Category: Community Events

On Establish Special Zoning for an Amazon Headquarters

On Establish Special Zoning for an Amazon Headquarters

Brandy Brooks’ Statement on ZTA 18-05 to Establish Special Zoning for an Amazon Headquarters

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

To the members of the Montgomery County Council:

My name is Brandy Brooks. I am a resident of Wheaton, an organizer with Progressive Maryland, and a candidate for County Council At-Large. As I’ve spoken with residents across the county during the past year of campaigning, one of the most common concerns raised in these conversations is the belief that our County government prioritizes the interests and profit of developers over any concern that residents have about their quality of life and the quality of our public services. By putting forth this zoning text amendment to meet the demands of one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, the County Council is demonstrating exactly why so many County residents believe that their government no longer represents them.

There are numerous studies and live examples from our region and our own county that make it clear that the public does not receive the promised financial returns from corporate and development tax incentives – and in fact, that local governments end up shouldering additional burdens in costs for infrastructure and public services that are generated by these projects. We see this already in the way that developments approved by the County Council have created unsustainable and unmanageable impacts on our roadways and public schools. But even if one were to believe the rosy financial forecasts from Amazon boosters, there is no doubt that the impacts of this development will be far beyond any previously approved single development project – which makes it completely ridiculous that the County Executive, the Planning Board, and the County Council would seek to shorten the review timeframe and eliminate steps in the review process that help both County officials and residents to assess and respond to an Amazon headquarters proposal.

As a resident of this county, I expect my public officials to put the public interest before the private interests of one wealthy resident and the company he owns. I see that my elected officials are very willing to make concrete promises to Amazon about the financial incentives they will receive and the special processes that will be created for them. Here’s what I don’t see: I don’t see my County Council, County Executive, state legislators or governor being concrete about the benefits that will come to the community and county I live in. I don’t see concrete promises about local hiring, or ensuring that all jobs at an Amazon HQ will pay living wages – including the security, clerical, maintenance and service staff required to support such an operation. I don’t see any concrete plan for dealing with the added pressures on affordable housing and school capacity that will come with an Amazon HQ – pressures on systems that are already at a crisis point. I do see a final willingness to make significant financial investments in public transit for our region – but I also wonder why Amazon was worth such a commitment, but those of us who already live and work in the county didn’t merit the same kind of investment.

It is time for our public officials to start putting the public first. I urge you to reject the proposed zoning text amendment, and go back to the drawing board to develop a process that respects the interests of residents at least as much as wealthy corporations.

Sincerely,

Brandy H. M. Brooks
1604 Constance Street
Silver Spring, MD 20902

Brandy Brooks Launches #TeamProgressive with Chris Wilhelm

Brandy Brooks Launches #TeamProgressive with Chris Wilhelm

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (May 11, 2018) —  County Council At-Large candidates Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm will launch #TeamProgressive this Saturday, May 12 at the Takoma Park VFW Post 350. The day of action will include volunteer training and a rally, followed by area canvassing by each campaign.

#TeamProgressive will hold a series of Backyard Rallies – joint house parties and events throughout Montgomery County – to engage county residents in advance of the early voting period that starts June 14.

“We believe in a Montgomery for All,” said Brandy Brooks. “And that starts with making sure all residents have a voice in the policies that shape their lives. We have the opportunity to elect a Council that reflects our communities.”

“#TeamProgressive is more than just Brandy and myself,” said Chris Wilhelm. “It’s a vision for the county that is inclusive and stands up to corporate interests in our politics. We believe that every resident should have a strong team of elected officials working for them.”

Brooks, a community organizer with Progressive Maryland, and Wilhelm, an ESOL teacher at Northwood High School, are both candidates using the Public Election Fund program available to Montgomery County candidates. They share a vision for Montgomery County that includes addressing economic inequality, reinvigorating our democracy, fighting structural racism, and reversing environmental degradation.

