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The Case for Raimondo and Pryor’s Leadership – Guest MINDSETTER™ Joseph R. Paolino

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Governor Gina Raimondo

There has been a rash of criticism lately aimed at Governor Raimondo and her Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor.  The criticism is mostly style but lacking in substance.  I think Rhode Island residents are so frustrated with the political process that it’s quick and easy to be critical.  But let’s look at what is really happening.  Let us remember that not much in the way of progress has occurred in the Governor’s Office since Bruce Sundlun’s two terms of office back in the 1990s.  That’s right.  Since Governor Sundlun we have not had a change agent who has been willing to implement—and capable of effecting—lasting change in Rhode Island.  Until now.

I will say that Governor Almond worked on expanding and changing the financial services laws that the Sundlun administration brought into play.  That’s why we have Fidelity Investments.  But the only thing of substance I can remember that Governor Carcieri did during his eight years in office was to slash the budgets and state aid to local cities and towns, increase property taxes, the absurd car tax, and give us 38 Studios, the worst economic development blunder in the history of Rhode Island.  As for Governor Chafee, he’s a nice man but he was pretty absent when it came to economic development aside from championing the Warwick Intermodal Station. I put that right up there with 38 Studios in wasting taxpayers’ dollars since no one rides those trains. 

So now we have Gina Raimondo, a smart, no-nonsense first woman governor who took over a state that’s had a dearth of leadership since Governor Sundlun exhibited his outstanding ability to lead back in the last century.  There’s so much that needs to be accomplished; there’s so little time to get our state back on track.  If Governor Raimondo is guilty of anything, it’s trying to do too much, too soon.  I say, “Go for it!”  Why run for, and win the race for governor if you want to work hard yet accomplish nothing?  Remember.  Governor Raimondo is not a professional politician.   But she is a professional.  She has put together a Commerce Corporation team that can outmatch any other similar team in any state in our nation.  If anything, her people are also trying to do too much too soon.  They are smart and enthusiastic.  Their job is to put shovels in the ground and cranes in the sky.  We don’t have to judge Governor Raimondo and Secretary Pryor on how a sausage is made because that’s not a pretty sight.  But the end product is great.  Likewise, let’s take a collective deep breath and allow this administration the time to realize its ambitious goals so that the end product of their work is great for our state. Then we can judge in 2018 if this administration deserves another four years or not.

Stefan Pryor, Commerce Corp

Stefan Pryor is a smart, honest person and professional.  Thankfully, we have someone who is breaking some eggs rather than serving up the same old entrenched policies that seriously harm the ability of our state to move forward on myriad fronts.  Who cares about slogans?  I care about lower taxes, jobs expansion, job training, and an improved business climate.  I once heard Speaker Nicholas Mattiello tell a story about a guy in a bar in Texas.  The guy started to rant and rave about Texas, and they threw him out of the bar.  Here in Rhode Island, the Speaker said, if you’re in a bar and criticize our state, you end up receiving a standing ovation.  That’s right on the mark, and it will take time to change that attitude.

Leaders like Gina Raimondo and Stefan Pryor will continue to get criticized.  That’s part of the job.  They will continue to break some eggs along the way and maybe even trip up along the way.  Aggressive and proactive change begets some missteps.  But I say to them, “Keep going.  Keep us on the path to change.”    If there’s one lesson we’ve learned in the 22 years since Governor Sundlun’s terms of office were up it’s that Rhode Island can’t be put on the road to recovery by doing next to nothing.   Or by serving up the same old ingrained policies that eat up taxpayers’ hard earned dollars and bring economic and jobs development virtually to a halt.


Real Estate Developer Joseph Paolino

Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. is the former Mayor of Providence and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta.


Related Slideshow: National Press Critique RI’s Embarrassing Tourism Campaign - 2016

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New York Times

A world-renowned designer was hired. Market research was conducted. A $5 million marketing campaign was set. What could go wrong?

Everything, it turns out.

The slogan that emerged — “Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer” — left people confused and spawned lampoons along the lines of “Dumb and Dumber.” A video accompanying the marketing campaign, meant to show all the fun things to do in the state, included a scene shot not in Rhode Island but in Iceland. The website featured restaurants in Massachusetts.

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Boston Globe

After the slogan’s unveiling, the blunders just kept coming. A promotional video to accompany the campaign included a shot of a skateboarder in front of a distinctive building that turned out to be the famous Harpa concert hall, located almost 2,500 miles away, in Iceland.

The new website erroneously boasted that Little Rhody is home to 20 percent of the country’s historic landmarks. And officials needed to remove three names from its restaurant database, after realizing the information was so outdated that two of the restaurants aren’t open right now.

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City Lab

“Cooler & Warmer.” It took me roughly 30 minutes of reading about Rhode Island’s new tourism catchphrase to realize that “cool” is a double entendre—as in, the occasional temperature of the Ocean State, but also “hip and awesome.” And I still didn’t quite get it? This was not a good sign. I may be dense, but lordy, was I not alone.

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The Rhode Island Tourism Division had to pull its latest video shortly after it was posted online Tuesday because it contained footage shot in Iceland. The three-second scene in question shows a man doing a skateboard trick outside of the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik, the country’s capital.

IndieWhip, the company that edited the video, and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, which hired the firm, have apologized for the error. “The footage in question is of a Rhode Island skateboarder, filmed by a Rhode Islander,” IndieWhip added in a statement.

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A Big Price Tag Puts a Target on Your Back. Rhode Island spent a reported $550,000 to develop the “Cooler & Warmer” campaign. Development costs for the Florida and Washington campaigns cost $380,000 and $422,000, respectively. That’s before the first piece of media was ever purchased.

My advertising agency brethren will argue you have to invest money at the start of the campaign to “get it right.” But from my perspective, the above numbers seem exorbitant for a program built on public dollars. And in each case, an angry electorate agreed.

Creating a great “place marketing” campaign is a difficult job. Don’t make it more difficult by ignoring the lessons from states like Rhode Island, Florida and Washington.


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