RI Tea Party Meeting

Rather than traverse the state all night, I came straight to the RI Tea Party meeting in Quonset. People other than me have finally begun to arrive, which is good, because I was fearful that the channel 6 reporter would interview me simply out of boredom.
6:25 p.m.
The cocktail hour has officially begun, and the room is filling up very quickly. The advantage of arriving at events before even the hosts is that it’s easier to pick a presumptuous seat right up front. The disadvantage is that I’ve ended up at the speakers’ table, and Colleen Conley asked me to prevent the rabble from taking places at it, which really isn’t an activity toward which my personality lends itself. I scrawled a quick “Reserved” sign, which has helped, but I have had to issue a few “Colleen told me to” proclamations. (Sorry, Will!) I’m trying to look mean as I type, but it isn’t keeping folks away. If only I looked more like my Anchor Rising drawing.
6:41 p.m.
Here’s the scene:

I just had to block Governor Carcieri from sitting at the speakers’ table. Just kidding; I haven’t had to do that… yet…
6:54 p.m.
Several cameras and radio coverage from the left (Ian Donnis) and right (Dan Yorke). Ian found a satellite loophole to the speaker table block, pulling up a chair right next to me, but away from the table, and Dan sat next to him. I’m not sure it’s really applicable, but for some reason it occurred to me to call this a sort of Rhode Island Follies for the Rhode Island right.
7:00 p.m.
Dan Yorke told me that he came by to see if there would be a “rock star effect.” His judgment is that there is, and here are two of the reasons:

There’s also a clear and direct link of the atmosphere to the Senator Scott Brown win.
7:05 p.m.
Colleen Conley’s talking about the “Colorado model” that progressive billionaires used to turn Colorado from red to blue.

I didn’t expect it, but Colleen including Anchor Rising among the necessary pieces (perhaps to justify my seat — literally — at the table):

  • OSPRI
  • Hummel
  • OCG
  • Legal arm to be determined
  • Anchor Rising
  • RISC
  • RI Tea Party

To this list, she’d like to add a People’s PAC to help candidates. Me, I’m interested in the plan to find four billionaires…
7:12 p.m.
Steve Laffey has taken the microphone.

A participant who had expressed an intention to get an actual head count just handed me a piece of paper to say that two counts have confirmed 315 people in the room.
Laffey mentioned that people are fleeing the state, and now he’s going over the PowerPoint presentation that he released recently (PDF). Driving around the country, he said, he couldn’t help but notice that people from coast to coast live better: “People in Boise, Idaho, live better than we do.”
7:23 p.m.
Laffey is summing up very well the many things that we talk about so frequently on Anchor Rising that are wrong and happening in the state. He noted, too, the conspicuous departure of so many people from state government, retiring, relocating, taking other jobs. The image that’s been presented in our comment sections is of rats jumping off a ship.
On a performance analysis point, I’ll say that Mr. Laffey has honed his speechifying from the night I saw him at a Portsmouth Republican event some years ago. I’ve commented before, liveblogging from an event with national-level speakers, that the speeches were definitely at another level from those given locally (even those that are good). Laffey’s certainly there, although the more-than-friendly, very enthusiastic crowd is definitely helping.
7:37 p.m.
Very compelling bit about how people in other cities that have big airplanes and large trains running through the state, and so on, don’t complain because “they see jobs.”
7:40 p.m.
Beginning with the example of cigarette taxes, Laffey said that Rhode Island should always be just below the taxes of our neighbors. “But you need to be running surpluses to do that.”
He then showed a map of right to work and non-right-to-work states. “All that means is that you can work at a union shop and not be a part of the union. Nobody gets hit in the head, or anything.” He pointed to the sea of non-right-to-work states in the Northeast and said that we could be like Switzerland for workers rather than bankers.
7:44 p.m.
“There has to be a direct confrontation with the powers that be.”
He’s saying that people in media and in government respond when people show up and make a stink. I’ve certainly seen that on a small scale in Tiverton, and we all know the reality: This has to happen at the state level.
7:47 p.m.
“It’s beyond a Democrat/Republican thing. The people in power need to leave!”
7:53 p.m.
“There’s no magical way [to balance the budget]. It’s over. Not coming back. The choices are to take extraordinary risks (which this general treasurer has done).”
7:55 p.m.
Bill Felkner’s up.

