City Council District 7
Councilmember Robert Jackson
Robert Jackson’s questionnaire
Age: Not available
Occupation: Member, New York City Council
Education: SUNY New Paltz
Mr. Robert Jackson has been a councilmember for city council district 7 and chair of the council’s education committee since 2002. He is seeking reelection because he wants to continue to serve as chair of the education committee, on eight different committees, as co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian caucus, and on the budget reform working group where he can affect policy in the city. He likes shaping legislation and wants to continue to advocate on behalf of his constituents and New York City residents. His campaign promises are to continue to fight to improve education for which he has fought tirelessly in favor, including as one of the lead plaintiffs in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, improve affordable housing in his low income district, create jobs in his neighborhood, and help small businesses survive by ensuring the passage of legislation to help landlords and small business tenants fairly settle their rent disputes.
Mr. Jackson said that he has never supported term limits because every election is a term limit check for voters. Moreover, he said the majority of Manhattan voters did not vote in favor of term limits and the referenda were worded confusingly. Mr. Jackson seemed supportive of limiting the ability of councilmembers to earn outside income if their salary was more reflective of the city’s high cost of living standards, but he also said America is rooted in individual opportunity and so long as there is no conflict of interest people should be allowed to prosper. On the council discretionary funding issue, he said that all funding information is online and the budget process is much more transparent than it was in the past. But he recognized the discretionary funding information needs to be even more transparent because there is no way for members to even see what other members receive and went as far as to say that all money disbursed should be disclosed.
Specifically on education, Mr. Jackson said that the Assembly version of the mayoral control bill was not enough. More independent review of the system is needed because there are many matters mandated by the state education law that children are not receiving like gym and art. Citizens Union prefers Mr. Jackson because of his eight-year history and background as an effective voice on education and other important issues. His passion and steadfastness in standing up for the issues in which he believes is both admirable and commendable.
Fred Masson’s questionnaire
Age: Not available
Occupation: Business Manager
Education: unspecified undergraduate degree
Fred Masson said he is running for council, not so much as a statement against the current councilmember, but that with the extension of term limits, he felt that since all second-term councilmembers would not have been running had the law not been changed, this presented as good a time as any to enter the race. As a new parent, he wants to serve in the Council to better the community.
Mr. Masson, while supportive of government reform generally, seemed less committed to being a leader on these issues. He said he is supportive of transparency, and as a councilmember would be open with all of his dealings. He believes there needs to be more reporting requirements, and a streamlining of government because the current amount of red tape and bureaucracy allows elected officials to conceal their activities. With regards to transferring prosecutorial powers from the New York City Police Department to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), Mr. Masson, said he would be opposed to this reform, because he felt it would be inappropriate for civilians to impose penalties on police officers. Even when it was clarified that Citizens Union’s recommendation is not to transfer the authority of deciding an officer’s penalty to the CCRB, he still insisted that it should remain within the police department. Mr. Masson said that he would be concerned with the potential of board members abusing their power, and would prefer to see fines as part of the penalty options, because he believes this would be a more effective deterrent against inappropriate behavior by police officers. He would also be open to the role of an independent arbitrator as a way to settle complaints.
In regards to the city’s growing budget gap, Mr. Masson believes that as long as there is the drive to find the resources, the city can continue to provide essential services, like after-school programming. He said if elected, he would even work to raise the funds himself. Another top priority if elected would be to provide financial education services to the district, particularly in Washington Heights, as a way to protect constituents against the predatory lending practices that caused the recent mortgage crisis. On education, Mr. Masson sees charter schools as a viable option for improving city schools. He would also like to create more ways for parents to be involved in the education of their children, and would push to put teachers in charge of calling and following up with parents about school information, in place of the parent coordinators at each school. At the very least he would like to see teachers and parent coordinators work more closely together.
Mr. Masson, an active participant in his community church, said that in contrast to his opponent, he is more attuned to what people need in the neighborhood. While Mr. Masson represents new ideas, Citizens Union believes that his lack of knowledge of how the council functions and detailed and focused plan of what his top priorities will be and how to implement them would not make him as effective a representative as the current councilmember.