Here’s your chance to watch your tax dollars at work. Literally.
An ambitious project launched by
, a non-profit investigative journalism news organization, is asking the same folks footing the tab for the $787 billion stimulus bill -- that would be us -- to keep an eye on how our money is being spent by volunteering to be stimulus watchdogs.
The initial focus of the Adopt-a-Stimulus Project is the $27 billion destined for repairing roads and bridges. The idea is to have local Joes and Joannes file reports on the progress of specific projects. ProPublica’s Amanda Michel -- who ran the Huffington Post’s OffTheBus citizen-reported initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign -- summed up the goal on the AaSP website:
“The Obama administration says the stimulus will "jolt" our economy into recovery. The questions we must answer, as investigative journalists, are 1) is the stimulus working? and 2) is it being enacted responsibly -- without abuse of public trust?
We'll start by breaking down these questions into manageable pieces. …What exactly is getting repaired? Are we entrusting public money to the right companies? Are the companies that profit from the stimulus following environmental and labor laws? Are projects generating the jobs projected?”
Care to get your watchdog on? The
currently has 5,000 projects listed with 1,000 already adopted. There are no set job requirements, and the ProPublica team will be offering guidance on the how/what/where of reporting out a project.
You can tackle projects small ($25,000 budget for the McLean County, Ill. construction of a Route 66 multi-use trail in Chenoa), midsize ($2.7 million pavement reconstruction and rehab in Charleston County, S.C.) and large ($250,000,000 to reconstruct some freeway, frontage roads and ramps at the DFW Connector on state highways 114 and 121 in Texas.) The website has a searchable state-by-state database you can cruise through.
This will be an interesting project to watch. Sure, it lacks the institutional analytic chops of the Government Accountability Office, but there’s something compelling about trying to amass a national picture of how the money is being spent through a network of local citizens. President Obama has made transparency a priority for his administration. The Adopt-a-Stimulus Project may just provide more transparency than even the president could imagine.