The Block Island Times

RI District 36: Tina Jackson

By Stephanie Turaj | Oct 14, 2012

When Tina Jackson (R) came to Block Island last month to speak at a candidate event, it was clear that this former dancer-turned-fisherwoman from Charlestown — yes, a fisherwoman with long, painted nails and all — is outspoken on the issues close to her, yet remains down-to-earth.

And it’s also pretty clear what’s most important to this District 36 State Representative candidate: she is lobbying for protecting fishermen’s rights, advocating for lower taxes and lower spending, and dedicating time to her constituents, including those on Block Island.

When the Times later contacted Jackson, she was just getting ready, in fact, to head off to a hearing on Deepwater Wind, and she was ready to express her skepticism of and opposition to the project. She sounded off on the high cost Deepwater will place on Rhode Island taxpayers. She also questions the efficiency of the project’s wind turbines. While Deepwater says its turbines would operate at least at 35 percent efficiency, Jackson refutes this, claiming that the maximum would likely be somewhere around 18 percent. She also calls into question the breadth of Deepwater’s environmental studies, claiming that the cable could produce electromagnetic field emissions that could hurt local marine life.

Asked how she would help reduce Block Island’s energy costs — since for some, Deepwater’s mainland cable seems like a best bet at reducing electricity rates — she responded saying that a cable to the mainland should still be installed for Block Island, “but not for $250 million dollars… I will work tirelessly to get you hooked up, but not for that exorbitant rate.”

“I’m not anti-renewable energy,” she explains, just anti “how this [Deepwater] was implemented.” She doesn’t like the way the state legislature re-wrote the rules to make the state Public Utilities Commission sign off on Deepwater’s power purchase deal with National Grid, after the agency had once rejected it.

Commercial fishing and hunting

Uniquely, Jackson is presenting herself as a voice of the fishing industry — something she feels is needed in government, both statewide and federally. She is cofounder of the American Alliance on Fishermen, which, she explains, lobbies to protect farmers, such as asking for a moratorium on the catch share program. The program, put forth by the federal government and N.E. Fishing Management Council, puts a quota on the fish each specific fisherman can catch. She explains it actually hurts the fishermen that had been working to prevent overfishing in the first place. “It had been rushed through. It was a consolidation meant to get rid of fishing boats,” she said.

But, she adds, the government just doesn’t hear the voices of the fishing industry, and it remains one of the most regulated agencies, just behind the IRS, says Jackson.

“Everything I’ve advocated for, the government voted against,” she explains, “and everything I’ve advocated against, the government votes for.”

Jackson became involved in the fishing industry six years ago, after she went on a fishing trip and found herself with a decent paycheck afterward, and was hooked. “Who knew?” she laughs. Since then, as an unpaid president of the alliance, she takes frequent lobbying trips to Washington, often out of her own pocket.

“I really began to see with what they’re [the government’s] doing with the fishing industry,” she explained.

Back from sea to land, Jackson acknowledges the deer problem on Block Island, and she thinks that the Department of Environmental management needs to do more to help. And she has a suggestion on how the DEM could do so:

“It should allow two to three extra takes, and have the hunters donate the extra to a food pantry.”

She says that this could be a viable way to increase the hunting, and it would lessen the negative impact on human health, but also help the deer. She notes that an overpopulation of deer means increased diseases and less food for the animals.

“I’m the biggest animal lover you’ll ever find,” she admits. “If I could have 10 dogs I would keep them all.”

“Nothing changes if nothing changes”

That’s Jackson’s campaign slogan, and she explains: “You can’t change the state if you keep voting for the same people.”

Jackson claims her opponent consistently votes the party line, and simply follows along with leadership. Jackson points specifically to the 38 Studios issue, explaining that Walsh did not ask the right questions about 38 Studios.

“I have no problem working with other people,” said Jackson, referring to varying political parties, but, “We don’t have time to play around.”

Jackson, if elected, won’t “play around,” but plans to cut both taxes and spending. She points to the boiler and inventory taxes as slowing businesses down. “If we want to enhance tourism, we need to make Rhode Island cheap and easy to stay in,” she says. “When we cut spending, we cut spending. The point is not to tax another industry to replace what we cut.”

But it’s not just businesses she’s trying to help, it’s the average person. To help cut spending, she strongly believes in welfare reform. She explains that she has watched this issue for a long time, as her mother was a welfare worker. She notes that there are a lot of people getting welfare that don’t need it, but more tragically, she says, are those who need it and can’t get it.

Jackson knows the struggles of life pretty well. On the phone with the Times, Jackson talks frankly about her past as an exotic dancer. “I got my house with that job,” she explains. “I understand a lot of what is going on out there.” Her understanding of everyday struggles translates into her desire for helping others. In addition to raising four stepchildren, she is the adoptive mother of two children, and recently helped out two struggling families — not even in her district — by leading them to the right places.

She describes her community and political dedication as similar to working in the fishing industry: “You don’t do it because you want someone to praise you.”


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