|Pam Jackson has worked as a professor of mathematics, construction management and concrete construction management at Oakland Community College for nearly 30 years. She is the former owner of Elite Building & Construction Co. Jackson has held leadership and officer positions with the Lakes Area Rotary Club, Democrats of West Oakland County, and the Oakland County Democratic Party.|
Pam Jackson and Regina Strong will face off in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Democratic primary election for the state’s 39th House District seat. The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of a six-candidate Republican primary race in the Nov. 6 general election. State representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid $71,685 annually.
The following are questions we recently posed to Jackson, and her responses to those questions.
BUDGET: After years of 11th-hour approvals of state budgets and criticisms of kicking the can down the road on critical fiscal issues, lawmakers have in two consecutive years passed spending plans that have scaled back state spending through tough cuts in certain areas. If elected to the state House of Representatives, what would be your budgeting priorities and why? Do you believe further cuts are needed, and if so, where? Please state where, if anywhere, investments in key areas are necessary?
JACKSON: Priority No. 1: Invest in our most precious resource: our children’s education from pre-K through college or post-secondary training.
Priority No. 2: Repeal the pension tax so people won’t have to choose beween food and medication.
Priority No. 3: Create jobs by investing in emerging technologies, renewable energies, and create incentives for businesses to call Michigan home and hire Michigan first.
Priority No. 4: Build the bridge with “green” concrete and solar panels embedded in the concrete create a grid. The film industry had many conditions placed on them in order to get their tax incentives. However, the state gave $1.8 billion tax break to big business with no conditions attached. If businesses want to take advantage of this tax break, then they should hire “X percent,” hire someone with a disability, or hire a veteran.
EDUCATION: Officials representing public school districts have decried what they have said amounted to a $470 per-pupil decrease in education funding instituted during the first year of the 96th state legislative session, particularly when districts had already been grappling with serious structural deficits in the years leading up to implementation of the 2011-12 fiscal year budget. Tell us what you believe needs to be done to be sure our schools are funded adequately. Aside from funding issues, what reforms to the state’s educational system are needed to ensure Michigan’s children receive the education they deserve?
JACKSON: Uncapped number of charter and cyber schools will be siphoning more money from public schools that have already seen severe cuts. The number of charter and cyber schools need to be capped. We need to get away from a “one size fits all” curriculum mentality and AMP it up: Actuate Maximum Potential of our students. I taught high school where five levels of math created “Avenues for Success” for ALL students. I do not want to lower the standards, but improve educational options. We cannot forget the arts or our technical centers. Not everyone is college-bound, but we must offer quality post-secondary options for employment opportunities. Reducing recidivism is our prisons would allow more money to be used in our schools. We spend on the average $40,000/prisoner and under $10,000/student.
PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX: A spate of measures to either repeal or phase out the state’s personal property tax (PPT) have received the attention of both chambers of the state Legislature this year, prompting concerns among some about how those dollars would be replaced for local communities reliant on PPT revenues. Do you support a repeal or phase-out of the PPT? Why or why not? If a repeal or phase-out is passed, how, if at all, should the state replace those revenues for local units of government?
JACKSON: Phasing out the personal property tax will be good for businesses, but how do we replace the revenue for the communities? Healthy discussions on options like: raising the gas tax or incorporate a graduate state income tax may help with revenue to municipalities. I’ve seen our local governments make severe cuts to manage with less with consolidation of services and making employees pay 20 percent of their health care costs. With property taxes declining over the years and revenue sharing decreasing, it makes it difficult to balance budgets of the local governments. We should research “best practices” in other states so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Working together, we need to find appropriate solutions to help our municipalities become vibrant with services each community needs.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Four years after the passage of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) following voter approval in the 2008 general election with overwhelming support, local communities are still grappling with its impacts and how to go about addressing its provisions. Explain why you do or don’t believe additional regulations or measures need to be implemented for the MMMA? Do you believe a recent proposal in the state House of Representatives calling for the legalization of so-called “dispensaries” has merit? Why or why not?
JACKSON: Since the majority of the state voted for medical marijuana, I believe each community needs to set its polities as each community is unique in its attitude toward the use of and distribution of medical marijuana. It is good to have a license for the caregivers along with background checks, as well as an identity card for the person receiving the marijuana. However, policies must be written to protect the confidentiality of its participants. Some communities are more open to having dispensaries, some not. Again, the decision to have dispensaries should be left up to each community. Appropriate safety and health codes should apply for dispensaries if they are implemented in the various communities like any other business environment.
ROAD FUNDING FORMULA: The state’s current road funding distribution formula places more emphasis on the miles of roadway in a county than on traffic density, which tends to favor rural, out-state counties. Please explain why you do or don’t believe that scenario is appropriate. What funding distribution formula changes, if any, should be implemented? Explain why you do or don’t support increases in state fuel taxes to close the gap between available funding and infrastructure needs?
JACKSON: Like any formula that was created long ago, it needs to be revisited. The fuel tax has only been increased once since 1984, and I am against increasing the gas tax if we are just going to dump good money into our infrastructure without making any changes on how we construct our roads and bridges. The specifications (how the roads are built) may also need to be revised. With a change of specifications, these roads and bridges can last much longer. As we move toward a regional mass transit system in the future, there will be less gas consumption. We have a “new-age” vehicle hitting the streets and with less gas consumption, leaving the gas tax an archaic method for funding our infrastructure. Looking at traffic density as a model is a start. However, instead of reinventing the wheel, we need to research best practices in other states. People could voice their opinion with a ballot proposal for a countywide millage or work with their township to establish a special assessment district (SAD). These options were brought up as I was going door to door recently.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the district at this time, and how do you propose to address them?
