April 13, 2011 12:29:00 PM
Scott Colom - [email protected]
Opinions about Supervisor Leroy Brooks are often variations of two views. Many complain that Supervisor Brooks is a polarizing figure who rallies voters in his district with demagoguery. While others praise Supervisor Brooks as a fighter, willing to stand up to the establishment and the injustices of the status quo. (Interestingly, these views are not exclusive of each other).
After interviewing the two challengers and Supervisor Brooks, it''s clear this election will be a referendum on these views. Brooks, supervisor for close to 28 years, faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Reverend Kenneth McFarland and a possible challenge in the general election from Roger Larsen, the founder and former publisher of "The Packet." Both Larsen and McFarland argue that District 5 needs less divisive leadership.
Larsen claims Supervisor Brooks is a "cynical opportunist," whom plays on racial division and resentment to win campaigns. He predicts Supervisor Brooks will try to "brand McFarland an uncle Tom" and "imply (Larsen is) a Ku Klux Klan member or sympathizer."
Larsen says, as supervisor, he won''t "play people against each other" and that he wants to "take the racial tension out of the district" or at least "stop throwing gasoline on it." Larsen believes Reverend McFarland would also work to improve race relations and said that "McFarland would be a great supervisor."
Similarly, McFarland is running on a platform of "unity" and "vision." He envisions more cooperation between the municipalities and county and more public/private partnerships. He says the current board of supervisors is "estranged" and needs a "new face, and a new approach." McFarland says he has the skills to work with people and that Supervisor Brooks, on the other hand, "does division well" but "unity is a problem [for him]."
Supervisor Brooks sees the election differently, to say the least. He thinks he''s the most qualified supervisor currently on the board or seeking the position. As supervisor, he says he has made "sound budgeting decisions," helped develop "parks and recreations" in the district and supported "programs for the youth and senior citizens." He also says he has been an "advocate for justice and equality for all citizens."
In response to Larsen''s campaign, Supervisor Brooks said "the only thing Roger has done for the community is cause chaos" and "made a lot of money doing it." Supervisor Brooks asserted that he has white and black support in his district, and that he "represents the views of [his] constituents" and "gets the job done," and that his "reelections validate his performance."
When told McFarland was running on a platform of unity and vision, Supervisor Brooks questioned who McFarland was trying to unify and said that McFarland had "compromised" himself because of his support from Board of Supervisor President Harry Sanders and that this means "he won''t be able to represent the people [in his district]." Supervisor Brooks also stated that "McFarland had strayed away from the highest calling as a preacher" and therefore "doesn''t think he''ll be committed to the calling of the people."
In response to these comments, McFarland said "that District 5 continues to lose out on needed support and therefore he would work with the other supervisors to get stuff done." McFarland also said that "Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor and he worked for the betterment of people and he plans to follow in those footsteps."
Both McFarland and Larsen are running campaigns that either implicitly or explicitly attack the ability of Supervisor Brooks to work with the other supervisors; as a result, the outcome of the election will reflect how the voters of District 5 feel about whether Supervisor Brooks is too divisive. If Supervisor Brooks wins, it''s reasonable to conclude that a majority of the voters disagree that Supervisor Brooks is uncooperative, or that it isn''t a big enough concern for them to vote to replace him, or, maybe, they think they need Brooks to fight for them. But, should Supervisor Brooks'' reign end, the view and argument that he is too divisive will have caused his downfall.
Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is [email protected]
Scott Colom is a local attorney.