Lt. Gov. Candidate Cheung Focused On Technology Biz Sector
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
Leland Cheung visited Camp Russell this past weekend.
RICHMOND, Mass. — Leland Cheung speaks the same language of those in the technology business sector.
Cheung is running for lieutenant governor to help advance those industries in the state. Cheung has spent his last five years as a city councilor in Cambridge, during which he took on statewide roles with the Massachusetts Technology Collaboration and the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"I'm able to walk into office in Cambridge of Google and talk about the nuts and bolts. I am probably the only person running for any office that can actually code," the Democrat said on Sunday. "It just gives me an added level of credibility with them that other electives don't always enjoy."
He was serving as a councilor when Google opened its office. But he noticed that while residents and city officials were raving about how it would help the tax roles, they were missing a key element in growing that sector missing.
"The issue was that everybody was talking about the innovation economy and how great it was to have Google and Microsoft in the city for the tax base. But nobody was talking about the kids growing up in public housing, literally two blocks away, that weren't getting education or mentorship and support they needed to work there," he said.
These companies need an educated work force, he said, so the city reached a deal with the housing authority in that every time repairs are made to a building, the city's fiber network is installed in the apartments.
While that helped Cambridge, his work through the Mass Technology Collaborative and Mass Broadband to run a fiber network across the entire state showed him that every community is facing a similar issue.
"We were at a school in Otis where we lit up the network for Mass Broadband. It was amazing. The school that previously had DSL now had a fiber network and kids were video conferencing with kids in South America and researchers at NASA," Cheung said. "The reality is that if you are a kid in public school in Otis or a kid in public housing in Cambridge, if you can't go home and access a computer to do your homework, you can't compete with your classmates let alone with kids around the world."
And competing on a global scale is what Massachusetts has to do, he said. He points to Silicon Valley as a region or Singapore as a country being in similar scale in area to Massachusetts. Cheung says the state needs to get the technology sectors — which includes green tech or biological — on the same page.
"The same issues I've been talking about in Cambridge are the same issues we have across the commonwealth today. It can't just be about Boston, Cambridge and that area, but everywhere else," Cheung said.
Education and infrastructure will be the key to Massachusetts' economic focus, Cheung said, by giving companies what they need to relocate or grow here.
"That's what attracts companies that create careers. Companies relocate for three years, where the CEO wants to live, where they can get the lowest taxes and where they have the best workforce and infrastructure to grow," Cheung said. "By focusing on education and infrastructure, you create pathways to careers."
If that sounds similar to current Gov. Deval Patrick's plan, that's because Cheung helped write the platform.
"I was part of the platform drafting committee appointed by [Democratic Party ] Chairman [John] Walsh. My name is next to more sections that anybody else's, except the chairman of the committee. I helped write the Democratic platform and I think my experience has given me the ability to articulate that," he said.
For education, he is calling for a stronger focus on preschools, community colleges and youth center, as he says he has done in Cambridge.
Also in Cambridge, Cheung touts moving municipal money from the "entire tax base" out of an overseas bank account and into a community bank that had proven reinvestment in the community. He also increased procurement of supplies from local sources and supported building a net-zero school.
"I am the only candidate in office. I don't just have talking points; I have a track record," he said.
Prior to his election to the City Council, Cheung worked as a venture capitalist. He has degrees from Stanford in physics, economics and aerospace engineering. He also a master of business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a policy degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
With a seat open for lieutenant governor open, Cheung jumped into the race in February.
"I think the lieutenant governor is one of the most underrated positions and probably one of the best positions there is the constitutional government. The governor has to worry about a million things, from fixing potholes on the turnpike to increasing efficiencies in agencies," Cheung said. "I've been an entrepreneur my entire career so the idea of having a budget, a platform and a staff while being limited by only my own creativity and willingness to work hard, frankly I find is really exciting."
Later adding, "The lieutenant governor really has the ability to focus on long-term issues in a way that no one else does."
Cheung says if elected, his first task would be to open regional offices across the state to bring the "executive" branch to the cities and towns. He said he will personally staff the branches from his budget.
Cheung is seeking the Democratic nomination on Sept. 9. Also running for that nomination is Mike Lake and Steve Kerrigan. The winner of that election will be partnered with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee for the Nov. 4, general election.
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