Jefferson Area Tea Party Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

April 15, 2014

On Tuesday, the Jefferson Area Tea Party hit a milestone. Tax Day 2014 marked the fifth anniversary for the organization that supports limited government and fiscal responsibility.

The group gathered on the steps of the Albemarle County office building in the evening for another rally.

Five years ago to the day, the group held its first rally, filling the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in downtown Charlottesville.

"It was just people who were angry and frustrated and didn't know what to do and needed a way and a venue to speak out," said JATP president Mike Basile.

Though much smaller, Tuesday's rally carried the same message -- residents are "taxed enough already."

The organization criticized the recent tax rate increase in Albemarle County and Charlottesville's cigarette tax hike.

"Start doing your job, get your hands off my wallet. I'm not your ATM," radio host and former Charlottesville City Council member Rob Schilling said of local and state leaders.

Members also took some time Tuesday to reflect on the last half decade.

Former JATP president Carole Thorpe said it was also a day for members to pat themselves on the back.

Thorpe ran through a list of what they consider to be successes over the last five years.

Key highlights include the JATP's role in campaigning for local leaders to oust ICLEI. Albemarle County was the first in Virginia and seventh in the country to cut ties with the association. Since then, hundreds of counties have done the same.

Another accomplishment was encouraging the county board of supervisors to table the Cool Counties initiative, which Thorpe called the "same dog of a different color."

Opponents of both ICLEI and Cool Counties see them as intrusions on local decision making by larger national and international organizations.

Another success, according to the JATP, has been educating the community on Agenda 21 and publicly questioning elected officials.

Thorpe also noted the several candidate forums the party has held over the last five years, inviting everyone on the ballot.

"Candidates, when they come here, they might not like us, but they know if they avoid us, they're going to look bad, but they also know if they come to us they're going to be treated fairly," she said.

This year also marks the fifth anniversary for the Tea Party on a national level.

Geoffrey Skelley of the UVa. Center for Politics says the party has had a major impact over the last few years. You just need to look at the 2010 election to see it.

"The outrage at the Obama administration, the backlash, they were a major proponent and component of that," said Skelley. "Democrats lost 63 seats in 2010 in the House elections alone and republicans across the country won back state houses, they won back legislatures all over the place, and a large part of that was because of the Tea Party."

Skelley says, at the Virginia level, the party has had a more mixed record, but has still seen success.

Despite the smaller and less frequent rallies over the years, Skelley says that doesn't mean support is dying down.

"I think it's always a little bit dangerous to measure enthusiasm by the number of people in crowds," he said. "If anything, it's not necessarily lost momentum. It may have peaked."

Local Tea Party leaders are confident their influence will continue.

"Keep the faith. We've got a lot of great things coming ahead," Basile said at the rally.

Tuesday's rally was emceed by radio host Joe Thomas. Albemarle County supervisor Ken Boyd was a featured speaker.

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