A Letter From Leland
The Choice You Face This Election ...
Leland Cheung - Your Choice
Investing in Education | Fixing Transportation | Building Affordable Housing | Addressing What Matters To You.
The challenges we need to tackle tomorrow are very different from the problems we solved yesterday.
The incumbent we're challenging in the Democratic primary tomorrow, THURSDAY September 8th, Pat Jehlen, has done an admirable job legislating on Beacon Hill for more than 25 years. She and I have supported a vast number of social issues including gay marriage, equal pay, and sustainable energy; however, too many issues that affect our day-to-day lives have been ignored by our state legislature. It's not that she's bad; it's that we need better.
In these last few days leading up to the election people have asked us to summarize the differences in what we represent. Read on below ... TL;DR: it boils down to experience, attitude, and who's the best equipped to ensure that ten years from now we can look back and know that - despite all the current pressures on our community - we emerged stronger, together.
Tackling Economic Inequality
Massachusetts is home to the largest income inequality in the country, at a time when economic inequality is the highest it's ever been.
Technology is rapidly improving our lives, but it's also deconstructing the way we work, live, and relate to one another. In prior debates, my opponent didn't understand how AirBnb is affecting our housing crisis, how the gig economy is re-writing the terms of employment, the difference between Uber and ZipCar, or how automation is displacing jobs.
In the face of globalization, it's not enough for our elected leaders to appreciate STEM; they must be able to anticipate it. My prior career in entrepreneurship, technology, and investing in start-ups gives me a unique perspective. My City Council experience making jobs in Kendall Square accessible to residents and working on economic development for Gov Patrick proves I don't just have talking points, but a track-record you can count on.
The Green Line Extension and the Longfellow Bridge - examples of projects that have followed the tradition of being over-budget and delayed without any accountability to voters.
The incumbent claims she's been working on the extension for over a decade; that's part of the problem. No legislator can tell you what it will cost, yet there have been no calls to fix the problems that got us here in the first place.
I will introduce legislation requiring every contractor receiving more than $10M from the state will have to publicly disclose exactly how they're spending our tax dollars; I'll introduce legislation to rewrite the bidding process that dug this hole; and I'll stop the ambivalence that allowed contractors who fleeced us on the Big Dig to win contracts for the T.
Investing in Education
With all the international companies we've been attracting to the Boston metro area, our students have to compete with a global workforce without ever leaving home.
The legislature has only just gotten funding for our public schools back up to 2009 levels, and schools in our district have faced delays in repairs for years. As your State Senator I'll demand proper funding for our public schools, every tool or resource teachers need to be successful.
Massachusetts supposedly enjoys one of the most resilient economies in the country. There's no reason we shouldn't have universal pre-k, affordable post-secondary education, STEM and computer science in K-12, and community colleges that prepare students for careers, not just temp jobs.
Our campaign has been entirely focused on our ideas and vision for our communities. My opponent supporters, on the other hand, have been waging a campaign of misinformation. They've launched attack ads, built websites that lie about my track-record, and repeatedly stolen lawn signs.
When pressed, incumbent Pat Jehlen has refused to condemn negative campaigning or outside spending. When questioned about accepting donations from the fossil fuel industry that runs contrary to her pledge not to, she claimed ignorance. When asked about the fact that the majority of her donations come from PACs and lobbyists, she said she hadn't read her campaign finance report. With more than ten thousand dollars of cash donations she hasn't accounted for, she can't even follow the election laws she helped write.
If that's how she campaigns, how does she govern?
I've been criticized, but I'll never apologize for treating every day like 'bring your daughter to work day.' I treat public service like a 24/7 job. My perspective on every vote isn't about who I'm pleasing today, but about the future we're building for all our children.
When it comes to early childhood education, parental leave, accommodations for expecting mothers, earned sick time, and more, I know the challenges that families are struggling with in our modern world because I'm living through them right now.
I hope you enter the voting booth tomorrow with the feeling that - in such a crazy national political cycle - here in Medford, Cambridge, Somerville, and Winchester - we have given our community an actual choice. As your neighbor, I'll always be a phone call or an email away. Thank you for your consideration, and for your vote tomorrow, THURSDAY, September 8th.