Bill’s going over the tools that Ocean State Policy offers. One thing he mentioned was that OSPRI has made it easy to search the names of people in local government, citing Monique’s November 2008 post on the relatives of former Senator Alves currently or formerly employed by Rhode Island state or local government.
8:12 p.m.
Candidate for Congress Mark Zaccaria is giving a quick teaser for what he can do to help people who want to run for office:

8:14 p.m.
Noting that Steve Laffey is a graduate, Sandra Thompson of Operation Clean Government is explaining what the Candidate School is, whom it’s for, and how to sign up.

“No more should we have offices for which there’s no contention and incumbents get elected.”
8:18 p.m.
Describing what would be happening for the “breakout” sessions, Colleen noted that there are candidate recruiters here for the Republican Party. She called the Democrats, but they didn’t return her call. She called the Moderates, but their answering machine was full.
ADDENDUM:
Just to clarify: Bill Felkner has included Anchor Rising in his vision of the “movement” since he first heard about the Colorado model quite some time ago. In other words, I wasn’t surprised to be mentioned; I just didn’t assume that I would be.
I should also clarify that Governor Carcieri wasn’t at the event, as far as I know, so I never had to tell him that he couldn’t sit among the VIPs.

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Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“two counts have confirmed 315 people in the room”
Wow. Fantastic.
“Colleen Conley asked me to prevent the rabble from taking places at the table, which really isn’t an activity toward which my personality lends itself”
Justin, we’ll get you some Dracula fangs for next time …

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“Me, I’m interested in the plan to find four billionaires…”
No, no, no. We can’t do that. Rich people are bad. Very bad. The only thing they do is grind poor people into the dirt. And maybe hire one or two to tend their polo ponies …

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

” the conspicuous departure of so many people from state government, retiring, relocating, taking other jobs”
I’ve always thought that we’d have the state’s problems at least half solved if we placed a residency requirement on all local and state pensions.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“The image that’s been presented in our comment sections is of rats jumping off a ship.”
Who stands a better chance of survival, the rat jumping ship or the captain going down with the ship?
The difference is all the “captains” of RI will be broke in their old age and no one will feel sorry for them.

gina
gina
11 years ago

“Describing what would be happening for the “breakout” sessions, Colleen noted that there are candidate recruiters here for the Republican Party. She called the Democrats, but they didn’t return her call. She called the Moderates, but their answering machine was full.” Were there break out sessions? Did I miss it? Can someone please tell me exactly what it is the RI Tea Party is DOING in RI. Sure they throw a good meeting and people show-up…(did they come to see Laffey or the RI Tea Party tonight?) …but what has the RI Tea Party done or what are they planning to do? This is the second of a total of 2 public meetings since April. Breakout sessions or working groups were to be formed at both meetings. That didn’t happen. So far all I have seen from the RI Tea Party is a couple of meetings full of speeches and Colleen drooling over Laffey like he is the savior. It does not matter WHO the Governor is if we do not change the General Assembly. The RI Tea Party has had 9 months to start organizing, I’m still waiting for the first break out session. All I’ve seen so far is a webite moderated with an iron fist. November will be here before we know it…when will the RI Tea Party have a plan? Why aren’t they banging on the doors of the current members of the GA? There are plenty of groups that have formed and activities that have been accomplished by the grassroots in RI without the support of the RI Tea Party including the Rhode Island Voter Coalition and Tea Party Radio. It is time for people to see that the RI Tea Party is not the force that is going to save this state. It is… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Patrick,
Don’t misunderstand. The “rats” are the folks in government who are fleeing a ship that they know is sinking, even as they put on a smiley face for everybody else. The analogy is not meant to indicate people who are fleeing the state as a rational economic decision.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Thanks Justin, I missed it.
Well, if those rats are fleeing, that gives us a chance to replace them with something better. It’s much easier to fill a vacant seat than to defeat an incumbent.

MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

Final headcount from the Manager was 370-380 people.
Gina, so bitter, my dear. Nobody’s stopping you from doing any of the work that needs to be done. We’re all in this together.

gina
gina
11 years ago

I see from the Projo that I did miss the workshops some how… now I feel silly…
Considering 2 of the team players (make that 3, with Anchor Rising) didn’t know they were on the team, I’m still wondering what is the RI Tea Party doing?

