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Desley Brooks has represented City Council District 6 in East Oakland for 16 years, but faces a tough battle with four challengers in the Nov. 6 election.

Brooks has been sued for her behavior at least twice in recent years and two of her opponents allege that her combative style of governing has made it hard for her to accomplish positive things for the district, which includes the Eastmont, Havenscourt, Maxwell Park and Millsmont neighborhoods.

Natasha Middleton, a management analyst with the Alameda County Probation Department, said, “A lot of things are not getting done because of distractions and disruptions” involving Brooks.

“We can’t have someone unethical in office and we need to work together to solve our problems,” Middleton said.

Marlo Rodriguez, who’s worked as a registered nurse for 25 years, said, people who live in the district “don’t like talking to her (Brooks) because she has a very big chip on her shoulder.”

Rodriguez said she thinks Brooks believes the district “is her fiefdom,” and alleged that Brooks is “disrespectful and divisive and very intimidating.”

An Alameda County Superior Court jury recently awarded former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown $3.75 million in compensatory damages and $550,000 in punitive damages for injuries she suffered when Brooks attacked her at the Everett & Jones BBQ restaurant near Jack London Square on Oct. 30, 2015, when the two women got into an argument about a public housing project in West Oakland.

The judge in the case later reduced Brown’s award to $1.2 million and $75,000 in punitive damages.

Brooks’ former aide, Sidney Wilson, filed a wrongful termination suit against her last week alleging that she’s an abusive boss and ordered him to collect money from farmers market vendors directly to her with no proper accounting.

In response, Brooks issued a statement alleging that the suit is a political attack driven by her political opponents.

Referring to negative articles that have been written about her by several news organizations, Brooks said, “The stories promoted by the mayor (Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf) and her donors are designed to grow their power, influence, and agenda of gentrification and displacement to take out Desley by poisoning the water in the District 6 race.”

Brooks didn’t respond to a request for an interview about the campaign.

In her ballot statement, she says, “For 16 years I’ve been an effective council member with one clear goal — improve the lives of District 6 residents with policies, programs and investments that deliver equity and opportunity to guarantee Oaklanders remain in Oakland.”

Brooks hasn’t attended recent City Council meetings and candidate forums, but said in an email message that the reason is “a family member became ill, had major surgery and I have been taking care of them.”

Schaaf is endorsing Loren Taylor, an entrepreneur and management consultant, who describes himself as “a third generation Oaklander who learned early on the importance of giving back.”

Taylor, who wasn’t available for an interview, says in his ballot statement, “I’ll push for job training and neighborhood revitalization, ending the pushing and pricing out of Oaklanders by building and preserving affordable housing and aggressively fight to end homelessness.”

Another candidate is Mya Whitaker, a counselor for foster youth in Alameda County and the program director for the Bay Area Urban Debate League.

Whitaker says she is “deeply committed to building an East Oakland that is safe, healthy and vibrant for all residents.”

Middleton said in an interview that she’s running because she wants to solve problems such as homelessness and affordable housing and wants to improve public safety in the district, which has a high crime rate.

She said she has plans for removing abandoned vehicles, fighting illegal dumping, addressing blight and cracking down on human trafficking on International Boulevard.

Rodriguez said she’s running because “people are getting depressed about the state of their neighborhood,” citing illegal dumping, a lack of grocery stores and a feeling that “the city doesn’t seem to care about us.”

Rodriguez said, “People don’t feel safe out here” because police officers don’t always respond in a timely manner and sometimes don’t respond at all.

Rodriguez said the district is plagued by empty storefronts and she wants to encourage economic development and “build more affordable housing throughout the city in an affordable way.”

Middleton acknowledge that Brooks could be hard to beat, but said she thinks with Oakland’s ranked-choice voting system, she and the other challengers have a chance of defeating her.

Middleton said she, Whitaker and Rodriguez are asking voters to list them as their three choices for the District 6 seat.

Middleton said, “I’ve joined with the other female candidates (challenging Brooks) and we’ve endorsed each other because we’re united for change.”

Story originally published by Bay City News.