About Our Campaign
Candidate for State Senate
Our extended community of the Second Middlesex district, including Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and Winchester, could just be the best place in the world to live. We enjoy a long, rich history and also represent the future both economically and culturally. It's why my wife and I decided to settle down and raise our children here.
For all that promise, we still face incredible challenges - a Green Line they're threatening to let fall off the tracks, a housing market that’s pricing people out, underfunded school systems that continue to delay the promise of early education, an innovation economy that remains inaccessible to many, an environment in peril, and a government that all too often puts the interests of big business over those of small families like ours.
We have an opportunity to join together and demand that our government make the choices necessary, and take action now, to address those challenges head on. I know it's possible because I've seen that spirit succeed over the past six years that I've served on the the Cambridge City Council.
It's been an incredible honor to serve as a City Councillor in the place my father first called home, when he immigrated to our country. I didn't think I was going to win that first race - challenging the incumbent status quo. Countless people asked why I didn't wait my turn, or put my degrees in business and politics to work in the private sector. My parents taught me that the deepest value of education isn't to enrich yourself, but to enrich your community.
When I won I was thrilled to put my experiences in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to work improving the lives of residents on issues big and small. Improving government transparency by introducing Participatory Budgeting, which allows residents to submit proposals and vote directly on how our city spends money. Addressing housing head on by increasing the amount of affordable units we're building. Fighting for local retail and vibrant main streets. Bringing taxpayer dollars back from a big overseas bank to a local community bank. And after Governor Patrick appointed me to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, investing in a public broadband network I'd like to stretch across our Commonwealth.
As your State Senator I'll never shy away from bold solutions to addressing our challenges, even if it means upsetting the establishment. I'll remain committed to progressive and innovative leadership that reflects our communities. I'll listen to your suggestions, criticism, and ideas, as I continue to publicly post my personal cell phone number.
We deserve representation that reflects our priorities, is in touch with tomorrow, and brings a sense of urgency to the challenges we're tackling today. Join us, and let's make progress together.
Leland Cheung is the only candidate that publicly lists his personal cell phone number: (617) 444-9080. His personal email is Leland@LelandCheung.com. Leland holds a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford, an MBA from MIT Sloan, and a Masters in Political Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.
On The Issues
Making Progress A Reality.
Green Line Extension
Public transportation is a necessity, for our economy, for our environment, and for our communities. It's the backbone of equality that gives residents access to opportunity. Unfortunately, the politics-as-usual approach on Beacon Hill has failed to strengthen or even maintain our transportation infrastructure. Our highways are degrading and MBTA services are unreliable; however, the unrelenting showcase of this failure is the current state of the Green Line Extension.
In a Commonwealth that hosts the greatest marathon in the world, a quarter century to go four miles is pretty embarrassing. We've seen children grow up, become activists themselves, and bring their own children to meetings to hear the same empty promises. Instead of asking residents to accept a bare-bones proposal, the state should be asking contractors to open up their books and show us how much they are profiting at our expense. We need more legislative engagement and oversight on the project to keep it on track. We need rules that prohibit contractors from policing themselves. We cannot afford any more surprises.
Addressing Our Housing Crisis
Leland has served as a leading voice for the expansion and preservation of existing middle-income, student, and low-income housing on the Cambridge City Council. He understands that it’s better to invest in people and keep them in their homes than to push our neighbors out of town or to the streets.
However, the reality is that our shared housing crisis is regional. We need solutions from the state that don't pit communities against each other. We need policies in place so that city leaders aren't forced to wager between asking developers to create more housing and seeing those developers decide to build across city lines. We need strong guidelines, like we have for safety and environmental sustainability, that don't put cities in competition with each other.
It's time to convene stakeholders from across the district and create lasting solutions that keep our cities and towns affordable for all of our residents.
Local Economy and Jobs with Justice
Locally-owned businesses contribute immensely to their our district’s economy. As someone who practically grew up in his mother's small business (a bakery) Leland has seen firsthand how investing in vibrant, walk-able city centers can benefit an entire community. While many in government propose massive corporate tax breaks to attract jobs, we are much better off investing in education and infrastructure. That's who we attract and grow companies that create not just jobs, but careers.
