Press-Republican

August 20, 2013

City councilor to run for re-election after all

By JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Incumbent City Councilor Chris Jackson has decided that he will run for another term in Ward 6 after all.

“With the potential for a completely new Common Council in 2014, I feel my years of experience will benefit the new mayor and new council members,” he said in a statement released Monday.

“There is a steep learning curve for new councilors, and I am confident my experience would assist during this transition, especially during this difficult economic period.”

CONSIDERED COUNTY POST

Jackson was elected to the council as a Democrat in 2007 and re-elected in 2010.

He decided earlier this year that he would not seek another three-year term after considering a run at the Clinton County Legislature Area 10 seat.

Democrats chose Joshua Kretser to be their Ward 6 City Council candidate at their caucus in May. Republicans have selected James Wemette to run.

But Jackson, an accountant at SUNY Plattsburgh, has changed his mind about not seeking re-election.

CREATED OWN LINE

He has formed his own independent group, the Experience Matters Party, to join the race.

“In many discussions with constituents over the years, I have heard a number of differing opinions on how the city should be operating in the future,” Jackson said.

“Some feel we are too fiscally conservative and take too hard a line on union negotiations. Others offer new program ideas and support the settling of union contracts, which would directly affect the taxpayers.

“I fall somewhere in the middle. That is why I chose not to seek the endorsement of any political party and have formed the Experience Matters Party for this year’s ballot. I truly believe a majority of city residents feel as I do — that the answers lie somewhere in the middle.”

CHALLENGES

Jackson said the council has met many challenges in his time in office. Among the difficult obstacles to deal with were the state-forced $4 million closure of the Akey Landfill, federal requirements to build new water-storage tanks for another $4 million, a payment of more than $1 million to the Workers Compensation Trust, increases in the State Retirement Fund of more than $2 million and the loss of $850,000 per year in payments to the city from an agreement with Saranac Powers Partners that concluded.

“All these costs and revenue reductions presented serious challenges; however, we worked together to ensure that the city residents were not overburdened with tremendous tax and utility-rate increases,” Jackson said.

CITY OUTLOOK

There is a possibility that all six council seats will be filled with newcomers in 2014.

Incumbent Timothy Carpenter is running in a Democratic primary on Sept. 10 against Rachelle Armstrong in Ward 1. Armstrong won the party endorsement over Carpenter in a surprise outcome in the May caucus.

Incumbent  Democrat Mark Tiffer of Ward 2 is running for mayor against incumbent Independent James Calnon of Ward 4.

Councilor George Rabideau (R-Ward 3) cannot run again due to term limits, and Chris Case, a Democrat from Ward 5, decided not to run.

Mayor Donald Kasprzak also decided not to seek another term.

NEW DIRECTION

Kretser said he feels confident despite Jackson’s decision to get back in the race.

“The current administration has had to make a lot of difficult decisions, and he (Jackson) has been a valuable contributor to the process, but the underlying tone I’ve heard from voters in the ward is that it is time the city change direction,” Kretser said.

“They want to see a little more vision for the future, and while they are concerned about the bottom line, it has to be done with an eye toward growth and development.”

Kretser owns pod studios, a planning and design firm in the city.

‘LOGICAL APPROACH’

Wemette said he welcomed Jackson into the race but found his decision puzzling.

“I cannot help but wonder what made Mr. Jackson decide to not seek re-election only to re-enter the race several months later,” he said in a statement to the Press-Republican.

“For our city and ward’s sake, I hope it wasn’t a case of political opportunism.”

Wemette, who works for Westelcom, is running on a platform of introducing Lean Six Sigma to city government. That is a method used in private business to reduce costs and improve productivity and the quality of services.

“Regardless of my opponents’ reasons for entering the race, I will continue to campaign on a logical approach to city government,” Wemette said.

“What matters to me are results, not titles, accolades, nor years of experience. My plan to implement Lean Six Sigma will help create a more efficient city government, while improving quality, lowering costs and reducing the tax burden we face today.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com