Christopher R. Jackson
1. What sets you apart as being an ethical candidate?
[JACKSON] One of the reasons I am running is because my integrity, as bestowed upon me, is not to be compromised. I was a member of the incumbent’s ticket until I was contacted by someone from the Department of Public Works to give them some of my Petitions for Nomination so he could get them signed. I saw that moment as a challenge to my edict to the mayor that “I don’t go along to get along” and my integrity – if I gave them some petitions it would show that I’m down with shenanigans. That same day I acquired the petitions for mayoral candidates because I knew that kind of thing was in violation of the employees handbook and was likely a routine thing. Such activity won’t change until the top is different, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I love being a councilman, but I’d rather lose and be out of municipal government than be a part of a team that appears to surrender ethics for electoral advantage. I have taken oaths of service as a military inductee, an attorney, and as a councilman, but I’m not self-righteous. My word means something to me and I’m honored to serve the public.
2. How do you plan on engaging the immigrant community with completing the census. So far, Orange is really low in responding.
[JACKSON] The mayor has appointed one of his ticket members as the lead for the census for our town. First, I would not have done that because it looks like he was just trying to increase his campaign’s visibility. I would have started coordinating with the department directors and the municipal council last year, and use my visibility and access to media to contact all corners of the town to attract census workers – just like the mayor creates announcements to illuminate his candidacy. I would have hung signs across major streets, rented billboards, used the electronic signs on the schools and city hall, and sent out fliers to every home with English, Spanish, and Creole pleas to participate. I would utilize phone banking, the city website, the police, fire department, public works, crossing guards, and anyone else to publicize the need to respond and the census’ benefit to our town. Since it’s not political activity, it would be all hands well-informed and motivated to push the census participation in all languages. I’ve seen two notices on the city’s website. Instead of cruising for birthdays, I’d be in the neighborhoods with a mask on, to personally ask for census participation.
3. What makes you qualified for the job? If we don’t see you in the community, what have you done lately?
[JACKSON] I was asked, “If there is one thing you’d do differently, what would it be?” I replied, “I’d be more visible.” I am not a photo op kind of guy. I attended all of the council meetings, I go to events like the development summits, council members’ public meetings, meetings at private homes, football games, plays, school reading sessions, and things like that, but I haven’t had events of my own. I love serving the public, but I’m not very good at the political imaging stuff others excel at. I just opened a Facebook account last month for campaigning. Rest assured, however, that I’m doing my job. I read all materials we’re given and probably ask more questions than any other member, resulting in relevant changes and clarifications of legislation. I was a member of the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee for several terms, the Zoning Board of Adjustment for several years, rising to its vice chairman, and served as council liaison to the Planning Board and the Orange Public Library. I was trained as a municipal mediator, was an attorney for children in abuse and neglect cases, served in the executive branch as an attorney at the Office of the Child Advocate, and years ago, I was on the board of directors for the National Association for Public Interest Law, now known as Equal Justice Works. I am a manager in concessions at MetLife Stadium, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and was a trainer in electronics in the early days of wireless communications. My broad experience leaves me with a measured demeanor, the tenacious focus to resolve any issues that arise, and the patience to be an example for all of our municipal employees to emulate as a public servant. As a mediator it’s easy to be fair and non-judgemental, as a veteran it’s natural to be courageous and convicted, as an advocate it’s empowering to push for what’s best and what’s right, and as a manager in food service it’s an acquired skill to motivate folks when they’re tired to do what they may not want to do. I am ready to serve the citizens of our town as I know the difference between self-service and public service, and I think I already have a good reputation with municipal employees that I’ve come into contact with as a citizen and councilman. I really want to undertake the hard work the position requires.
4. Would the next mayor help to put term limits in place with city council?
[JACKSON] I don’t think term limits are necessary at this time. The issue is, I think, that there are few opportunities for new people to become familiar with municipal functions and so the same folks have an advantage when election time hits. I’m more likely to support broadened participation on committees and boards, and to motivate citizens from every ward to stand up and hold those already elected accountable to them. Diversity is needed. Too few citizens attend council meetings or even ask questions about what is happening in municipal government unless they have a personal complaint. I plan to invite students to become involved as well, not just because their parents think it’s a good idea, but because they’re interested in civic duty. With more real competition, poor performing council members will get defeated.