In this unprecedented local election with 33 democrats vying for 4 seats, Brandy Brooks has garnered the support of a diverse coalition of organizations at the local, state and national level – the most organizational endorsements of any female candidate in the race. Brooks and Wilhelm also share nine endorsements from progressive organizations, including MCEA, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, Progressive Maryland, Metro DC DSA, National DSA, Progressive Neighbors, the National Nurses Organizing Committee, and Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund.

Brandy Brooks’ endorsements include:

  • Montgomery County Education Association

  • UFCW Local 1994 Municipal and County Government Employee Organization (MCGEO)

  • Progressive Maryland

  • Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America

  • 32BJ SEIU

  • Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund

  • Democratic Socialists of America (National)

  • National Nurses Organizing Committee / National Nurses United

  • Progressive Neighbors

  • The American Women’s Party

  • CASA in Action

  • Montgomery County National Organization for Women (NOW) PAC

See endorsement list on Brooks’ website.

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Brandy Brooks is a public election fund candidate for Montgomery County Council At-Large. She is an activist, educator, facilitator, and designer who has spent more than 10 years working on social and environmental justice. Brooks is the Leadership Development Organizer for Progressive Maryland, a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization promoting social, economic, and racial justice.

To learn more about Brandy Brooks, go to www.brandy4montgomery.com.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Zivia Lubetkin

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Zivia Lubetkin

National Library of Israel, Schwadron collection

The following is a reflection by Aliza Wasserman as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series.


Today marks the 75th anniversary on the Jewish (lunar) calendar of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After 2,000 German soldiers re-entered the ghetto in 1943 on the eve of Passover, they were faced by hundreds of Jewish resistors combating them for nearly a month through the final liquidation of the ghetto. The Germans burned down the ghetto, forcing the last of the Jewish fighters to escape through the sewers by gassing their bunkers.

Zivia Lubetkin was the only female leader in the command structure of the uprising, and helped found the anti-Fascist bloc, the first organization in the Warsaw Ghetto to engage in armed combat in fighting for their lives against the Germans. A founder and leader of the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB), which organized the uprising, Lubetkin was previously a leader of Jewish youth movements who smuggled many Jewish teenagers out of Poland, where my ancestors came from just 30 years prior. On May 10, 1943 she went through the sewers with the last of the fighters and became an emissary of the movement and its legacy until her death in 1978.

Zivia was part of a group of mostly female couriers, or Kashariyot, who traveled on illegal missions in and out of ghettos and towns in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia, using false papers to conceal their identities. Sharing news and information across the areas occupied by Germany and smuggling identity cards, newspapers, medical supplies and their fellow Jews. Most of the couriers were female, because the social roles for Jewish women in Poland at the time made women better suited for this role –being out in public during the day was more normative for women, they were less likely to be sent to forced labor camps, and they were more likely to have secular education in Polish schools. Earlier in the German occupation they had organized meetings and educational spaces for young Jews to learn about the history of resistance.  As heroes who risked their lives often anonymously and secretly, “the kashariyot were not conventional fighters: they did not use conventional weapons and they did not fight in conventional battles. Their times called for daring innovations and different modes of fighting the Germans.” The resilience exhibited by these female couriers also played a symbolic role in keeping hope alive, just as hearing about their efforts these days helps to push back against the current acceptance of a default passive bystander status.

Since most of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews—there had once been nearly half a million– had already been killed or sent to death camps or labor camps, Lubetkin and her comrades knew their armed combat wouldn’t be able to stop the Nazi machine. However, she hoped that the fighting spirit would inspire more Jews to fight back and earn more support from the Polish Underground.

In her memoir In the Days of Despair & Destruction, Lubetkin wrote “It would be wrong, painfully wrong, to assume that the resistance displayed by the youth during the stormy days of destruction was the response of a few individuals…Our fate would have been very different had we not been members of the movement…We were able to endure the life in the ghetto because we knew that we were a collective, a movement. Each of us knew that he or she wasn’t alone…the feeling that there was a community people who cared about each other, who shared ideas and values in common, made it possible for each of us to do what he or she did. This was the source of our strength to live. It is the very same source which keeps the survivors alive even today. The Jewish people stood the test.”