Leland also knows that there is no such thing as an economy without people. Whether working in the community or shopping at a local institution, our daily choices have long term impact. While on the City Council, Leland was endorsed by dozens of unions for his work fighting for fair wages, safe working conditions, the right to organize, adequate paid sick leave, and gender-neutral parental leave to all employees.
Our nation is seeing a shift in its workforce. As baby boomers retire, we need creative problem-solvers prepared to take their place, which means enhancing our focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM). With his background in science and engineering, Leland knows it’s won’t be enough simply to hire STEAM coordinators or build STEAM centers; we need a STEAM culture. The future of our communities are our children, and the more we invest today the better off we'll be tomorrow.
Leland has been at the forefront of calling for divestment from fossil fuels. He has charged forward with environmentally sustainable building practices - from Net Zero to transit oriented development. Leland has spearheaded dialogue on the City Council to align consumer behavior with environmental priorities. He also bikes and drives an electric car to avoid buying gas.
Prior to joining the Cambridge City Council, Leland worked as part of the founding team of ARPA-E, the branch of the US Department of Energy created by President Obama to serve as its 'venture' arm, investing in companies and cutting edge technologies to reduce America's carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. While there, he saw how many clean-tech innovations were coming out of Massachusetts; however, he also saw the difficulties they faced in navigating through bureaucracy to implementation. That’s why Leland wants to create a clean technology platform to enable startup companies to easily plug in, add renewables to our grid, and receive a set rate without going through years of negotiations with utilities' lawyers.
Leland is forward focused and understands that we have no future if we have no home. We can't make decisions based solely on today's economics if we want to safeguard tomorrow's environment.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Today’s economy is evolving faster than ever before. New technologies are enabling young companies to shake up generations-old industries. When done right, this provides better, less expensive services to more people. When done wrong, it decimates neighborhoods and pushes people towards poverty. We can ensure that the increase in innovation and entrepreneurship benefits everyone in our community - consumers and employees alike.
If you’ve ever tried to start your own business, you know it’s not easy. Starting a business shouldn't require a degree in public policy to navigate an overly complicated bureaucracy. In Cambridge, Leland has led the way towards streamlining licensing and leveling the playing field. He will continue to fight against archaic laws that hinder job growth.
Technology is continually reshaping our economy, and the pace of change is only going to increase. Leland understands this better than most politicians because it's the world he comes from. We need leaders in touch with tomorrow to ensure the benefits don't all accrue to the elite few.
Massachusetts has a long history of leading the nation in education policy. We built the first public school, as well as the first university, and mandated all children learn to read and write practically from the moment they immigrated. And yet, despite our commitment to quality education, our ability to deliver results seems to have faltered at the same time international economic pressures have challenged us most.
Leland believes that every child has a right to quality public education that puts them on a path to compete worldwide. Their future depends on our investments in them now - matching every advantage every advanced nation is giving their children. That includes early education, STEM throughout school, college that doesn't leave students in debt, continuing education that retools adults as technology changes, and more.
It is absolutely clear that we must start early. Early education has been proven to be the best investment, for our incremental tax dollar, to eliminate the achievement gap. Early childhood education as a privilege for the elite. We must provide equitable opportunities for parents that are struggling to make ends meet, not simply just because it'll be good for the economy, but because it is just. Period.
These aren't unique perspectives; however, having a little girl about to enter school for the first time gives Leland a sense of urgency that's been lacking on Beacon Hill. Every year we take to debate is another year's worth of students who won't have access to programs with proven importance. If you're tired of waiting, know that Leland is too.
Biking isn’t simply a healthy, fun, and convenient way to get to work; it is clearly the future. The number of residents opting out of cars and onto bikes continues to rise every year. Government’s challenge is how to reorient infrastructure to make biking an increasingly safe and convenient option to encourage the next wave of commuters to choose pedal power over fossil fuels.
