With the Democratic primary election Sept. 13, candidates in two local races for General Assembly seats answered our questions about how tourism can be improved throughout the state, especially in light of the failed “Cooler and Warmer” tourism campaign, and why they consider themselves a Democrat.
In the House District 34 race to represent Narragansett, Wakefield and Peace Dale, incumbent Teresa Tanzi faces South Kingstown Town Councilor Rachel Clough and Ewa Dzwierzynski. The winner has no opponent in November.
House District 34 – Narragansett, Peace Dale and Wakefield
Why do you consider yourself a Democrat?
Tanzi said she’s always been deeply committed to social and economic justice; the notion all people deserve opportunities to succeed; and the idea everyone shares responsibility for preserving the environment and natural resources. She cites her supporting marriage equality and added she is now fighting for “common sense” gun legislation. “I believe that we can achieve a society where we nurture our children, where Main Streets thrive, where we live healthy lives and where we are responsible stewards of the environment, and that government has a role in effecting change,” Tanzi said.
Dzwierznski said she believes in social equality for all people, and wants to make sure all Rhode Islanders have the same opportunity to live as good a life as she has. Growing up in a first-generation Polish-American family after her family emigrated from Poland, Dzwierzynski said her family struggled to make ends meet working in the mills in Pawtucket. “When I was a teenager, my mother had me work alongside her to help support our family and so that I could better understand the value of getting a college education,” Dzwierzynski said. “Working in the mills was tough, grueling work.” As a result, Dzwierzynski said she was instilled with a great work ethic and her parents ensured she would have a better life than they had.
Clough said she believes strongly in equality and representation of the people. She defines herself as a Democrat based on what democracy means to her. “Respect for the process of law and policy making in government, and respect for citizens’ rights and freedoms,” Clough said.
How can tourism be improved throughout the state?
Clough said supporting tourism in Rhode Island is paramount to the state’s economic future, so we must preserve the area’s natural beauty, particularly its coastlines and beaches, while not over-regulating businesses. “It is our small business community that drives our tourism,” Clough said. “Making a more business friendly environment is crucial to the success of our economy. We need to have a government support system in place to help businesses, rather than just being a government that restricts and regulates.” Clough said the state needs to do more to improve its roadways and landscaping to make Rhode Island “a more pleasant travel destination.”
Dzwierzynski said tourism promotion needs a multi-pronged approach, with coordinated marketing that synchronizes statewide marketing objectives with local and regional tourism offices, private-sector efforts and attractions. She said that by prioritizing infrastructure investments, the state can leverage its attractions, including ports, town centers, parking facilities, beaches and maritime facilities. She said the state should support hospitality industries by reducing “burdensome” regulation, reducing the unemployment insurance tax rate and creating an environment where businesses can thrive and offer competitive wages that improve residents’ and visitors’ quality of life. She said the state should also invest in multi-modal transportation projects that link housing to industry and tourist attractions.
Tanzi said she opposed Gov. Gina Raimondo’s statewide tourism proposal during House Finance Committee hearings, noting she was skeptical of the proposal and Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, the state agency that leads the statewide tourism campaign, because it “had taken on many complex programs all at once, and it seemed too big a risk to take money that was proven as being well-invested locally on an unproven department with no plan in place.” With the disastrous rollout earlier this year, her concerns proved true, she said. “The rollout was a debacle and we all know the details,” Tanzi said. Tanzi said The Special Legislative Commission to Study Methods for Growing Tourism in the State of Rhode Island Through Coordinated Branding and Marketing Efforts, which she advocated for, is providing careful oversight of efforts to promote tourism and is helping to prevent missteps, after the “hastily assembled” rollout. Tanzi said she plans to continue advocating for state resources necessary to support tourism promotion in the state, but wants to ensure South County – which she said has “a unique identity and truly is a treasure that tourists can enjoy with ease” – is not lost in the mix.