5. What real programs will be available for youth don’t don’t play sports or cheerlead?
[JACKSON] What do you suggest? One of the things I will try to avoid is coming up with a lot of ideas myself. Ideas need people to do the work, and too often ideas die because nobody commits to sacrificing their time to plan, guide students, call parents, attend events, raise money, and recruit volunteers to help. The programs that are available are the ones that come with adults to lead them. I had a friend who is now deceased that wanted to restart a chess club at the library. I would love to see a group study and review current events of international impact. I am interested in some activities where youngsters learn manual skills like mechanics, carpentry, metal working, cooking, gardening, or some other useful endeavors. But nothing will happen without dedicated adults.
6. Moving forward will something be done with the Memorial Hospital site that’s not an apartment building? Our schools are already filled enough and most of our kids leave the city to spend money in other places to have fun.
[JACKSON] There have been some preliminary discussions about developing the site as a municipal center by moving city hall there, with the municipal court and police station as well. Some community interests have expressed a desire to maintain some medical presence on that site as well, and possibly a community center for youths to congregate there after school and on weekends. There have also been discussions about mixed-use with a combination of residential and commercial properties. The key is that citizens get involved early, and express their desires to the administration and their council representatives, and even organize to influence decision-making. No way to listen to people who don’t speak up. If I’m elected, a process for community involvement in consideration of the appropriateness of development in our town will be developed and implemented, similar to the process utilized to construct our master plan.
7. Moving forward the person elected how do you plan on working with the board of education to strengthen community and education?
[JACKSON] As a product of Orange public schools and a supporter of an elected board of education, progress in education in Orange is very, very important. I want parents to choose Orange schools over the private school choices they make today and some made back in my days in the ‘70s. I have a collaborative spirit, and would be comfortable working with all of them. Local schools have more value than just academics – the experience is also about developing social skills, confidence for future challenges, community for a better society in Orange, and a pool of future leaders for our town, county, state, country, and nation. I am a Tornado till my last breath, and will visit every school and support the local education community loyally. I will also hold them accountable for preparing our next generations for education and life. I like the direction the schools are moving in, and will know more where I might fit in after more research about their goals and focus.
8. What are we going to do about the crime and drug dealing around Hickory, Taylor and Chapman Street that have been going on for more than 10 years?
[JACKSON] Amazingly, those streets have been influenced by criminal activity for longer than that. I will review OPD actions in the area and interact with the neighbors who suffer in peace around the madness. How are community policing tactics being utilized? Foot patrols? Are the activities due to poverty and a lack of options or a choice of occupation? It is inefficient to suggest solutions without knowing what the details of the problem are, what solutions are being used or are proposed, and what the community needs for their protection and peace of mind.
9. How are the residents benefiting from all of the so-called redevelopment?
[JACKSON] The primary benefit of development to the community is transforming dilapidated or vacant property of low tax value into higher revenue producing property that improves the appearance of the neighborhood as well. Higher revenues via development can help balance the tax burden of citizens throughout the city. Each development has a plan that can be reviewed by citizens, and the city recently held 4 development summits to inform the public about such plans. One underutilized benefit is the opportunity for citizens to impact plans by addressing the administration and developers directly through the process, which includes community communication, scheduled meetings, application to the Planning Board and maybe the Zoning Board of Adjustment as well.
10. Can the current/next mayor start having their council people have ward meetings? One councilwoman has meetings for her ward and works with the people in her ward. She works with people outside her ward as well however the different wards should be able to be heard by the person representing them.
[JACKSON] The mayor has no authority over the council, but certainly they can offer collaborative opportunities to council members of every ward and at large. Depending on council people taking action is one way to have more contact with them, but it is also effective to organize within your ward community and invite them to come. That is a better way to do it, in that neighbors get more familiar with each other and then they can tell elected officials what they want. I suggest attending council meetings and invite the ones you want to see, or ask them on the record how they can help organize for that purpose.
11. Can you please list which mayoral candidate is Republican and which is Democrat? As a resident of Orange, I have a right to know of their political background.
[JACKSON] The election in Orange is non-partisan, but I believe all of the candidates are Democrats. I don’t think any of the candidates, whether they are council or mayoral candidates, are Republican.