Leland led the charge to introduce side bumper guards on all trucks that do business with the City; that’s a program that should be expanded throughout the greater Boston area. Side bumper guards are features intended to reduce the risk of unprotected bicyclists from falling under the sides of vehicles and getting caught under the rear wheel.s
Leland brought Hubway to Cambridge, navigating a complex negotiation to ensure that the initial footprint wasn’t limited to Boston. The State needs to make it easier for cities and towns to become part of the network.
Leland has pushed for additional bike lanes, repair stations, and facilities. State coordination is necessary to ensure that bike lanes are seamless across city boundaries.
Housing, Development, and Property Text
Developers are building up areas of Massachusetts such as Somerville and Cambridge, driving up the value of homes and subsequently property taxes. While developers reap the profits, homeowners are stuck footing the bill in the form of higher property taxes. Not only that but many residents are being priced out of cities due to rising rental costs.
Leland supports community-centric solutions to address this problem, as different cities have different needs to address these issues. We need to put our citizens before private corporations and developers and make sure that the people of Massachusetts are not paying an exorbitant amount in property taxes. We need fiscal progressivism that puts people before profits.
Senior issues in Massachusetts are at the forefront of Leland’s campaign. They are paying more for prescription drugs, social security funding is inadequate, and health care, despite federal efforts in recent years, is still unaffordable for a large number of Bay State residents.
Leland is dedicated to restoring economic justice to seniors, as well. The cost of basic medication is out of reach for many seniors in Massachusetts, and this trend is also evident in healthcare costs and social security payments. Leland will make sure that economic security is a reality for every senior in Massachusetts, regardless of income.
Early childhood education costs are often out of reach for many families in Massachusetts. Some parents complain that pre-k enrollment costs can be as high as $30,000. It is important that we support an initiative for universal pre-k paid for by the state, not just to reduce the widest educational achievement gap in the country, but also in order to give the working families of Massachusetts more opportunities in the economy, as well.
The $30,000 a year tuition for pre-k can be better spent invested in other areas, whether it be the parents’ retirement, the child’s college fund, or anything else for that matter. Not only that, but if a parent doesn’t have to worry about caring for a child on a daily basis because he/she can’t afford early childhood education, the parents will be free to go to work in order to secure more financial stability for his/her family. Although it may not seem like it, universal pre-k is an issue of economic justice, and Leland understands the importance of enrolling every child in pre-k not just for the sake of the child’s education, but for the sake of the parents’ financial stability.
Education for the 21st Century
As our Commonwealth moves toward an increasingly technological society, it is important to make sure our education reflects the values of our world. Current education policy does not put a significant emphasis on computer science, coding, or the digitization of the future.
Leland is a strong advocate of integrating computer science as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses into our education system. In order to stay competitive as a state in an increasingly globalized society, it is important to reform our public education system to make sure our children have a fighting chance in the new digital economy.
Senior Issues/Aging In Place
Seniors in Massachusetts are struggling. Current social security benefits are not enough to provide an adequate standard of living for older people, and if you couple that with the increasing cost of living, many are struggling to make ends meet. While seniors feel the effects of an increasingly unaffordable cost of living, they also must be worried about the safety and legitimacy of senior centers, the cost of healthcare, and the cost of their medicines.
Leland is concerned about making sure seniors can have an adequate standard of living. This means supporting tackling the pharmaceutical industry here in Massachusetts. Leland wants to make sure that seniors do not have to spend an insane amount of money on prescription drugs that seniors need on a daily basis. We should put people before profits. Leland also supports a universal healthcare program, so every senior, regardless of income, can have access to adequate medical care.
Addressing Establishment Politics
The establishment has had the second Middlesex district state senate seat filled for the past 12 years. Beacon Hill likes the current incumbent because she “votes the way she’s supposed to”. But does she vote the way the people want her to vote? The people in our district have not seen any real economic change in the past 20 years. Wages are stagnant, costs are up, and families are feeling financial pressure from our unjust economic system throughout this time period. The cost of living is going up, developments are raising property taxes, and these trends show no signs of reversing.
Leland will provide an anti-establishment point of view to help solve these problems. As someone who has a Masters in Business Administration and Masters in Public Administration, he can draw upon his academic expertise in order to solve these economic issues from both a public sector and private sector perspective. As someone who comes from a startup environment, Leland understands the importance of out of the box thinking in order to solve problems.