Will
11 years ago

Gina, Part of the problem is that too many people don’t realize that we really are all on the same “team.” The enemy of my enemy is my friend. “Team” does not necessarily mean coordinating specific activities or even having formal ties. For instance, Anchor Rising has no ties to the Tea Party. However, because it’s an important part of the conservative alternative to the mainstream print media, they have common interests. I think Justin could attest that he’s never received a marching order from Colleen or anyone else. The point, which seems to have been lost on some, is that the RI Tea Party is not the one in charge of all these other groups out there that want to create positive change — they are all merely independent pieces of a much larger puzzle. The point: The mission is larger than the sum of the various organizations. Colleen, in her presentation, was pointing out the various pieces of the puzzle you need in a state in order to enact real change. She referred to the Colorado model, which was successfully used to turn a red state blue. That doesn’t mean that all those organizations she mentioned have to copy off of the same set of notes or parrot the same exact ideas. However, it would be nice of them for a change not to engage in unnecessary turf battles, especially when the turf is so small to begin with. I would hope that we all want to change things for the better in Rhode Island? If we want to replace the status quo, as far as I’m concerned, we’re friends (Facebook level friends, but still friends). The common goal entails getting rid of virtually all of the people now in power in the State House. Although I am… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Just to clarify: Bill Felkner has included Anchor Rising in his vision of the “movement” since he first heard about the Colorado model quite some time ago. In other words, I wasn’t surprised to be mentioned; I just didn’t assume that I would be.
I’ll add that disaggregated models such as the one Colleen described last night are difficult to place accurately into language because a lot of the rhetorical short hand (“for this purpose, we’ve got that group”) implies hierarchy and ownership. I’ve been speaking of the various components as part of the same something for years.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

So Gina, what are you doing that is more effective than what the Tea Party is trying to do? Perhaps they can learn from your excellent example. What, specifically, are you doing to “change the government and the entitlement attitude of this state”?

gina
gina
11 years ago

I have been attending School Committee meetings, joined a sub-committee, attending the School and Town budget workshops, writing the School Committee and my local paper, and affecting the conversation in my town…..among other things…

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

I’ve ended up at the speakers’ table, and Colleen Conley asked me to prevent the rabble from taking places at it—Katz
I guess it’s one thing to rouse the rabble but an altogether different thing to have them seated at your table.

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

“Colleen Conley asked me to prevent the rabble from taking places at the table, which really isn’t an activity toward which my personality lends itself”
What or should I say who is Rabble and why are they not allowed at the table

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I didn’t think it would be necessary, but to explain: the “rabble” comment was a bit of self-effacing humor. Being nobody, myself, and interacting with the leader of a populist movement, I thought it would be clear that I consider myself to be among the rabble and was only kidding.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Gina, thank you. I am glad to hear it and thank you for being an involved citizen. Many other Tea Party members are doing similar things. Just because things aren’t centrally tracked and publicized doesn’t mean they aren’t being done.
Ideally I would like to see a lot more activity, at a much more sophisticated level, but I have to remember the virtue of patience. We political junkies have been doing this stuff for some time now, but many, perhaps most of the Tea Party members avoided political activity for most of their lives until, in the last year or so, the offenses by government became unbearable. I am very hopeful that once more folks see how easy this stuff is, the activity will grow virally. Meanwhile, as with any volunteer organization, encouragement and leadership by example are the only available motivational techniques.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Katz
With your sense of humor it should occur to you how funny it is for a populist movement to have a segregated speakers table in the first place. What kind of operation are these people running anyway?

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I guess I see the light, Phil. I mean, what could an organization be thinking… holding seats for speakers right next to the podium at which they’ll be speaking? Who ever heard of such a thing?

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Katz
Is this BobN a member of the RI tea Party?
Thanks for the great work, Justin and Andrew.
A count by club management put the number at more like 375 including those camped out in the bar.
Posted by BobN at January 28, 2010 5:56 PM

Will
11 years ago

I suppose that depends on what the definition of “member” is. Best I can tell, no one in the room or in any way involved in the RI Tea Party has ever paid dues or gotten a membership card. It’s pretty much open door, very wide open. Anybody who wants to be involved and contribute in some positive way is welcome.
PS As a member of the “rabble,” I was not in any way offended whatsoever. After I was unceremoniously prevented from sitting at the exclusive “reserved” table, I had to walk 4 ft. to my left and find another seat in front of the podium. Oh, the indignity! I still haven’t recovered…

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Will
Thanks for the information. BobN gave me an answer to my question on another post. As the consumate political insider that you are that indignity must have chafed. If I would like to attend one of these events as a casual observer but not want to be involved or contribute in some positive way am I still invited?

MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

Phil,
Anyone is invited to attend RI Tea Party meetings. There is no fee, and no dues. Apparently, the last event was “infiltrated’ by Brown students who posted about the meeting on the lefty blog, and to their amazement, they actually agreed with much of the message presented (although they are clearly not Laffey fans). Despite what the national media says, tea party folks really are just regular people who are looking for responsible and accountable government and who have decided to take part in the process of active citizen governance.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Madmom
Are you a member?

MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

Yes, Phil.

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