
The discussion then turned to the Mount Vernon City Schools emergency levy and how can citizens keep administrators from making the same employee-related mistakes.
“How can we have a teacher removed with nothing in their file,” one man asked. “If someone is not doing their job it should be in writing.”
Because of the $800,000 spent so far on the John Freshwater termination hearing, a city resident said he would not vote for the school levy. He also questioned whether or not the school board should have moved Freshwater to a study hall monitor to finish out his years before retirement and saved the district money and embarrassment.
Additional comments included:
“I will vote no because I don’t know what the economy will be like at the end of the year.”
“I don’t vote based on the (fact the) edge of the cliff is this far out. This comes at a bad time with people already stretched thin anyways.”
“You have to look at it as if for the last five years the administration has been on trial. What have they accomplished? If they have done miraculous things, then maybe they deserve some kind of reward.”
“Is this a flat tire we keep driving on hoping it will inflate?”
“I have two nieces [in the school system], I want to help them out but I will not vote for another school levy because of the Freshwater fiasco.”
The conversation then moved to the school district going after property owners to change the rate of assessment on properties the district believes is not paying its fair share of taxes. An opinion was voiced that it did not seem like a logical move on the school district’s part to hire a Columbus law firm to change assessments when it would happen naturally through the traditional property evaluations conducted through the Knox County Auditor’s Office.
A regular contributor to Up for Discussion expressed her displeasure in learning there are immigrants in the states, on a valid visa, who receive government money for college tuition along with daily stipends.
“When you come here, you learn to speak English, you learn our way of life. They are coming here, getting paid by our government and not respecting us,” she said.
This is a classic example of the federal government’s ability to waste taxpayer money, said a gentleman.
“Does it have to be perpetuated? … It’s wrong regardless of perpetuation. It is right or it’s wrong. If it’s wrong fix it,” he said.
“The inequality is there. These people are guests and visitors, they should not be cleaning out our pockets,” another man said.
The next Up for Discussion will take place on Monday, Nov. 15, from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at Sips, 101 S. Main St.