One bit of advice I’d offer to folks who are just starting to put together grassroots political organizations at the city or town level is to spend some time on an online repository right from the beginning. Put up an inexpensive Web site and use it as a place to house all of your arguments about the issues in your city or town.
My points and research about controversies in Tiverton over the years are scattered all over the place — on Anchor Rising, on all of the local news sites (some in subscription-only archives), in the Providence Journal, on a defunct taxpayer group Web site, and probably in other places I’m not remembering. Without a centralized place where all of those points, arguments, charts, and links can reliably be found, the local opposition is able to refer vaguely to past events in a one-sided way that is time-consuming to rebut.
Fixing that problem is one of the motivations behind Tiverton Fact Check, although because it’s a volunteer activity, it’s going to take time to fill it out, and it’s going to be more difficult to come up with easy-to-search organization with so many issues/controversies already in the mix. On the other hand, the people advocating for the status quo in town offer helpful reminders of the issues that need to be addressed.
I’ve started the process with a response to a letter to the editor that is bursting at the seams with errors and misleading rhetoric:
One of the challenges of serving your community by getting involved in civic debate is that it’s so much easier for people to say things about you that are wrong and misleading than it is to actually explain issues. Honest people are at a disadvantage, and often they give up when the special interests make things nasty, as Tiverton 1st and Mike Silvia have made them nasty in Tiverton.
Another bit of advice that I’d offer is to never give up. Part of the strategy of local activists in the progressive–labor union mold is to create the illusion that everybody hates somebody who speaks up against them. That’s not true.
Unfortunately, your city or town is mostly filled with normal people living normal lives, and they aren’t going to fill the papers with letters about how wonderful you are or put up Facebook pages in your honor to combat the Facebook hate-pages. The periodic thumbs up at the store, back-slap at the soccer game, or encouraging question after church is going to have to suffice.