High-profile members of the Passaic County Democratic Party condemned councilman Michael Jackson on Thursday afternoon for using the phrase “Jew us down” when referring to developers who attempt to purchase cheap land or extract concessions from the municipal government.
“I am proud of New Jersey’s, and my home county of Passaic’s, record on inclusion and diversity. Divisive language like this pushes us back in time and tears back the progress we have made to build a state and nation that embraces the principles of equality and justice,” said John Currie, chairman of both the Passaic County and New Jersey Democratic Party. “Councilman Jackson’s comments are inexcusable; members of Paterson’s City Council should stand together and censure him immediately.”
Several members of the City Council quickly condemned Jackson (pictured) after his remark on Tuesday night.
“Councilman Jackson’s remarks were unacceptable by any standard. I condemn his hate speech wholeheartedly, especially coming from an elected official representing one of the most diverse cities in New Jersey,” said assemblyman Gary Schaer of Passaic City. “We should all stand together as one community against targeted and hateful speech. Words have consequences, and those who hold elected office must be held to a higher standard.”
Schaer is one of the most prominent Jewish leaders in New Jersey. He applauded councilman Al Abdelaziz and mayor Andre Sayegh for denouncing Jackson’s comment at the meeting.
Members of the city’s state legislative delegation also condemned Jackson.
“As elected officials, we are held to a higher standard. There is no place for divisive or bias rhetoric at any level of government. councilman Jackson’s comments were inappropriate, reprehensible and entirely unacceptable,” said state senator Nellie Pou.
“Councilman Jackson’s comments send the wrong message to our entire community, especially our children and young adults,” said assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. “Any hate speech directed towards any segment of our community is an attack on us all.”
“I am thankful that members of our city council and city officials who immediately condemned Councilman Jackson’s poor selection of words. We need to show genuine respect for each other at all times and put hateful and divisive rhetoric to the side so that we can all work together,” added assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter.
Jackson made the comment while a heated debate ensued over the restoration of the historic Hinchliffe Stadium. He felt the developers, who will get $76 million in public money to restore the stadium, are taking advantage of the city. He noted not all developers nickel-and-dime the city.
He argued economic development director Michael Powell was selling the city short. As he made his argument, Jackson argued Powell wanted to sell the Paterson Armory for $1.5 million, half the true value of the site. He then said the developer, who ultimately purchased the site for $3 million, properly valued the city, suggesting the developers for Hinchliffe Stadium were not correctly “valuing our city.”
Jackson conjured up a conversation between himself and the developer willing to correctly value the city.
“I said, ‘Mr. Developer, I respect you, I appreciate you for valuing our city, for offering the best price possible and not trying to go backwards to Jew us down,’” said Jackson.
Jackson declined to comment on the news of Passaic County Democrats’ condemnation of him on Thursday.
Jackson, who has served on the City Council since 2015, is a registered Democrat.
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This report was updated at 8:30 with comments from senator Nellie Pou.