Throughout history, unconventional women have fought back against oppression against all odds. These women provide the inspiration for the next generation of women heroes and leaders. Now is our time to fight back against oppression in our communities – from housing discrimination to worker exploitation to violence against people of faith – together, we will rise.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

The following is a reflection by Carol McSween-Brooks as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series. McSween-Brooks is a resident of Wheaton.


Mary McLeod Bethune followed a path of being “unconventional” throughout her life. Did you know Mrs. Bethune:

  • Started a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida.
  • Was president of Bethune-Cookman College (the consolidation of the school for African-American girls and the Cookman school for boys) from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.
  • Instituted standards that led Bethune-Cookman College to become Bethune-Cookman University.
  • Was a national leader in the 1930’s, working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on issues of education and social justice not just for African Americans but for all people.
  • Was National Advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt as part of the Black Cabinet.
  • Has a memorial sculpture in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC.

 

Mrs. Bethune said of the National Council of Negro Women in New York City, which she founded:

Photo by Carl Van Vechten

“It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy.”

Mrs. Bethune is a personal heroine of mine, and I’m excited to share a purely wonderful story of remembrance and discovery.

Mary McLeod Bethune was a living hero for my mother who told me of Mrs. Bethune’s accomplishments in detail from when I was very young. My mother encouraged me to learn and Mrs. Bethune was always at the forefront whenever she told me what I could accomplish. Yet it wasn’t until doing research for this blog series that I discovered the depth of who Mary McLeod Bethune was. Both personally and publicly, I owe a great deal of my strength and determination as a Black woman to the things Mary McLeod Bethune set in motion in education and community.

She challenged conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in education for Black people.

Brandy Brooks challenges conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in community and government. It is this strength in challenging convention to build thriving, powerful, and socially just communities all across Montgomery County that makes a “YES!” vote for Brandy Brooks for County Council At-Large on June 26, 2018 the right thing to do.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Harriet Tubman

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Harriet Tubman

In Preston, MD, there’s a tree that Harriet Tubman and her family passed by on the way to freedom.

The tree stands on one of the many Eastern Shore farms where Tubman and her relatives labored as slaves – not as farmers, but as loggers. While much of the forest shows the signs of having been clear cut more than once, this 200-year-old tree remains standing, a living witness to the courage of Tubman and those who escaped with her on the thirteen trips she made back to Maryland to free family members and friends after she had escaped herself.

Standing in that forest, you get a sense of how terrifying the escape must have been. But you also know that you’re standing in Tubman’s legacy: the farm is now owned by two black women who are partnering with two young black farmers to lead a resurgence of African-American agriculture in Maryland and across the country. Tubman risked doing what no one would have thought possible – and the power of that choice continues to echo through generations.

Tubman rescued “just” 70 people – a number that could easily be dismissed compared to the 4 million people enslaved at that time. Running a grassroots campaign for County Council might seem to be a small thing in the face of global environmental, economic and social challenges. But these seemingly small things have the power to transform our lives, and the lives of those who come after us.

The conventional wisdom about who holds power and makes decisions for our communities is no longer acceptable for our families, our communities, and our children.

When children have to march in the streets to make sure their schools are safe and free from gun violence, it’s time to challenge the status quo and demand effective gun control laws and end the stranglehold of the NRA on our gun policy.

When women are consistently paid less than men in every field, and women are underrepresented in politics at every level, it’s time to make sure we have reforms that create equity in the workplace and in politics.

When hardworking people cannot get affordable housing or ensure that their families are fed, it’s time to move away from a trickle-down housing and economic theory to create policies that benefit the people, not corporate and big money interests.

Unconventional women have won freedom for themselves and their communities. In this final week of March, as we celebrate the leadership of diverse people across our communities will you support Brandy’s campaign to challenge the conventional wisdom about political leadership in Montgomery County?