Brooks seeks to unite community by staying connected to residents
Editor’s Note: Allen Brooks is running for the District 3 seat on the Merced City Council in the Nov. 3 election. He is facing candidate Bertha Perez. District 3 encompasses central Merced, bordered in the north by the Santa Fe railroad tracks, Kelly Avenue to the east, down south to Highway 99 and west to Cooper Avenue with a small pocket extending out to encompass the neighborhoods branching off of McSwain road.
Allen Brooks is a local real estate agent and president of the Merced County NAACP Branch 1047 who wants to help lead a growing Merced in a dynamic new direction.
The 42-year-old resident decided to enter the race for the District 3 seat on the Merced City Council to motivate fellow citizens, spread community awareness about decisions made at City Hall, promote economic development, and in turn, create new funding for youth activities.
“I want to be a liaison for the people of this city so they understand exactly what’s going on in city government,” Brooks says. “That’s one of the main reasons I want to be on the City Council. A lot of things go over people’s heads.”
The first-time candidate says he plans on using his website — AllenBrooks.org — to keep constituents updated on council happenings. He promises to provide summaries of important council actions before and after they take place. He says he will explain things as clearly as possible without the use of confusing government jargon.
As president of the local NAACP chapter, Brooks says he has attended many recent protests and demonstrations in the name of Black Lives Matter, and to call for social justice and an end to systematic racism across America.
“I started asking people, ‘OK, we are protesting right now, but what’s next? What are the next steps?’ I had to ask myself the same thing. … The next steps are changes to policies and procedures, or putting policies and procedures in a position to create changes. And the way you do that is through the City Council.”
Brooks says he wants to keep the focus on downtown improvements in order to create overall economic development in District 3 as a way to bring in much-needed new revenue streams for the city. And in doing this, he is considering all of the downtown district, not just the Main Street core located in and around Bob Hart Square. The candidate would like to see a walkable downtown filled with small businesses — from restaurants to specialty shops. Ideally, more people would have the opportunity to live and work in the district.
He also wants to clean up the district, especially around the Highway 99 off-ramps that serve as multiple gateways to District 3
“I explain things like I do in real estate,” Brooks says. “Are you going to be excited about your friends coming over to see your new home. You have to think about the routes your friends are going to take to get to your house. What do you think your friends are going to say about the neighborhood? … Visitors start to have an opinion about Merced from driving through the off-ramps. First impressions are everything, and the impressions from our highway off-ramps can be horrible. That’s the entrance to downtown. If we don’t fix that, if we don’t clean things up, we will no longer have a viable downtown. …
“Downtown should be 100 percent occupied. It’s very important for the atmosphere of Merced. We are a college town, but we need more things for people to enjoy and do, and stay active.”
The candidate envisions more visitors and more excitement coming to downtown Merced, and in turn, more investments, sales tax dollars and transient occupancy tax money. He says a viable downtown, along with local business support, will help create a revenue stream for much needed funding to provide more opportunities and activities for Merced’s youngest residents.
Brooks says “defunding police” is not the answer to fund other community priorities.
“Police need training,” he says. “Let’s not take their budget away. I understand there is a disconnect between the police and the community, and we definitely need to work on that. But we have a great police chief who is willing to work on it.”
Brooks supports “Black Lives Matter” as it came to the fore in town, but he admits local groups have to do a better job explaining what the “movement” is all about. He says it should not be confused with the BLM organization, and he points out there has never been a chapter of that group established in Merced.
His advice to residents who want a better understanding of their local police department is to join the department’s Citizen’s Academy.
“I did, and it was one of the most educational things I have been through,” he says. “I can’t walk the walk, and say I’m trying implement change, and I’m trying to be a beacon of hope for everyone to come together, if I haven’t taken this class which teaches you a tremendous amount of information and empirical data on the ins and outs of policing and how officers feel in various situations.”
The Move West
Brooks grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He excelled in football as a linebacker and eventually earned scholarships and openings to multiple universities, but he ultimately decided to attend Grambling State University in Louisiana. His football days were short-lived; however, he continued his higher education achieving a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Communications with a background in Public Administration.
During this time, in 2004, Brooks married his college sweetheart, Sheilah, and they started a family soon after graduation. Sheilah just happened to have grown up in Merced. She is the daughter of the late Faye Merritt-Williams, an English teacher for 30 years at Merced High School and Golden Valley High School.
Brooks says he fell in love with Merced during a family visit one year for Thanksgiving. By Christmas, the couple was moving to town to start a new life here. Brooks found work and financial success at the Merced Sun-Star, working in its advertising department. But then came the economic downturn of the 2008, and the newspaper was severely impacted.
He then spent some time and investment as a local business owner and insurance broker for Farmers Insurance. When that didn’t work out, he pursued self-employment opportunities until he finally decided to sell homes as a real estate agent. He started out with PMZ in Turlock, and eventually ended up with Realty Executives in Merced.
“The Merced market is so hot, people don’t realize it,” Brooks says. “We’re No. 1 in all of California. You can’t buy into any other city with a University of California campus for less than half a million dollars. We have brand new homes where you can throw a rock and hit the UC, and they go for $280,000 – $300,000.”
Despite his lucrative new career, Brooks the candidate says he is advocating for more quality jobs and careers for Merced residents so they can continue to pursue the American dream and not be pushed out of the market.
Brooks became a member of the NAACP under the leadership of Darryl Davis, and was elected president of the chapter three years ago.
He and his wife, Sheilah, have three children: Trinity, 16; Allen Jr., 15; and Lailah, 9.