Who Are We?
Stillwater Gazette Interview With Jerry Serfling
Why was the River Valley Action Group event started?
In 2003 there was a growing feeling that public policy makers had become estranged from issues that mattered to people in the Valley. It started as a joint project that included Minnesota Private Non-profits, Progressive Minnesota and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
What is the need for this group in the community?
There is a need for nonpartisan grassroots communication about issues that impact the residents of Senate Districts 52 and 56. This became more apparent after attending town hall meetings and hearing fellow residents urge our legislators to; adequately fund public schools without depending on levies, invest in early childhood education, provide accessible and affordable health care, provide an increase in the minimum wage and protect our environment. During conversations with our legislators, it was apparent that those issues, which we strongly believe in, were not their top priorities. So as groups and individuals we continued to contact elected officials, express our concerns and monitor their legislative actions. It is important to hold legislators accountable. Reviewing their voting records is a strong indication about how well they represent our community values.
What is the most interesting discussion the group has ever had at one of its meetings?
At our August 2005 meeting, State Representative Sheldon Johnson provided a report on the 2005 legislative session and special session. A panel of 6 experts provided information about our focus issues and the impact of the legislative decisions. It was extremely disappointing to hear from each expert that the "no new tax" pledge taken by the legislators in our area trumped human needs in almost every case.
What it the one issue/subject that comes up the most in discussion?
It is the failure of the elected legislators in Districts 52 and 56 to be leaders or even supporters of solutions that improve the quality of life and represent the values of St. Croix Valley community.
How do you hope this group will evolve in the future?
It is my hope that we can now move from identifying relevant issues to organizing grassroots efforts aimed at increasing public awareness and citizen involvement to promote the values that will make this a vital and healthy community. To ensure that goal, we must hold elected politicians accountable.
What will be the key to the long-term success of this group?
We hope to engage more members in community outreach, providing information that assures an informed electorate.
How does this group enrich the lives of the people who attend?
Speaking only for myself I benefit my having an opportunity to discuss issues I care about with others from different backgrounds, but who believe that government has a responsibility to improve the lives of its citizens. Sharing ideas with people who are not persuaded only by the hot button issues of the day, but who care deeply about improving lives now and assuring future generations of greater opportunities is a rewarding experience. It is even more rewarding because as we discuss issues and get to know each other we know we can make a difference. There is a sense that we can help build a community where a clean environment, quality health care, living wages and quality public education matter more than a "no tax pledge".
Are your meetings always at the government center? Are they always at 6:30 p.m.?
Yes, except in unusual circumstanceces.
What issues will the group discuss at the next meeting?
We will be reviewing the voting records of our elected officials and planning strategies to inform and engage the public to influence political policies.
Anything else you'd like the community to know about the group?
We are open to any resident in Senate Districts 52 and 56 who support progressive values.