Smart Cities & Big Data: Where’s the Ethical Framework?

Last week, half a world away, Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Pritzker were engaged in high-level dialogue with political leaders in India.  On the agenda: “smart cities.”

All around the world, cities are often on the forefront of cutting edge policy debates.  While in the U.S., the “laboratories of democracy” are thought of traditionally as states, in fact cities often take the lead.  And in few areas will this be more true than in the civic use of “big data.”  [Read more…]

Rallying Crowd to Save the Internet

Cheryl spoke at a Save The Internet Rally on behalf of her client, the United Church of Christ, OC Inc., demonstrating her ability to rally a crowd.

Cheryl quoted in New York Times

nytimes_logo_squareObama’s Net Neutrality Bid Divides Civil Rights Groups

“The civil rights community is like every sector anywhere. While from the outside it seems like a monolith, it is not,” said Cheryl A. Leanza, a policy adviser for the United Church of Christ Office of Communication. Though she was part of the 11-member group that included Mr. Jackson, she asked the chairman to embrace the president’s plan.

Next Steps in Promoting the Values of the IP Transition

IP transition imageCheryl spoke in March in a Capitol Hill Briefing on the Values of the IP Transition sponsored by Public Knowledge discussing the values which are important to maintain through the IP transition. She emphasized the importance of technology enabling everyone in our society to be able to achieve based on their own intelligence, willingness to work hard and succeed, highlighting ways in which people’s race, ethnicity or income currently impact their use of technology.  She noted a number of ways her client, the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, has advocated for policies to ensure the IP transition does not harm the least vulnerable in our nation.

Cheryl brought not only a thoughtful understanding of the intersection of technology and social justice values, but also her economic knowledge to how telecommunications competition must be tied with universal service in order to ensure all people in the U.S. receive service.  Check out the video below. Cheryl’s remarks appear at 11:20, 26:47, 46:12, 55:59 and 1:02:31.


Cheryl featured in Time post on prison phones

On the day new, lower prison phone rates went into effect, Time Magazine’s business blog featured Cheryl Leanza’s comments on the importance of the victory.


“This is a huge victory for justice for ordinary people at an agency that is usually more attuned to private interests,” says Cheryl A. Leanza, policy director at the United Church of Christ. “Increasing the connections between families and inmates helps all of us. Strong family connections improve the likelihood that when inmates are released, they will not become repeat offenders, and that makes our society safer. We are very grateful to Commissioner Clyburn.”

The article quoted Cheryl as she described the mechanism which led to such high rates:

Leanza, of the United Church of Christ, said these commissions amount to “legalized kickbacks” where the highest bidder wins, in contrast to traditional competitive bidding where the lowest bidder wins. “This is not the free market at work,” Leanza says.

Asked why it took more than a decade for prison call reform to occur, Leanza pointed out that phone companies are very powerful in Washington, D.C. “It was always very easy for the phone companies to push the issue down the road,” says Leanza. “Prisoners usually don’t have a strong voice on many issues.”

Cheryl named one of the Top 25 Inspirational and Engaged Leaders

Cheryl Looking Capitol

Cheryl Leanza was recently named one of the Top 25 Inspirational and Engaged Leaders as part of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund, Public Policy Institute and Media & Telecommunications Project Annual Symposium.  Cheryl was honored on November 14, 2013  in Washington DC.

Speaking eloquently in support of justice

Cheryl_prisonphoneworkshopCheryl appeared at a Federal Communications Commission workshop in July on behalf of the United Church of Christ to advocate for just and reasonable rates for inmate calling services.  She was able to combine the moral authority of her client the United Church of Christ, OC Inc. and her communications policy expertise to lay bare the injustice of predatory prison phone rates.  For more about her work on this issue, see the description of her work on prison phones under success storiesVideo of the workshop is available.  Cheryl’s presentation begins at 26:00.

Faith-Based Grassroots Education and Action

OCincLOGOCheryl’s client, the United Church of Christ’s media justice and communications rights ministry, OC Inc.,  started work in coalition with other groups to end predatory prison phone rates.  Cheryl was able to combine her policy skills with grassroots education tools to bring the issue home to people in the pews and persuading the FCC to act. [Read more…]

Helping a civil rights coalition speak out

Cheryl works with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in several capacities.  Through her work and their staff, we have been able to demonstrate sophistication on media policy and communication rights.    In the last month, with Cheryl’s help, the Leadership Conference has been able to:  write an op-ed in the National Journal opposing media consolidation, and write two letters to the Federal Communications Commission drawing a line on the civil rights position and the “self-evidently insufficient” process blocking efforts to increase the numbers of women and people of color who own TV and radio stations.

Progressive States Network

The Progressive States Network needed assistance during a staff transition in order to keep its program on community broadband for state legislators vital.

  • Cheryl stepped in and seamlessly provided materials and a briefing for the annual legislative policy retreat in a few weeks’ time.
  • Cheryl took over the @BroadbandPSN twitter feed, providing a constant flow of interesting and relevant articles and doubling the number of followers.
  • Cheryl wrote regular blogs tracking activity around the states, and developed an email list to push out the blogs to interested state legislators who might not otherwise see them.
  • Cheryl drafted model legislation geared to appeal to state legislators of color and promote a progressive broadband agenda.
  • Cheryl provided detailed strategic analysis enabling the leaders of Progressive States Network to more deeply understand the landscape at play in state capitols around telecommunications issues.
  • Cheryl not only helped the organization meet its funder’s benchmarks, but also identified emerging policy opportunities worthy of forward-looking philanthropic support.