As a lifelong Democrat who served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Governor Patrick, I liked to think that I knew how critical local and state elections could be. But the importance of electing strong local leaders truly crystallized for me while leading No Boston Olympics, the grassroots organizations opposed to Boston 2024’s risky and wasteful Olympic bid. In the then-secret bid documents it submitted to the USOC in December, 2014, Boston 2024’s powerful boosters dismissed our group: “Four local activists formed a group in opposition to our bid...our polling data shows that they do not represent the majority of public opinion. No elected official has publicly endorsed the group, they have not received significant financial backing and their efforts have been limited to social media.” Thankfully, facts, figures, and common sense overcame insider lobbying and a 1,000 to 1 spending advantage. The more Bostonians learned about Boston 2024, the less they liked it. The bid was pulled by the United States Olympic Committee in July, 2015.
Defeating Boston 2024’s bid was only possible because a diverse set of community leaders made their voices heard. One of the first leaders to take a stand against Boston 2024 was Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung. In December 2014, just days after Boston 2024’s boosters dismissed bid opponents, Leland led a successful effort to pass a resolution by the Cambridge City Council to oppose Boston 2024’s bid. Those backing the bid were a “who’s who” of Boston’s most powerful people and politicians, so it was not easy for Leland to stick out his neck on this issue. But long before others weighed in, Leland saw that the bid would have had a hugely negative impact on our region and local communities. I will always be grateful for the vision and courage Leland showed when No Boston Olympics and other grassroots bid opponents needed it most.
On September 8th, Democratic and unenrolled voters in Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and Winchester have a chance to send Leland to Beacon Hill so that he can represent those communities with the same leadership and vision he has brought to the Cambridge City Council since 2009. As a commonwealth, we face important challenges in areas such as transportation, housing, and education. We are only going to tackle those challenges if we work together to ensure that the public interest wins out over special interests who would shape public policy to their own benefit. Leland has demonstrated a clear willingness to fight these battles on behalf of the greater good. He deserves consideration for your vote on Thursday, September 8th.
Chris Dempsey was a Co-Chair of No Boston Olympics and 2015 Bostonian of the Year Recipient
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