Madison Mayoral Candidate Maurice “Mo” Cheeks
Yearning to Serve
Maurice “Mo” Cheeks is originally from Matteson, Illinois
and has been a Madison alder since 2013.
too long have felt left behind in this city. So many of my constituents in Allied Drive or folks on Park Street or Darbo are single parent, working-class families who
have no relationship to the high rises that are going up. That’s not a part of their world. What they are seeing is not enough options for improving their lives.”
Cheeks feels that the community is not reaching youth from lower socio-economic communities soon enough, that with early intervention, the community can
change the trajectory of many children’s lives.
“We are going to create programs so that every kindergartener on the first day of school is going to get a college savings account,” Cheeks said. “We’ve already
identified private funding that is going to pay for that, so it’s not going to be taxpayer funded. There is fantastic research that shows that a kid regardless of their
family background is three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to graduate from college by identity challenge. We need to be the sort of city
that holds out hope for the next generation, that holds a high bar and says, ‘We believe in you. We believe that you’re going to be successful.’ I believe that Madison
can do that and is interested in and willing to be a city with that sort of reputation of moving past this persistent tale of two cities to being the sort of place where you
want to raise a family regardless of your background and your situation.”
In order for people to have opportunity and hope regardless of their background, they need access to jobs and education. And that means being able to get there on
a timely basis.
“Madison absolutely needs to have a public transportation system that not only reflects the increase in demands of ridership today, but also has an appreciation for
and ready for the demands of tomorrow as more and more people are choosing to take buses as our city continues to grow,” Cheeks said. “We’re going to have
more and more Madisonians over the next few decades. How are we going to get people around the city more effectively? That’s going to require bus rapid transit.
That’s going to require us to have meaningful relationships and partnerships with other cities for us to be able to get state authority for something like a regional
Cheeks feels that the city needs to intervene early in the lives of young people who appear to be choosing “The Life.”
“By the time the police are involved, so often, the worse thing has already happened,” Cheeks said. “What we need to do is be a city of hope, a city where people
see a future for themselves, see opportunity for employment. They need the opportunity to pay some of their bills and help mom out through a job. Investing in some
of these programs like mentorship over the lifetime of a young person, making sure that the city has a serious commitment to investing our time and energy into the
next generation mentoring young people so that even if they come from a household without a strong male or female influences in their lives that as a community,
we create opportunities for them to see hope.”
As Madison experiences its high tech transformation and experiences rapid economic growth, it is also experiencing a housing shortage, which is driving up the
cost of housing above the rate of inflation. There is a danger that like San Francisco, people will work in Madison, but not be able to afford to live there.
“Some of the biggest issues that we face and need to get right is making sure that our housing is built in a way that increases affordability across the spectrum,”
Cheeks said. “Without a doubt, we’re going to continue to grow and in order for us to be an exemplary city, a city that can be a model for what it looks like and close
the gaps of inequality, we need to really focus on how we’re going to continue to grow while increasing affordability of housing for folks who are struggling, for folks
who are single parents, folks who are teachers and fire fighters who too often right now are finding themselves having to double up or move out of Madison in order
to work in Madison because the housing is too expensive for working class families. And along the way, we need to continue to support a growing, thriving
economy. We need to get our growth, particularly as it relates to housing right. That’s the most critical issue we face.”
In Cheeks view, as Madison continues to grow rapidly, it must guide that growth so that it meets the financial needs of all of its citizens.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Maurice “Mo” Cheeks, a candidate for mayor of Madison in April, chose to live in Madison when he
worked for Apple’s K-12 programming in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. After volunteering for
Schools of Hope and other projects, he won the District 10 Madison alder seat in 2013. His district
includes the Allied Drive and Dunns Marsh neighborhoods. He has continuously seen firsthand how the
lack of opportunity impacts people’s lives.
“The only two socioeconomic demographics that have been growing in Madison are households
making more than six figures and households making less than $30,000 per year,” Cheeks said. “We’re
seeing a widening gap in our community between the haves and the have-nots. A great deal of the
success and prosperity that we enjoy in the city is because we do have a growing economy. And that
is a great thing. What we need to have a serious focus on is creating upward mobility for folks who for
“We must continue to grow our economy,” Cheeks emphasized. “We are poised for
greatness as a city. As I may have said earlier, it is phenomenal that we have as
much energy and momentum in our economy as we do. And the mayor has to be a
cheerleader for the future of our economy, the future of work in this city. Along the
way, we have to make sure that we are prioritizing equitable economic
development working where the city is concerned in making sure we are making
investments into companies that want to be good community partners to create
upward mobility for our people.”
For the past several decades, Madison has lost many of its young professionals of
color you go away for school and find opportunity — and the life they want to lead —
elsewhere. This “brain drain” negatively impacts the growth of Madison’s
communities of color and the city as a whole.
“Our community has to be a place where young professionals and young families of
color feel like this is the place where they can really establish roots and call home
and feel excited to be able to raise a family,” Cheeks said. “We have not had
enough conversations, frankly, about the ongoing trend of middle class members of
our communities of color choosing not to stay in the city for career opportunities
and for social and cultural amenities elsewhere. I personally know so many people
and friends who came to Madison and after a handful of years say, ‘I’m moving to
Atlanta or New York or Denver.’ We can’t allow that to become a normalized
expected thing here if our city is going to be a place that we believe is an inclusive
and diverse and welcoming city. One of the metrics for that is going to be
decreasing the rate of turnover of minority, middle-class individuals.”
In the end, it is the everyday people of Madison who make it what it is and Cheeks
is high on its future.
“The people are Madison’s greatest asset,” Cheeks emphasized. “We are a city of
doers. We are a city of folks who really want to be a part of something great. I think
that is part of the reason why we have such great non-profits. People in Madison, I
think, choose to live with purpose. Often times that manifests itself in being
civically active with social purpose in non-profits or are involved in their own
schools. This is an awesome city. It’s a fantastic city to raise a family in. The reality
is that is not true for everyone. And most commonly, that is not true for those who
look like me. And so, I’m running for mayor of Madison to make sure that the take
on this most persistent iteration of us as a tale of two cities ends. I want to make
this a more inclusive and safe city.”
Cheeks wants everyone to experience Madison’s greatness.