ITHACA, N.Y. –– Travis Brooks, local youth and community advocate, has announced his candidacy for Tompkins County Legislator in District 1.

“I want to be the voice at the table that represents the entire community because I’ve lived their experiences. Their stories are my stories, my voice is their voice, and their struggle is my reason,” Brooks said.

Brooks’ announcement comes after veteran Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne announced she would not be seeking re-election. Legislator McBean-Clairborne was the first Black woman to represent District 1 and according to Brooks “her impact has been profound.”

I can’t even begin to describe how proud I am of her and her work –– the tenacity and the insight that she’s brought to the legislature for the people in our district. And when she told me that she was going to retire, I felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility to pick up the legacy she’s created and run with it,” Brooks said. “I just hope that I can bring my experiences and my voice, and continue to represent the folks that don’t have a voice, the folks that are often unheard, the folks that have been left out and don’t feel they’ve been part of the process.” 

Brooks has been an Ithacan for 22 years and has been involved in the community for just as long. He currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) where he manages multiple programs focused on education, development and sustainability. Brooks is also the Director of Ithaca’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), a program launched by President Obama designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.

“I have been blessed to have worked with so many families over the last 22 years at GIAC which has greatly influenced my passion for advocacy, creating opportunities, inspiring change and bringing communities together. I am devoted to serving as the voice of our community and am relentless in my devotion to improving the quality of life, especially for the disenfranchised.”

Brooks explained in an interview with the Ithaca Voice that he feels he can bring a unique experience to the legislature. 

“I’ve been through almost everything that constituents in my district and in the county have been through –– I’ve been a single parent, I was adopted, I’ve been a ward of the state, I’ve adopted a child, I’ve raised six kids, I’ve raised thousands of young people in this community, I’ve lived in federal housing and I’m a homeowner downtown so I know what it’s like looking at my taxes with both the city and the county and the school district.”

He continued, “I’ve been somebody who was making very poor choices at one point in time and had to get their life together and I’ve done that successfully. I’ve worked with hundreds of people to help develop the city’s municipal drug policy.”

According to his campaign Brooks’ work as a member of Ithaca’s Municipal Drug Policy Committee, was “instrumental” in bringing a $1M grant to implement a diversion program dedicated to reorienting typical responses to crimes and helping those suffering from addiction, poverty and mental health issues (also known as LEAD.) He hopes to continue to push such initiatives.

“I want to ensure there are alternatives to a system that is designed to limit growth for those who walk along the path I walked,” he said.

Using his experience and input from neighbors Brooks has laid out four tenets of his campaign which go as follows:

  • Affordable housing–gentrification has removed our most vulnerable people from their communities and placed them in the most remote areas which lack the most basic resources

  • Employment opportunities and economic growth–creating jobs that give families stability and upward movement beyond the living wage

  • Improve quality of life for the marginalized West Hill residents

  • Funding for community programs–we must push for programs that provide sustained programming based on the specific needs of the community

Brooks said he is looking forward to connecting with all those in District 1 via “meetups, meaningful discussions, and virtual social events.”

“My campaign will be organized by the people, for the people. This is not about me; this is about an experience for the folks I serve; this is our journey together as a people. I am committed to having my campaign staff reflect the people we serve,” he said.

Brooks’ team will soon begin circulating petitions and is encouraging everyone to search ‘Brooks for Legislature’ on social media platforms.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com