The idea of the public having direct input into government budgeting developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Recent APSA task force report highlights its usefulness. Below are a few sources and sites to stay abreast of developments.
Participatory Budgeting Project - captures efforts going on in the US, Canada and around the world. Maintains an online library of material.
Participatory Budgeting Unit - a UK site that collects case studies and other resources applying participatory budgeting approaches.
Electing people to public office requires effectively matching key ingredients - candidates, volunteers, finance, literature and messages, etc. No one ever gets aelected working alone. Some research indicates less than 10% of the eligible voters get involved in election campaigns, yet that level of involvement matters a great deal to the success of a candidacy. Whether donating funds, volunteering, writing letters to local papers, or even posting yard signs all contribute to successful elections. Websites below offer some guidance and some sources of useful information.
Federal Election Commission - search or download data of contributions and expenditures for all federal races by contributor, PAC, or candidate.
National Institute on Money in State Politics - Tracks contributions and expenditures for candidates, PACs, committees, ballot measures, and independent expenditures for each state. Easy to use tool allows you to type in your street address to identify your districts of state representation.
OpenSecrets.org : Analyzes campaign finance filings in every imaginable way: by political party, zip code, state, individual donor, industry, and more. Although the front-page emphasis is federal, state-level data is available for more than half of the nation as well. The states with coverage are shown in green on the map under the Get Local! tab. The site offers profiles of state representatives, of political parties and their committees, and of the top individual donors in the current (or most recent) election.
The use of citizen drivven ballot initiatives has grown dramaticxally in recent decades as citizens attempt to push state and local government to move ideas around legislative and executive branch resistance. The following sites track some of that activity and offer tips for considering such as resource intensive process.
Ballot Measures Database - from the National Conference of State Legislatures covers ballot measures from 1892 to the present.
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center - Guide to what it takes to get an citizen driven initiative on the ballot in the 24 states that allow them
Word on the street is that hand-written letters carry more weight, but printed letters and telephone calls are also helpful. Email messages, especially those that are form letters along with online petitions have less impact, although much easier to do. Bottom line is all forms of sharing your opinions with government officials is worth the effort. Even a single opposing letter lets the official know that some do not agree with the majority. These guides can help you identify contacts and compose an effective statement.
Community Toolbox - Guide to crafting good communication to government officials
Contact Info for Government Officials - gateway to finding contact info for federal and state government officials