That's The Brakes
By Jon A. Brake
What has been going on in Florida has been fun. Iíve been watching all
of the news channels; they have news on twenty-four hours
a day. It is the same old news just read by a different person each hour.
I like it when people start talking about how this is being decided
by politicians, or "she is a political hack." Itís an election;
everything is being processed by political groups.
Political Parties are like football teams, if you have a favorite, it
does not matter who the other team has for a quarterback, you
donít like them.
I have worked for thirty years in newspapers. It has been my job to
work with City and County governments. You will not find
stronger political feeling than in city hall or the courthouse. The county court house has always been the stronghold of political
When you hear that a county election official said this or that, it
is usually a county commissioner or a county clerk. Most
elections are ran by the county clerk and the county commissioners will act as the election "judge."
Most of my election stories have been gleaned from fellow newspaper
employees. Some I have see for myself or participated in. I
tell people that Kansas has the best-elected officials. I have been known to get mad at some but for the most part they are honest
people. Then we have Arkansas and Texas. I have seen both at work.
Take Arkansas: I was the managing editor for the largest weekly newspaper in Arkansas and what a town.
The former sheriff liked to tell people that he served five terms in
office but he only won the first election. The "Party" made sure he
stayed in office.
The Mayor had won the last election by 250 votes. One ballet box did
not report in for twenty-four hours. At the end of the election
night he was down in the vote but after the last box was counted he won.
We had a good political fight for the four months that I lived there.
I had gone to a City Commission meeting to cover for the news
editor. After the meeting I asked the Mayor for a packet that the Commissioners were using for the meeting. He said that I could
have a copy of anything that I wanted. Then he said he did not have an extra. I asked to make copies on the City copying
machine, he said that I could not use the machine. When I asked to take the packet to the office, he said that I could not take it
out of the office.
I then found out that if I wanted a copy of the packet I would have
to do it by hand. That fight went to the Attorney General. I tell
people that when I lost that job, I was fired by the Mayor and he didnít own the paper. But, he did know the Cooperate President in
About three months later, I was reading the Manhattan Mercury at the
K-State Union. I was almost ready to leave when I turned to
the back page and there was a short story with the headline: "Mayorís Plane Bombed." The article told that the Mayorís plane had
been bombed, city hall was burned and the Mayor had found a bomb under his car.
I called the newspaper office and told them that it was all a put on
because $250,000 was missing from city hall and they were
Two weeks later they called back and said four men had been arrested
for the bombing and the rumor was that if Jon Brake were
still in town, I would have been arrested too.
That is also the place where I meet the number four man in the U.S.
House of Representatives. He told me it was his job to line up
members to speak against whatever Reagan had said the day before.
Think about that, everyday he got Congressmen to speak against Reagan.
With more that two hundred members from his party
that would be easy to do.
Oh, that Mayor, he was re-elected by 250 votes. The same box was held out for twenty-four hours.
Texas is a great place to be a reporter. I loved the people. The first
night that I had dinner with five or six couples, they were talking
about the war. The war this and the war that. Iím a history nut and I knew what they were talking about, but I just had to ask.
"What war are you talking about?" "Civil War," came the answer, donít you talk about the war up North? I loved it.
I worked for three newspapers in three different counties in Texas.
In each county they had a County Commissioner going to jail,
in jail or just getting out of jail.
I found were four County Commissioners borrowed $5 million dollars and
split it four ways. It was to be used for roads and things
like that. I asked the County Auditor to see the books on the money. He said he did not take care of that, that each
Commissioner had his own books. I then asked one of the Commissioners to see his books and he said he didnít have the books,
the auditor had them.
When I told my friends at the restaurant about the $5 million they responded
with: "Lyndon Johnson stole the election in í48." I
said, "what does that have to do with the County Commission and $5 million." They replied "Their all crooks."
When I watch Florida I think of all of the experiences I have had with
County Commissioners and election officials and I know what
is going on in Florida.