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Hao Wang, the former deputy commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, said he is a “do-both candidate,” running for Cambridge City Council on a platform that is focusing on mental health, livability, and sustainability.
Wang has said that he supports increasing housing density, but opposes the 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay amendments, which passed earlier this week. He believes Cambridge can preserve its character as a city while simultaneously increasing housing stock.
“I am a do-both candidate, not an either-or candidate,” Wang said.
The AHO amendments, which have been a continuing source of controversy, will now allow for taller building height maximums for affordable housing throughout the city.
“We need to protect Cambridge’s character and preserve what we need to preserve as our historical heritage,” Wang said, adding that he is “against frivolous building around our time-cherished squares and corridors.”
In a Cambridge Citizens Coalition questionnaire, Wang added that “singularly lifting the number of floors for new buildings should be accompanied by small businesses, parking spaces, and public transportation improvement.”
Wang, originally from China, has resided in Cambridge for more than 25 years, earning a master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School and a doctorate from MIT in electronic materials. He has previously held positions as a managing director at Accenture, a consulting firm, and worked with the New York State Office of Mental Health.
He has also come out with multiple poetry collections in English and Chinese and describes himself as a “bilingual poet.”
Wang said his prior experience in the field of mental health is the driving force behind his candidacy for Cambridge City Council.
In his previous role in New York state government, Wang worked with groups that faced homelessness and mental health crises. He said he has observed the same issues present in Cambridge.
“I see that the crime rate is rising,” Wang said. “And there’s a clear and present danger of enlarging mental health crises, opioid abuse, as well as, there’s an increasing number of people who are unhoused.”
“I think my experience and leadership can help Cambridge better shoulder that crisis,” he added.
Wang said his previous background in engineering will allow him to offer innovative solutions tackling environmental issues and sustainability for Cambridge.
“We can save more than half of energy already if we just provide incentives and technical guidance for people to better insulate their homes and better manage their on-and-off of our energy sources,” Wang said.
Cambridge residents “need engineers like us,” he added.
Wang said he also prioritizes government transparency in his run for Council, calling for publicly available performance metrics for government officials “so that we can have good financial discipline and can use our money wisely.”
“I’m for data and public scrutiny,” he said.
Wang was endorsed by the Cambridge Citizens Coalition, a group which has faced scrutiny after endorsing two candidates — Carrie E. Pasquarello and Robert Winters — who have promoted transphobic and Islamophobic social media content.
Wang attended a celebration hosted by CCC that was protested by the Boston Democratic Socialists of America, who called for the group to rescind their endorsements of Pasquarello and Winters.
Wang said he is “not the best person to assess” the controversy, adding that he wasn’t paying attention to the social media activity of any particular candidate.
He said he believed the candidates were concentrating on issues that mattered to Cambridge citizens, such as affordable housing and bicycle safety.
“We need to protect and advocate for LGBTQ+ minorities’ rights,” Wang said, adding that “the CCC I know is advocating for all citizens’ rights.”
Wang said he would like to see an “inclusive Cambridge” and opposes a “political purity test” for candidates.
“I think an inclusive Cambridge should allow people to adjust their political view when life experiences accumulate,” Wang said.
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