BROOKLYN (Workers World Today) — Robert Jackson, 67, is running for the state senate…again. He is the popular, former Manhattan (7th District) City Council Member (2002 to 2013).
New York born and raised, state senate candidate Jackson’s key platform issues include: the Campaign for Fiscal Equity for adequately funded public schools, universal health care, and protection of women’s reproductive rights.
“My family life, the challenges we faced and obstacles I needed to overcome made me the fighter I am today,” Jackson told Workers World Today. “I know what it is like to be poor in New York…to not have heat…and to struggle. I saw many friends and even family members – many who had great talent and potential – who became trapped in poverty and crime.”
From working for the Public Employees Federation labor union, to working as the elected president of Community School Board 6, Jackson was to become a champion fighting for better funding for New York City public schools. He even sued the state with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, charging that the severe lack of funding actually violated the state’s constitution, and the federal Civil Rights Act.
Even though ultimately victorious when in 2003, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in for the plaintiffs, and their 2005 panel proposed that New York City schools should be an additional $5.6 billion dollars per year – this is still yet to happen. Jackson with his protests and rallies and pressers has demanded that Albany and NYC honor the ruling, and the 1.1 million students in the five boroughs.
“Education was my salvation. Education can change everything,” said an earnest Jackson. “Education is the key to opportunity – it can open any door… and we must place it in the hands of every child. If not for my track coach at Benjamin Franklin High School Irwin Goldberg, who took an interest in him, pointed him in the right direction and made sure I went to college, I probably wouldn’t be here as the Democratic candidate for State Senate.”
The family man told Workers World Today, “I’m proud of my three daughters, and they already work serving the public – one as an emergency room physician, another as a teacher and the youngest is a dancer and works with a dance company.”
His personal anecdote noted, the activist politico added, “I’ve fought hard not only for my daughters to get a good education, but for every child to get the same opportunity to succeed that I had.”
It is why as President of the School Board in Washington Heights, Jackson said joined with teachers and parents and, “We sued the State to fix a broken school funding formula that cheated our children… we walked 150 miles to Albany to build support for the cause and we won a court judgment that brought home $16 billion for the 1.1 million NYC public school children – money to build new schools and fix others, money for teachers and to provide students with the opportunity for an excellent education.”
Speaking to this reporter on her Back to Basics radio show on DiasporaRadio.com, Jackson said, “My involvement in education advocacy goes back a long long time, decades, and I’ve said that the 1.1 million children in the NYC school system, they’re my children…so I’m fighting for all of them. And, as you know, there is currently a second lawsuit that was filed by our attorney, Michael Rebell, where the state owes NYS children 4.3 billion dollars that is owed to them by the formula that was set. And how much is for NYC, it’s about 1.9 billion dollars, and so each school is missing money. And then the 31st senatorial district [Washington Heights to Chelsea], is missing 52 million dollars every single year. So kids are missing out in a good, good quality education as a result of that. And quite frankly, we blame the governor, the elite, and the republicans in the NYS senate, because the assembly said we will phase in that money, the 4.3 billion dollars over a 2 year period of time.”
Jackson is also focused on inner city violence. “We must get guns off our streets. I lost a brother to drug violence, and know the devastation this does to families,” said the mild-mannered Jackson. “ We must reduce gun violence and I’ve worked to make our neighborhoods safer by getting guns off the street. The fact that people are able to obtain such offensive weapons of war legally in our country like is the case in Florida and Las Vegas is an indictment of the highest order. I have been a longstanding supporter of legislation related to gun safety.”
A supporter of agricultural workers too, Jackson said, “We must finally pass The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act to provide farmworkers dignity and equal protection. It’s shameful that more than 60 years ago after Cesar Chavez rallied California grape pickers declaring ‘si se puede’, New York farmworkers still work under Jim Crow-era policies that deny them basic rights to a day of rest, overtime pay and to form a union.”
Always an energetic and engaging campaigner from 2001-2013, Democrat Jackson was elected to the New York City Council’s 7th district representing neighborhoods including Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood.
In that tenure he served as Education Committee Chair and Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. In 2013 he ran for Manhattan Borough President, and in 2014 and 2016 for the New York State Senate campaign. Jackson ran for New York State Senate in the 31st State Senate district first against the incumbent, Adriano Espaillat, and then District Leader Marisol Alcantara.
Now in his 2018 New York State Senate campaign Jackson has unseated Alcantara in the primary, but she suffered the fate of 5 other Democrats who ran as a Democrat, who caucused with the now defeated Independent Democratic Conference.
About the six of the eight IDC members who lost their seats in the primaries, Jackson said their affiliation allowed “the Republicans to be in leadership control of the NY state senate.”
Speaking to this reporter on her Back to Basics radio show on DiasporaRadio.com, he stated, “You’re talking about the rent laws that impact over a million people, which are being held up by the Republicans. You talk about the DREAM Act where children came there when they were young, and they want to go to college and they can’t take out loans because they’re not citizens. And the Republicans are holding up the legislation. You talk about the Liberty Act which basically would make New York state a sanctuary state, in order so that officiants of the NY state government would not work with ICE in order to try to deport people that are struggling here, working, trying to take care of themselves and their families. You talk about reproductive health rights…election reform, and many other things [like] universal healthcare for all, all of these things have been basically voted on by the New York state assembly, but have been denied a vote by the New York state senate. The IDC, the 8 individuals have helped to ‘prop up’ the Republican leadership so those things will not get done. And so that’s why we are about a fundamental change, and that’s why 6 of the 8 IDC members, including the head of it, Jeff Klein from the Bronx, were defeated, overwhelmingly, in the democratic primary September 13th.”
Sitting on his laurels he is not.
“Yes we won, but the general election is Nov. 6th, and we have to flip several more seats so that the Democrats will have a clear majority in the NYS senate.”
“Jessica Ramos, Alessandra Biaggi, Zellnor Myrie, and myself…ran against IDC candidates, and at the end of it, the Governor [Andrew Cuomo]…had a press conference [and] was saying that the only people that were elected was the same democrats and it’s the changing of the deck chairs on the Titanic. And I say, no that’s not what happened. The people that were elected are fighters, they’re young, they’re progressive, and if anyone does not believe that a fundamental change, as who’s been elected, then they have their heads in the sand. Including our governor.”
Going up the Governor would not be an issue he proclaimed.
“I will stand up to the governor and anyone else that’s denying our children the right for the education under the law, NYS law; [and] anyone that’s going to try to hold back the moving of the rent laws that impact over a million people. I will stand up for, fighting to make sure that everyone is entitled to universal healthcare.”
Quoting the election upsets of Democrats Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez over 20 year veteran Congress Member Joe Crowley, and Julia Salazar winning against 20 year State Senator Martin Dilan, Jackson declared, “There’s a fundamental change.”
He concluded, “Everyone who is a citizen has a right to vote and I encourage you to get out and vote Nov.6th, and get involved in order to make the changes that you see, that you want for yourself, your family, and your community.”
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News editor. International print and radio journalist. Activist. Breast cancer survivor and founder of Square Circles and Survivor Nation, a nonprofit focused on empowering women. Truth to power.