Public School vs. Charter School Funding
Although I support raising the cap on charter school funding, I think the debate distracts from the real issues of needing serious education reform and adequate funding. I don’t want to have to vote for the initiative in November, but given the current state of ed reform, I feel a moral obligation to vote yes
We have the highest achievement gap in the country. Our public schools are unequal, under-funded, and under-achieving. The reality is that education funding only now got back to 2009 levels. The legislature has us all pointing fingers at each other, arguing over how to slice the pie between public and charter schools, when the reality is the legislature didn’t give enough funding to either side. The idea that charters are taking money away from local schools is a fabrication ... the fund for reimbursements from the state to districts hasn’t been fully funded for years.
I want to double down on public education. Introduce real education reform and provide adequate funding. Engage parents. Support our teachers. If education is our first priority, we have to admit that we're not doing all we can. I don’t care where a kid goes to school - public, parochial, private, charter, home school - I care about outcomes. The reason I’m running for State Senate is to end that false dichotomy, and start working on actual education reform instead of having to choose between six of one or half a dozen of the other
Accountability from Elected Officials
Leland believes that all elected officials should be completely transparent with their votes, finances, and influence from lobbying. Leland has released all campaign financing records as soon as they are reported, meanwhile establishment incumbents like Pat Jehlen fail to disclose finance records until the mandated reporting date--just two weeks before election day.
Leland believes that all lawmakers, no matter how influential, should disclose their donations as soon as possible. The people of Massachusetts are tired of their elected officials being bankrolled by special interest groups and corporate lobbyists, and it is important that the people know how exactly their elected leaders are being funded.
Transportation infrastructure in Massachusetts is not conducive to ensuring timely commutes. Cars generate a lot of congestion, and a lack of alternative public infrastructure only exacerbates the problem. There is a disturbing lack of public investment in alternative transportation in Massachusetts, which is desperately needed to keep up with the growing and urbanizing population of our Commonwealth.
Leland has been a champion for alternative types of transportation on Cambridge City Council, and aims to bring his efforts to the state house if elected in September. With a strong history of zoning and zoning reform, Leland has advocated for more common spaces and community areas. He strongly believes in sensible investment in alternative transportation, whether it be the T, bus system, or increasing the number of bike paths and community bikes.
Free and Open Internet
Net neutrality is vital to maintaining a free and open internet. Corporations such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable are actively seeking to undermine these rules in order to create internet “fast lanes”, aiming to extort money from internet companies for to pay for faster service. This is not conducive to the Massachusetts economy. Furthermore, the oligopoly that Comcast and Time Warner Cable has over Bay Staters results in higher costs for lower quality internet. It is important that we foster competition from new companies in order to create a vibrant and competitive market for internet infrastructure.
Leland understands the importance of net neutrality and its role in the development of technology and the future of digital entrepreneurship. His support of regulating the internet like a utility will ensure that the Massachusetts economy will remain competitive in an increasingly globalized world.
The opioid crisis in Massachusetts is third-worst in the country, only behind Kentucky and Tennessee. These levels of addiction are not just a public health problem, they are a family problem. Almost everyone in Massachusetts knows at least one person who has fallen victim to the opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing our state, and the lack of action by the Massachusetts Legislature is unconscionable.
In order to address the addiction epidemic ravaging our state, Leland would support expanding the funding of addiction treatment centers. He would also legalize marijuana in order to stop the ability of kids buying drugs to have unregulated access to harder drugs such as crack and heroin. Regulating marijuana would help keep hard drugs away from those who use marijuana, and additionally bring extra revenues to the state.
Leland would also tackle the pharmaceutical lobbying industry, as the over-prescription of opioids by medical professionals has largely led to this epidemic. In addition, a lack of social and economic mobility can be tied to drug use, as people tend to turn to drugs when there is no public support of social welfare.
Leland’s entire platform constitutes economic mobility; when a community is empowered and given opportunities for advancement, drug use tends to decrease, as addiction rates are directly tied to poor economic conditions.
The Beacon Hill establishment is going to throw everything they have at us.
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