If 100-1,000 people show up at a rally, the event may or may not get media coverage, and that coverage may or may not be snarky or dismissive. Congressmen may or may not notice, and the President’s spokesman will announce he’s not aware of them.
But if 100-1,000 people show up at a town council, city council, etc. meeting, in most places, that’s an earthquake. It varies widely, but most local government budget meetings are sleepy affairs, and many local lawmakers are used to settling their spending with minimal scrutiny. They’ve never seen anything like several hundred people showing up with the same message of “don’t waste my money.”
In other words, if conservatives want to make sure stimulus funds don’t get spent on crap, applying pressure at the local level is a way to leverage the tea party energy into something with real impact on the ground. Who knows? It might even get some conservatives involved in government on a more regular basis. Back in 1996, an obscure Chicago lawyer and law school lecturer was motivated to get involved in state legislature, and within a decade, he was running for president.
Starting the ball rolling in my own backyard, I noticed Alexandria, Va.’s list of proposed stimulus programs, totaling $340 million.
I’m sure it would be nice if you could take your bike on the bus, but should taxpayers pony up $400,000 for fold-able bike racks on DASH buses?
Are power outages so frequent that the schools need $1.7 million in emergency generators?
Do we really need an extra $10 million for paving, infrastructure improvements, and to deal with storm water runoff in parks?
UPDATE: Campaign Spot reader Teresa offers an example of this phenomenon in action:
I live in a small rural county in Virginia, one of the poorest in the state.Our Board of Supervisors have been drunk on spending the last few years. They raised all taxes including an enormous increase on declining home values two years ago. Last night they met to vote on the budget. They have a shortfall of over two million due to exorbitant spending sprees in the last year. In this small community over two hundred citizens showed up to protest any tax increases. It worked. The real estate taxes will not go up this year, although personal property taxes will rise. Unfortunately most of the board members are Republicans. For two hundred people to show up at a board meeting here is unprecedented. Citizen outrage matters.