Before she decided to throw her hat in the mayoral race, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown was just one of eight children born to modest means in Minden, La.
Her mother was staunchly religious and a cook while her father owned a cotton farm. This modest upbringing fueled her efforts in school as she excelled at every level academically.
At Webster High School, she was an honor student and a girls’ varsity basketball player. At Southern University in Baton Rouge, she graduated Magna cum Laude in 1975. She later received her license as a certified public accountant (CPA). She went on to receive her Master’s in business administration from DePaul in Chicago and a jurist doctorate law degree, with honors, from Chicago-Kent College of Law.
The 53-year-old Brown sat down recently for an interview with Austin Weekly News. With her trademark ankle-length navy blue business suits and pearl necklaces, Brown discussed her motivation for challenging incumbent Mayor Richard Daley, her 30 years of experience and her current conflict with state Sen. the Rev. James Meeks (15th).
Austin Weekly News: You have been clerk of the Circuit Court for almost seven years and have been very successful. Why did you decide that now was time to throw your hat in the mayoral race?
Dorothy Brown: “When I announced my decision to run (on Aug. 31, 2006) it was because I knew I had a vision for Chicago. I want to make Chicago work for all of us, not just some of us. I feel there is a definite imbalance in the quality of education in the schools. The core curriculum sets up our students to fail. We should not have to send our children to a magnet school for them to get a good education. Studies have shown that low-performing teachers generally get sent to work at low-performing schools, and this cycle of academic underachievement just continues. I have a background in dealing with financial matters while working for nine years as General Auditor with CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), where I helped design a system that could monitor fare collections at train stations and prevent the misappropriation of funds. I will ensure that the funding of our schools is fair and equitable for all districts. I have over 30 years experience in law, business and finance. I don’t have to just depend on financial advisers to know about allocating funds for schooling. I will have a huge hand in creating a budget that works for all Chicagoans. I want to ensure that minority contractors are not just handed nine percent of the City’s contracts but that they have access to these contracts fairly and legitimately.”
AWN: State Sen. Meeks has recently spoken about his intention to work with Mayor Daley on a new education initiative, perhaps involving lowering property taxes while raising income and sales taxes. What is your plan?
Brown: “I am very familiar with House Bill 750 and I would be willing to consider that as a viable option. However, the voice of the people and legislators have to be heard. I would like to assemble a task force of parents, teachers and lawmakers to convene with me so we can seriously consider every option.”
During the interview, which took place at her campaign offices last Thursday, Brown stopped to have a pre-scheduled press conference with Chicago media, where she became visibly upset and in near tears when asked about Meeks’ criticism of her campaign (Story above). After the press conference, she continued with the interview.
AWN: Speaking of Rev. Meeks, you gave an emotional speech in regards to comments he made about your chances in this election referring to you when he told a reporter that he couldn’t endorse a candidate that will probably lose. You were very emotional during your speech in response. Why?
Brown: “I saw that statement as a personal put down by Meeks and I was thinking about my parents who literally died to allow me the opportunity to achieve the type of education and have the kind of career I have had. I felt it was a slap in the face.”
AWN: Isn’t it fair to assume that you are the dark horse in this race and that he was only assessing his thoughts on your overall chances? One look at the polls tells the story.
Brown: “When Rev. Meeks was running for mayor last year everyone believed he had no shot. However, did his fellow politicians come out and mock him and call him a “loser”? No. They wished him the best and kept their comments to themselves out of respect. I feel I deserve the same amount of respect.” (Meeks came out publicly this week, saying that he never called Brown a loser.)
AWN: Would you also consider it disrespectful for other respected African-Americans, such as Rep. Bobby Rush, who was recently quoted as saying that Daley has been a “great mayor,” or Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr., to fail to endorse you as well?
Brown: “It strikes me as priggish hypocrisy that [Meeks and
Jackson] thought he should be replaced when they were running. Now they are on the bandwagon. But at the end of the day, the people are going to decide this next election – each has one vote. I have reached out to all elected officials.
AWN: Endorsements are important in every election. Recently, you were quoted as saying that you would give “names of your endorsers at a later date.” Are you now at liberty to give those names?
Brown: “Well, I have been endorsed by Sen. Ricky Hendon, for one, and the response I have received from my public appearances have been highly supportive.”
AWN: You recently accused Mayor Daley for trying to turn Chicago into an “elitist” city. What is the basis for that claim?
Brown: “When close to 140,000 people were removed from the high-rise projects and they were subsequently torn down, there were hardly any provisions in dealing with the displaced individuals, who were relocated out of the city, and these building were replaced by expensive condos. Where are all these people at now? They only built 24,000 new apartments to replace these 140,000 people. Where were all the people supposed to go if there wasn’t enough apartments to accommodate them? So now, we are moving the poorer people out and moving the richer people in and Dale and his supporters are fine with that. That’s why I called him “Hurricane Daley,” because just like New Orleans when those people were displaced, they were shipped to alternate quarters and the rich bought up the property.”
AWN: Do you feel that now with time being of the essence that you have time to close the significant gap in the polls?
Brown: “Absolutely. I am committed to this run and am anticipating victory.”