RIVER FALLS -- Amidst a time of political polarity in America, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind visited River Falls Oct. 25 for a listening session with an independent-leaning attitude to address issues that hit close to home.

Kind, a Democrat, first covered five prioritized issues headed up in the 116th Congress:

  • Lower health care costs available to everyone, as “health care is still too expensive” Kind said.

  • The family farm crisis affecting global trade, an issue which Kind is “intimately involved in negotiations” as farmers aren’t benefiting from the new deal, he said.

  • Rebuild Wisconsin for a sustainable infrastructure.

  • Higher Education Act for access to need-based financial programs and have “doors left open for students no matter their socioeconomic status” Kind said.

  • Fiscal responsibility within the national budget which is sitting on trillions of dollars of debt. Kind said he is helping give back over $107,000 to the U.S. Treasury, adding to the $1.98 million total giveback. “A lot of countries have debt like we do,” Kind said.

Kind also addressed military efforts overseas, finding fairness away from gerrymandering and giving some compromise in politics to avoid stalemates and another government shutdown.

As for the recent news about impeachment proceedings, Kind said impeachment should be a last resort, but it would be “wrong to approach a foreign country to meddle in the election process,” he added.

The audience applauded Kind.

Multiple audience members participated in question and comment time after Kind's planned presentation. Many probed about the concerns for the future in politics, to which Kind said: "Our institutions have gone through tough times before, don't despair."

Local community and Pierce County leaders also stood during question time and urged Kind to take a closer look at needs specific to preventative health and education in the area.

AZ Snyder, Pierce County Public Health director, said she believes greater attention to investing in preventative care would eliminate future expenses. Snyder gave Kind a snapshot of the bleak numbers she has to deal with in her programs.: $2,000 is received for tobacco prevention efforts each year, and only $400 is allotted for e-cigarette work in the Pierce County area.

“That is criminal when kids are using,” Snyder said.

Snyder also had concerns about immunization education funding, which requires extensive time and face-to-face conversations.

The audience applauded Snyder after calling out all Healthier Together has done for mental health and substance abuse change.

“Thanks AZ for the job you’re doing,” Kind said afterward.

River Falls School Board clerk Alan Tutchenhagen brought education concerns to the table, motivated by the belief that education is the nation’s foundation, he said.

It is becoming increasingly harder to find teachers to hire, Tutchenhagen said, and schools are also facing issues with students’ access to vaping products.

Kind is up for re-election in 2020. Three unofficial candidates are listed on Ballotpedia.org: Democrat Justin Bonner and Republicans Brandon Cook and Shannon Moats.

Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District comprises Adams, Buffalo, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, La Crosse, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties. Chippewa, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, Richland, and Wood counties also have parts within the district.