County Council At-Large Candidate: Brandy Brooks

Photo of the candidate courtesy Brandy Brooks

Why are you running for County Council?

I’m an organizer, educator and designer living in a multi-racial, multi-generational household in Wheaton. I’m running so that people and families all over Montgomery County have access to affordable housing, good public transit to help us get around the county, good education, and a thriving economy that lets us support ourselves. And I’m running because I believe that we should have the power to shape the policies and systems that affect our lives.

Democracy must include all of us. My campaign is actively combating the idea of “likely voters” as the focus of political outreach. This framework dismisses people of color, immigrants, low-income residents, and young adults, among others. I’m deeply committed to engaging and building power with these community members so that they are part of the decision-making spaces and institutions of our county.

Reclaiming our democracy must be centered around everyday people—workers, families, seniors, youth—who have been pushed to the sidelines by corporate influence and politicians who aren’t accountable to our interests. Even in a seemingly progressive county like ours, we must challenge the status quo that allows wealthy interests to dominate our policies and turns a blind eye to economic and racial inequality in how our communities are represented and served. We must build a Montgomery County for all—where every resident is valued and supported.

What are your qualifications for the position?

I have a background in community design and land use planning as well as nonprofit budget, staff, and program management. I have mentored, taught, and trained for nearly 25 years in higher education, professional development, and organizing, so I’m passionate about investing in the success of our students and educators. I have served as a zoning official and helped developed the comprehensive plan for the city of Somerville, Mass. I am a community organizer who has worked on community food systems, community engagement, and environmental, social, and economic justice. I work every day to build the power of the people by training and supporting community members across the state of Maryland to engage in issue advocacy and electoral work.

I’m also a woman of color who has faced sexism and racism in the workplace. I and my family have dealt with housing insecurity, joblessness, and struggling through the financial burden of health crises. I’m a daughter of a single parent and I had to work as a teenager to help support my family. I’ve been a waitress, a secretary, and an IT help desk assistant as well as a nonprofit senior manager and executive director. And I’ve been an active public transit user who didn’t own a car for most of my adult life.

You might not think those last things are qualifications for office, but if our elected officials don’t understand the lived realities of people and workers and families who struggle, they won’t represent our needs and interests in making public policy. If we want representatives who will prioritize affordable housing and renter protections, we need people who understand just how much renters, young families, and seniors worry about whether they’ll have an affordable place to live.

If we want representatives who will prioritize a just economy—where workers are truly valued—then we need people who’ve had to support themselves or their family with a low-wage job that doesn’t provide health care or paid leave. And if we want good public transit for the entire county, then we need people who’ve had to figure out how to get from Silver Spring to Germantown via train and bus.

I’ll fight for workers and families and people of color and immigrants and those who face gender discrimination—because when I do that, I’m fighting for myself and the people I love. I know how much these issues matter in our daily lives.

Are you using public financing, yes or no? If yes, have you qualified for matching funds?

I am using public financing and have qualified for matching funds. We had the lowest qualifying average of any candidate—$61 per donor—because we intentionally reached out to residents of all income levels in building our grassroots movement.

What specific policies and/or programs would you propose to expand the county’s tax base?

We expand our tax base by making sure that our businesses and our workers are doing well enough to contribute to our tax base. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, most of our economic development efforts in the county don’t focus on either supporting economic stability for workers or on making sure that small businesses have what they need to thrive. Instead of giveaways to wealthy corporations, our economic development policy needs to prioritize living wages, access to capital and affordable space for small businesses, and supporting innovative entrepreneurship like microenterprises and cooperatives.

I want to develop a public bank that does low-interest, patient lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs so they have the capital to start and grow their business. I want to enable community-based investment tools that let residents invest their money in the local businesses they love. I want to work with mission-oriented developers who are interested in building affordable storefronts and offices, as well as incubator spaces for general use and for specific industries.

