NARRAGANSETT/NORTH KINSGTOWN – Alana DiMario, a Democrat, is running for State Senate District 36 (Narragansett, North Kingstown). In 2018, DiMario had an admirable showing in the 2018 election for the same seat, missing election to incumbent Democrat James Sheehan. In that race, DiMario registered 1,580 votes (42.4 percent) against Sheehan’s 2,143 votes (57.6). Sheehan is not seeking re-election in 2020. DiMario will be facing off against Democratic opponent Ellen Waxman in the Sept. 8 Primary Election.
For this profile, the candidate was asked to limit her overall response to 1,000 words or less for spacing purposes.
What is your occupation/background? Do you have any degrees and if so where did you earn them? How do you believe your prior life experiences qualify you for this position?
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a BA in Psychology from Wells College and an MA in Clinical Psychology from Bridgewater State University. I have served children, adults, and families in Rhode Island for the last 15 years, first through an agency in Providence that provided intensive, community-based services to high risk populations to keep children with developmental disabilities placed in their homes, and then through my private practice in North Kingstown. Through this work I have interacted with schools across the state, DCYF, senior services, the courts, health insurance companies, and other government agencies and community programs. I have worked in food service, retail, direct service in group homes, as an adjunct professor, a receptionist, as a director of large community mental health programs, and now I am self-employed. I have developed a strong skill set of staying solution-focused and evidence-based when presented with a problem - meaning I can keep my personal feelings out of it, cut through the noise, and get to the heart of an issue to effectively resolve it. I have seen people through some of the hardest moments of their lives, and I know the human impact of policies on people across ages and stages of life. I will keep the day to day experience of Rhode Islanders front and center as the State Senator for District 36.
More broadly, why are you seeking public office?
I have had a lifelong call to serve my community, and to use the skills I have to help others. I see serving in the General Assembly as an opportunity to continue that service on a broader scale. Rhode Islanders are tired of fighting so hard just to get a fair break and live their lives, and I will be a voice in the GA advocating for all of us who feel like our needs haven’t been heard.
If elected, what would be your main priorities/focus? In your view, what are the most significant issues affecting the residents of Senate District 36?
Economic recovery and opportunity, and that starts with housing, jobs, and education. That is the foundation that everything else is built on to keep us going, and these are the priorities I hear over and over again in District 36. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the gaps in our current systems regarding housing and food security, family leave, child care, healthcare access, and equity in education. I will find ways to make sustainable changes in those critical areas. We also can’t ignore the crisis of climate change. We have the opportunity to recover in a way that meets the goals of creating jobs and reinvigorating the economy while investing in smart sustainable energy technologies built and maintained by Rhode Island workers.
If elected, how would you work to contain the coronavirus pandemic and minimize its economic impact?
This is going to take all of us, working in cooperation and staying flexible, to get through. We must continue to listen to the experts about the science that continues to evolve around COVID-19. We need to continue the practices of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and robust testing and contact tracing as they have resulted in Rhode Island’s relatively good containment. We must provide businesses and community institutions with the supplies and support they need via connecting them to available programs to stay safely functioning. Any stimulus or relief dollars available need to be directed at preserving housing and food security, and toward local, small businesses and getting Rhode Islanders back to work.
What are your thoughts on gun control and the 2nd Amendment?
Wherever we see problems that impact the health and safety of our communities, we must try to find evidence-based, common-sense solutions. I support proposed and recently passed gun safety measures that have broad public support, such as the Red Flag Law and the Julie Lynn Cardinal Act that help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. As a mental health professional I understand how fast an angry or emotional situation turns deadly with the presence of a gun, and I support creating sensible policies that minimize public health risks while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners.
Do you believe systemic racism is an issue in America and Rhode Island? How would you fight it if elected to public office?
Yes. We have to recognize the ways that our institutions and policies were created by white people during a time of intentional racial suppression, and we have to address the impacts of those policies as they persist today. One of the best ways to combat it is to listen to the voices of people who were not included in the creation of those policies about how they are impacted and what needs to change to create equity and justice, and take their lead in making those changes. It’s not my role to tell marginalized communities what they need, it’s my role to use whatever platform I have to amplify their voices to achieve equity.
Do you have a position on the Narragansett library issue? Do you believe the town library should be moved to the former Belmont building in the Pier Marketplace? Why or why not?
As a resident of Narragansett, I am 100 percent pro-library. I want every community to have the resources it needs, and the library is part of that important infrastructure for our residents (and visitors) throughout their lifespan. As a candidate for the General Assembly, I would not have control over the library plans, and as with all issues my personal feelings take a backseat to the will of the voters. The voters spoke in 2016 - they wanted a new home for the library and they approved the bond to get it. I also respect expertise. There has been over a decade of work that has gone into studying the possibilities for a library that meets the requirements of both the town as well as the various regulatory organizations involved. Purchasing and renovating the Belmont/IGA building meets those requirements the best out of all of the real-world options, and also revitalizes a large space that has been vacant for over a decade.
What is your position on the college student housing issue in Narragansett? Last week, the town council passed a first reading of a new ordinance that would prohibit more than three college students from renting together in town. What are your thoughts on this?
Though this is a Town Council issue to decide, it speaks to a larger problem: young adults and families have a hard time finding affordable housing, and incentivizing oversized, temporary rentals is not a path to a sustainable community for residents in any town. It has been mischaracterized as a noise/nuisance ordinance issue or targeting college students, but that is not the intent. I have been talking to residents around Narragansett and they are concerned about the constant conversion of homes in their neighborhoods to higher-capacity rentals. Cities and towns have Comprehensive Plans for this reason: to keep moving forward toward identified goals for the health and sustainability of the community, and I hope this next Council spends more time focused on those goals, whether the limit-of-three ordinance ultimately stands or not.