As the former State President of AARP, my colleagues and I have worked on many campaigns to enrich the lives of Virgin Islanders through social and legislative changes.
The GERS movement, currently underway, is a new campaign that AARP and its partners in the Coalition to Reform GERS have embarked upon to ensure the economic security of our members and our community. The intensity of the support from AARP members and our coalition partners toward reforming the Government Employees' Retirement Systems has rejuvenated my spirits and touched my heart. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to witness such enthusiasm and acts of commitment to an issue that people willingly assume personal responsibility for nurturing its public acceptance.
Added to this, I have gained a renewed sense of appreciation for the commitment and concern that our elected officials have demonstrated. The recent unanimous committee vote to forward the GERS Bill on to the rules committee has bolstered my pride and strengthened my confidence in the members of the Virgin Islands 26th Legislature.
I must publicly thank those who had the most influence over this progress. I send my deep appreciation to Senator Louis Patrick Hill who took the initiative to bring this bill to the forefront and begin discussions seeking solutions to preserve GERS' solvency.
Next, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg Jr., chairman of the government operations and consumer protection committee. Under his leadership, the committee worked cohesively to expedite Bill Number 26-0071 through its public hearings phase and vote it forward to the rules committee.
While I am pleased with the response from our public officials and our coalition partners, I am a bit disappointed with the amount of involvement and concern demonstrated by the very stakeholders, who will be most adversely impacted retirees and government workers. While those who are involved are passionate, there are many more that should be involved but are not.
As citizens, we should not take the position that we don't need to do anything because the "government will fix it." We are the government! Every citizen must participate in the process to 'fix' the system.
Only when we collectively take a stand will we be able to express that we are sincere and serious about GERS reforms. Only when we are seen and heard at public forums will our desires be made known, our needs recognized and our demands answered. We cannot idly sit by and hope that the government will read our minds. We must All get involved and we must All be seen and heard. Participation is essential if we expect to achieve these reforms.
During past hearings on St. Thomas and St. Croix, there were many who braved the rain and crossed the waters to stand and be counted among those who recognize that GERS must not be permitted to fail. On behalf of the Coalition to Reform GERS, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all who attended.
The Coalition to Reform GERS will be asking Virgin Islanders for their support as we continue our outreach efforts on radio and television talk shows. We hope to impart a greater understanding of the issue and consequently garner greater public participation. Please plan to tune into these shows and attend future hearings. Your presence at these functions is invaluable.
The time to make a positive change is upon us. This opportunity will not come again. It's up to all of us to continue this movement to reform GERS.
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