JACKSON: EDUCATION: We need to increase funding for pre-K and K-12 so that all students have access to quality education, and maintain affordable higher education. Class size is imperative for success. I have taught both in suburban and city school districts. More attention and time are needed to stress ideas and concepts. It is difficult when you have 35-45 students who all need extra help.
Public education must be funded from pre-K and K-12 through affordable post-secondary training or college. School funding was changed with Proposal A and it worked for a while. Other alternatives to funding education need to be explored. Along with this, curriculum must be developed to actuate students’ maximum potential whether they are college-bound or want to learn a skill at a training facility to obtain a job. The number of charter schools and cyber schools needs to be capped as it is draining funds from our public schools and sending these much needed dollars to out-of-state for-profit companies. I will work hard at creating or sponsoring bills to fund public education and post-secondary education so that we invest in our most precious resource: our people.
JOBS: There are many ways to create jobs, but there must be policies in place for current small businesses to grow. We need to create incentives and policies for entrepreneurs and other businesses to make Michigan their home to “hire Michigan first.” Most importantly, we must protect our jobs by ensuring that they are not sent out of state. Our state is hurting desperately with many issues, but getting our people back to work is imperative, as it affects the family, local business, and the overall economic future of Michigan.
We must diversify our energy portfolio to create jobs and energy in Michigan, rather than sending our energy dollars out of state. With the number of Michigan’s vacant plants and our proud manufacturing history, we can lead the nation in manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines that can be used across America and across the globe. The transformation of the old Ford Wixom Plant into an energy park/development could be an example of this change.
We could create a viable, effective and efficient regional mass transit authority that would allow our communities more mobility, save money, create jobs, and build prosperity. A mass transit system would attract businesses and industry to the entire region, therefore creating more jobs. I am glad the bridge has not been built, yet. There is a “green” concrete on the market that does not emit carbon dioxide when it cures, but rather, absorbs it. Solar panels can now be embedded in concrete to create a grid. A grid can be created across the bridge connecting Michigan and Canada. These panels can be manufactured in Michigan. This will be the start of the revitalization of Detroit; a revitalization of Michigan. This would not only be a “state of the art” bridge, but a global model of how two countries created jobs, and implemented technology for renewable energies.
COMMUNITIES: The most important factor in each community is its people. As of January, retirees had a tax imposed on their pensions. For some, they are deciding between food and their medication. For others, this means less money going into the economy as they have less money to spend on activities outside the home. As your next state representative, I will fight to repeal this pension tax.
Viable communities are safe places to live and we must ensure they maintain their fire and police departments to keep our communities safe. Our district has wonderful parks. Many areas in Commerce and West Bloomfield townships, Wixom, and the village of Wolverine Lake have been making strides for pathways for safe walking and bike riding. Policies for responsible development for our future are important so that we may continue to enjoy these wonderful communities so that they will be here for generations to come.
The environment plays another important role for our community. We are known for our Great Lakes, wonderful parks, and vacation spots: PURE MICHIGAN. It is imperative that we maintain this for future generations. We have over 150 lakes in Oakland County, not to mention the ponds and rivers that connect these lakes. As your next state representative, protecting the environment is important and we must maintain Michigan’s natural beauty. Policies need to be put in place for responsible development and redevelopment of residential and commercial construction as it affects the ground waters and surrounding environment. “Fracking” or hydraulic fracturing, is taking place in our state and will have a significant impact on our environment and future economy. I will work across the isles with other legislators creating bills/policies to protect our state from this destructive practice of “fracking.”
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
JACKSON: I graduated from Milford High School, and both of my children graduated from the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. I have been active in many volunteer activities in the community and the immediate past president of the Lakes Area Rotary Club. Therefore, as a long-standing member of this community and resident of Commerce Township, I have a vested interest in the quality of life for the people in our district.
As you read the following, you will see that there is a significant difference between me and my opponent. With the complex issues facing our district and our state, you will need someone like me to champion Michigan and our district toward prosperity. I am not a career politician, but an educator for over 35 years as a professor at Oakland Community College teaching mathematics, construction and concrete construction management. I have taught math in the West Bloomfield, Huron Valley, and Pontiac Schools. I know what is needed in the classroom and curriculum for our student’s success for their future and am looking forward to working with a team of people to make our public school system even stronger. My educational background is diverse with a bachelor’s of arts degree in mathematics, a master’s of arts degree in mathematics, master’s of science degree in industrial technology/construction management, and am a PhD candidate at Wayne State University finishing my dissertation and working in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Corrections on prison education to obtain my PhD in educational policy studies.
Having owned a construction company I understand what it takes to start up a business. Knowing that the construction industry was more than just a hammer and nails, I created the construction and concrete construction management programs at Oakland Community College. Creating technology classrooms, a Russian Language program, and online coursework in mathematics and concrete construction has expanded educational opportunities for others.
I am ready to go to Lansing and work with fellow hard-working public servants of the state Senate to create policies that empowers and fosters entrepreneurship and small business, protects the elderly, educates our youth, retains the rich human capital our great state produces, and ensures the state of Michigan will always remain and continue to remain a desired place of business for corporations to call home. With my ability to be innovative and creative along with my diverse educational and small business background, I will hit the pavement running in January. I would be honored to be your next state Representative.