I want to provide more training and resources—in multiple languages—for people who want to start small businesses, including specialized training on how worker-owned cooperatives can be used to pool resources and build wealth equitably. And I want to make permitting and regulatory processes for business easy and supportive of business owners.

Montgomery County can and should continue to be home to larger corporate entities as well as small businesses. But when we do offer incentives to larger corporations, I want to make sure we make good deals for our county; if we are investing in them, then they need to invest in us and our people. That means a commitment to providing living wages, supporting collective bargaining efforts among their workers, and investing in public infrastructure like transit and education. I welcome businesses of any size that are willing to build community wealth with us – not make profit at our expense.

I’m an average voter, interested in doing my civic duty but not an avid follower of county politics. Convince me that I should vote for you over all the other candidates.

I’m not running to govern for you—I’m running to govern with you. I know what it’s like to be part of a community where you have real opportunities to shape public policy to meet the needs and interests of all members. It was the experience of being part of that kind of process that got me excited about and engaged in local politics, and I want to bring that kind of process here to Montgomery County. Because I don’t believe that people are disengaged because they don’t care about what happens in their communities—they’re disengaged because they don’t see enough evidence that their involvement is respected, supported and taken seriously by public officials.

There are a lot of qualified candidates with good policy ideas; our resumes and policy positions are important. But as voters, we need to ask some additional questions. Who’s going to work to build our power in your government? Who has a demonstrated history of fighting to make sure that the voices of all people are present in our politics and our economy? Who understands the dreams and the challenges of families in this county, and who is committed to challenging the status quo and fighting for justice for every county resident?

The hundreds of people who’ve supported my campaign believe that I’m that candidate. So do unions like MCEA (our local teachers), UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO (representing thousands of county workers), 32BJ SEIU (representing thousands of grocery workers in our county), and National Nurses United (representing nurses in Montgomery County and across the country). They’re joined by progressive organizations including CASA in Action, Progressive Maryland, the Democratic Socialists of America, Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund, Montgomery County NOW, and the American Women’s Party. We’re building a tremendous coalition for a #Montgomery4All. I invite you to be part of our people-powered movement by voting for me on June 26!

Brandy H. M. Brooks is an organizer, educator, and designer who has spent nearly 15 years working on social, environmental and economic justice. Her areas of focus include community organizing and empowerment; community-based design and land use planning; and food justice and food sovereignty. She was the founding executive director of the Community Design Resource Center of Boston and has worked in senior management roles with the Rudy Bruner Foundation, The Food Project, the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, and Dreaming Out Loud. Throughout Brooks’ career, she has been an advocate for equitable representation, meaningful participation, and community-led decision-making on projects and policies that affect community members’ lives. She currently works as the Leadership Development Organizer for Progressive Maryland.

Brooks has served on multiple nonprofit boards and planning committees locally and nationally. She served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Zoning Advisory Committee, and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee for the city of Somerville, Mass. and as a board member for the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, Groundwork Somerville, the Association for Community Design, and the American Institute of Architects Center for Communities by Design.

Brooks has been an instructor or guest lecturer at the Boston Architectural College, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, MIT, Suffolk University, and Tufts University. She continues to speak at local and national events on community design, community-based food systems, and cooperative development.

Brooks’ civic and professional leadership have been recognized through numerous awards and fellowships. She is an Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow (Chesapeake Regional Network 2015), a 2016 New Economy Maryland Fellow, and a 2009 Next American Vanguard alumna. In 2010, she received a Summer Public Policy Fellowship with the Rappaport Institute of Greater Boston to work with the City of Cambridge Community Development Department. In 2011, she received a Moakley Public Policy and Public Management Fellowship with the Center for Public Management at Suffolk University to work on Capitol Hill with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). She holds a master in public administration degree with a concentration in non-profit management from Suffolk University, and a bachelor of design studies degree with a concentration in design computing from the Boston Architectural College. She is also an alumna of Harvard College.