Q&A: Jed Leano on his time as Claremont Mayor and his State Assembly race

Former Claremont mayor Jed Leano is running for California State Assembly. (Courtesy: Jed Leano)

Claremont’s City Council member and former Mayor Jed Leano is running in the 2024 California State Assembly election for the 41st district. TSL interviewed Leano to ask him about the campaign, his goals and what the 7C community should know about him and his candidacy.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

TSL: Why did you decide to run for State Assembly?

Jed Leano: While in public service, my effort has been squarely dedicated to the issues surrounding homelessness and housing. The crisis is continuously in steep decline. We only have so much time … to rectify it before we’re no longer able to meaningfully affect it. 

The need for leadership on housing is greater than ever. It was frankly an easy decision to arrive at because of the time and place of our housing crisis. 

TSL: What has your career journey up to this point looked like? 

JL: By trade, I’m an immigration lawyer. I intentionally used my law career as an opportunity to fight for and represent the most powerless people in our society: immigrants facing removal from this country. I felt compelled to pursue public service. There are deep seated policy issues. I not only want to change what we do about them as a matter of policy and practice — I also want to change the way we talk about these things.

TSL: Do you have greater political aspirations? What do you hope to do after the State Assembly?

JL: I’m driven by a mission to directly impact homelessness. The number one way to impact homelessness is the production of housing … I don’t view this race as a next sequential step in the journey for me as an individual. I see this as a natural step to fulfill my calling to utilize my opportunity in public service to pursue the greater good and help house all Californians.

TSL: Tell me about your time as Mayor of Claremont. What key lessons or practices did you learn? How has it informed your work as a politician?

JL: My time as mayor was a really difficult period, Factors far beyond my or your control have made trust in government really hard. The only way to win that trust is to deliver for people. We have to show people that there are good people in government who really want to serve, help and solve problems. We can only win people’s trust by showing that that’s our motivation and then delivering on that motivation.

The big lesson that I learned is that you can think through all of these policy problems all you want. You can formulate plans. You can vet them with a team of professionals. [But] sometimes, people just need you to be there for them. They don’t need you to have the right answers all the time.

TSL: What are you most proud of in your record of public service?

JL: Unquestionably it’s a record that’s substantially around policy and housing. Right after I got elected we instituted our homeless services plan … We built a homeless services delivery infrastructure that helped us reduce homelessness by 41 percent by our second year … I’m elected to the board of the new LA County Affordable Housing Agency, so Claremont is on the map as a regional leader on the issues of homelessness and housing policy. 

In 2021, we approved a transit-oriented district, which is going to be our largest housing development in the history of our city [and] go very long ways in reducing our carbon footprint.

We amended our inclusionary housing ordinance so that for the very first time, people who are building homes in our city will include low income housing units. I have put an immense amount of effort into making our city one that gets housing policy right, and I look forward to doing that at the state level.

TSL: What makes housing so important to you?

JL: My father grew up in Tondo, Manila, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Asia, and lived in public housing. I had a mother who worked nights at a hospital, and my father is an engineer, and he worked overseas for most of my childhood. So I was raised by my grandmother, and in the last 20 years of her life she lived in subsidized senior housing. So, when I hear rhetoric that “housing for people in poverty will bring crime and drugs and danger to our neighborhoods,” it’s very personal to me. People like my father and my grandmother need somebody to stick up for them, and very often there’s just no one to fight for them. 

When you get housing policy right, you get social justice and equity policy right. The original sin of this country is slavery, and when we got rid of slavery, and then undid segregation, we continued to separate people legally by housing laws … so that people of color stayed out of wealthy and white neighborhoods. And we did that legally for decades. When you get housing policy right, you get climate policy right. Good climate policy matches housing production with transportation amenities, with jobs and with infrastructure … When you get housing policy right, you get transportation policy right … And finally, when you get housing policy right, you get education policy right. If families with young children cannot afford to live in cities, those cities will close schools … So housing policy encompasses everything else.

TSL: Would you encourage college students to get involved with politics and public service? 

JL: They absolutely should … if they don’t, for the most meaningful decisions that impact basic questions, they will not have a seat at the table … We cannot allow housing policy to be made by the people who are not impacted by the crisis. We have to make sure that the people who are facing the brunt of the crisis have a central voice and a champion.

When I first ran for City Council in 2018 … I had students run my campaign. I got to know a bunch of students at the 5Cs because of my immigration advocacy and volunteerism. And when I decided to run for City Council, I went back to them and I said, “I don’t just want you to volunteer in my campaign, I want you to lead it. I want you to run it.” And after we won, I didn’t want to just say “thanks a lot. I’ll see you again in four years,” I wanted to bring them with me. I wanted them to learn what I learned … And from that I have just built this remarkable bench of young people who’ve gone on to Rhodes Scholarships, law schools and national campaigns during the presidential election, and I always welcome new students to be a part of this incredible journey. 

TSL: Do you have anything else you want to add or that you think is important for the Claremont Colleges community to know about you and the campaign?

JL: None of this happens without the help of students that I had with me along the way. I feel a remarkable obligation to give back to the students who attend the Claremont Colleges because without them I would never have been a City Council member, I never would have built affordable housing in Claremont, I never would have built a homeless services infrastructure and I never would have risen to the Chair of San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust … I owe a lot to these campuses, so I want to continue to pay it forward,give the opportunity to be involved in politics and make sure that this campaign is a home for any Claremont Colleges students who wish to be involved.

Facebook Comments