For state N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, Tuesday’s snow featured the warmth of government collaboration — with himself.
While others were huddled by the fireplace at home, Jackson found himself the lone legislator at the General Assembly. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Jackson unanimously resolved issues like Medicaid, puppy mills and university funding — documenting his progress on his Facebook page using the hashtag #JustOneLegislator.
Staff writer Corey Risinger spoke with Jackson about his snow day of legislative accomplishments.
THE DAILY TAR HEEL: Have you ever had a better use of a snow day?
JEFF JACKSON: As a kid growing up in North Carolina, my friends and I all knew that snow days were special. They were these rare gems; you usually only got one a year, so you had to try to make the absolute most out of each one. That’s what I tried to do.
DTH: What led to your decision to document your day through social media?
JJ: Well, I showed up at 8 in the morning; no one was here. Security told me they hadn’t seen another legislator, and I figured I had the rare opportunity to reshape the political landscape of the state. So I went with it.
DTH: How did you end up at the legislature?
JJ: I had scheduled a meeting last week for 8 a.m., and I decided to keep it even knowing that the other person probably wouldn’t show. And sure enough, they didn’t. So I kind of found myself here.
DTH: What do you think was the most important change you could have made?
JJ: The most important change that we can make is to increase support for early childhood education. That will have the most dramatic long-term impact on the state’s economy and social well-being.
DTH: What do you want the takeaway to be?
JJ: I think humor is a form of advocacy. Ideas travel farther when they’re tempered with a little levity. We get bogged down in these political debates, and they can get a little bitter. So every once in a while, you have to lighten the mood. But this was a humorous way to talk about some very serious issues.
DTH: Aside from early childhood education, do you have any other priorities for this session?
JJ: Yes, independent redistricting — which I mentioned a little yesterday — is a major priority. We have to stop letting politicians draw their own political districts.
DTH: What was your reaction to your story ending up on BuzzFeed?
JJ: Very unusual being on BuzzFeed. (MSNBC anchor) Rachel Maddow did a segment last night. This is what the internet is good at: finding little sources of entertainment and giving them a life of their own. And being along for the ride on something like that was truly unique.
DTH: Do you have a personal favorite of the posts that you made yesterday?
JJ: I do actually. It didn’t get a lot of play, but the one that I chuckle at when I read it is that, “This is going to be like ‘Night at the Museum,’ except at the end we’ll have a stronger middle class.” Even just thinking about it makes me laugh because it was a funny movie, but it’d be a lot cooler if at the end of the movie we’d have a stronger middle class.
DTH: When did you realize that #JustOneLegislator was going to go viral online?
JJ: I had no idea. You know because when you’re on Twitter as an elected official, you use hashtags, you kind of throw them out there, and they never stick. To have one actually stick and work like it’s supposed to was amazing. Who knew?