I recently stated I will no longer participate in community forums organized by a coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters. Some on the political left have complained about this; I believe it remains the right decision.

I first want to be clear organizations like the League of Women Voters are a key part of our civil society, just like apolitical groups, including the Rotary, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Elks and Shriners and conservative political groups like the Club for Growth and the Iowa Family Policy Center. Civic groups like these, along with churches and families, are the glue that holds our civilization together.

While the League of Women Voters is generally a liberal group, I have participated in the forums for several years. I have done this despite the fact the forums are run by Democratic activists; former Democrat legislators have served as moderators, and a former Democrat county chair serves as timekeeper.

 In the past, I have asked representatives of the forums to consider improvements, to no avail. At the last forum I attended, one of the main topics was collective bargaining laws. The moderator was a representative of a public union lobbying against the changes under discussion. The forum organizers are clearly not providing a neutral environment for discussion.

None of that is new; it has been going on for years, but I have continued to participate anyway, because I want to be as engaged with my constituents as possible. But recently the environment at these forums has changed for the worse; liberal activist groups have become disruptive and disrespectful, and unfortunately, in the case of the extreme left, spew vitriol. My presence at this particular forum is a catalyst for that vitriol. This is not an atmosphere for productive dialogue.

As a state representative, it is my job to take every opportunity I can to listen to the citizens who elected me, whether they voted for me or not, whether they like me or not, and whether they agree with me or not. One way I do this is knocking on doors: I knock on thousands of doors every year, seeking input and asking for support. If you live in my district, I have probably knocked on your door about a dozen times since I first ran for office eight years ago.

Other ways I pursue engagement with my constituents include attending community events and, yes, participating in forums. The Black Hawk County Republicans have held a couple of forums this year; they were upfront about the fact that the forums were Republican in nature, but people with a variety of viewpoints were treated respectfully and civilly.

Moving forward, I am hopeful a truly neutral organization like the Rotary or the Chamber Alliance would consider organizing forums. I am also open and willing to work with League of Women Voters leaders and my Democrat colleagues on a better solution.

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, represents House District 60.