Mayor Setti Warren, Democratic candidate for governor, visits Athol
Setti Warren asks, “What kind of a Commonwealth do we want to be? Who are we in this state? Are we OK with people making choices in health care by paying for a doctor's visit or paying for the mortgage? Are we OK with people being crushed with student debt, not being able to afford to pay for college to make ends meet, to earn the skills they need? That's what's happening in our Commonwealth today — and it's wrong.
Setti Warren, two-term mayor of Newton and a leading candidate to represent the Massachusetts Democratic Party in the 2018 election for Governor warmly stretched out his hand as I greeted him and welcomed him to my home here in Athol. An enthusiastic group of 21 people filled both our living room and dining room. They came from Athol, Orange, and other North Quabbin towns, and they all had one thing in common: they all wanted to meet this young, energetic Democratic candidate for Governor. After about 15 or 20 minutes during which time Mayor Warren met and greeted a number of individuals, and during which time people enjoyed some refreshments, it was time to begin the business at hand—getting to know this fascinating man who is seeking the Corner Office in Boston.
“I want to take a few minutes with all of you and tell you why I made the decision to run for Governor two months ago, and what really drives me every single day to be out here engaging, listening. Three things in my background ... we live in very complicated political times right now. There are some real challenges right now in the State of Massachusetts. People trying to make a living. And this issue of economic inequality is real, and it is very apparent in many parts of our state, including this area. Three things in my background have driven me to this race: Number one, my nine years in the military in the naval reserves--one year in Iraq. Number two, my eight years as mayor of the City of Newton, managing and working for the 88,000 people of my home town, and Number 3, my family.
About 10 years ago, Setti's military deployment in Iraq was interrupted by the birth of his first child. Leaving his new daughter Abigail and his wife Tassy to return to “this war-torn country of Iraq” to finish his tour of duty was one of the toughest things he has ever had to do. He says that he took two things away from that deployment: “Number One, an appreciation for the men and women that do multiple deployments ... some of whom come back injured, some of whom don't come home at all. Second, was being on that base, embedded with people that had nothing in common with me, people of different races, religions, backgrounds, people of different political ideologies, people from different parts of the country—we could not afford NOT to work together, to get through that year, finish those missions, and come home. That stuck with him, and when he got home in the fall of 2008, he decided to run for mayor. He had never run for political office before. It was true, as well, however, that after graduating from Boston College and Suffolk University Law School, Setti had worked in the Clinton White House and in John Kerry's U.S. Senate office. In addition, in 2003, Setti worked for John Kerry's presidential campaign, where he met his wife Tassy on the campaign trail.
At the time he ran for mayor (knocking on 11,000 doors and winning by 469 votes), “Newton faced a 40 million dollar structural deficit ... we had one triple-A bond rating that was in danger of being downgraded, we had no rainy day fund or reserves, two of the worst conditioned school buildings in the state of Massachusetts ... In the eight years since I've been there, we eliminated the $40 million structural deficit, we've grown our rainy day fund which didn't exist to $20 million, we're building five new elementary schools in the next six years—two of which are done, one of which is being constructed now—we have two Triple A bond ratings, and at the same time we've been able to protect public safety and reinvest in roads and sidewalks, in infrastructure.”
He says that the same principles that he has relied on in Newton must also be used on Beacon Hill in State Government. “We must be open and honest and transparent ...about every dollar we're spending, where we're spending it, how we're spending it, and those budgets on Beacon Hill must be based on outcomes for people. Secondly, we can't be afraid to raise revenue on Beacon Hill; reinvest our money. As I started to move around the Commonwealth, it was very clear that people and communities are falling behind. This issue of economic inequality is real; people are working harder than they ever have just to make a living, just to keep afloat, some on fixed income, and they can't afford the cost of living”
Two proposals that Mayor Warren has made since he announced his candidacy for Governor speak to these problems. These proposals are a single-payer health care system in Massachusetts and free public college. He believes that we need to look at “every single tax dollar we are spending, every single tax exemption we are giving away to special interests” so we can “redirect them toward economic opportunity for people in this state. And we have to raise revenue by the fair share tax amendment--asking people who are making a million dollars or more a year to pay a little more in taxes so we can reinvest that in education and transportation ... make that generational investment, level the playing field for people so we can close that economic inequality gap in this state.” Finally, Mayor Warren believes that we have to reach out to and work with people who did not vote the way we did in the last election, reach out to them “in order to deal with issues of economic inequality, changing how we govern here in the state so that everyone has an opportunity, we have got to work together; we cannot afford not to.”
As Athol Democratic Town Committee Vice Chairman and the host of the afternoon's gathering, I was privileged to introduce Mayor Warren by asserting that “Setti Warren believes in the role of government in helping people ... whether they are in the Boston area, or to the West of 495—including those of us out here in Central and Western Massachusetts. And that's why it's very important that Mayor Warren has come out here to see us today—our here in OUR town, in Athol, in North Worcester County, in what we have affectionately come to refer to as the North Quabbin. He's here not only because he wants to tell you about his own background and his own ideas, but he wants to listen to YOU, to hear YOUR questions, to listen to YOUR ideas!”
It was significant, then, that the Mayor's 15 minute formal speech was followed by a 35-40 minute question and answer session in which members of the audience asked questions about the following subjects: raising revenue without hurting those on fixed incomes or those in the middle class, about the upcoming campaign for Governor, about health insurance and single-payer, reducing health care costs, the possibility of a more progressive state taxation system, transportation issues in our area, the voter fraud commission, and green energy accessibility.
J.R. Greene, Chairman of the Athol Democratic Town Committee commented that those who attended “appreciated that Newton Mayor Setti Warren came to Athol to make an early campaign appearance. Very few candidates for governor come to the North Quabbin region. Mr. Warren was frank with the voters present about his agenda, and seemed willing to listen to local concerns.”
Joannie MacPhee of Athol agreed: “I appreciate that he made the effort to come out here ...I liked his ideas and hope to see him again at some larger community events.”
Kate Fulton of Templeton indicated that “It was a pleasure meeting Mayor Setti Warren ...this visit proved him to be not only articulate on the issues facing Massachusetts but someone who can accomplish much when needed. He turned around Newton's economy... he will be a formidable candidate come November.”
Shirley and Joe Kaczmarczyk of Athol were also impressed with the Gubernatorial candidate:
"We found Mayor Warren to be very sharp and are interested in hearing more from him in the future."
John Ryan of New Salem also appreciated the facet that he was actually “here in Athol!” and that he “spoke directly to issues that are near to my heart.”
It is clear to me, and I believe to all the North Quabbin residents there, that Mayor Warren is running for governor because he cares about people—people just like all of us—people who have families who work hard to earn their part of the American dream. He cares about the young, about providing the very best education for a future that has a need for new and advanced skills. He cares about the middle class and providing good jobs and growth opportunities. He cares about the poor who have been left behind and about ensuring that they have a living wage that affords them a worthwhile life. He cares about the elderly and providing health care and opportunities which continue to give their lives meaning and dignity
Having listened to Setti Warren at June's Democratic Convention, having fully read and digested the information on his website and articles about him posted on the internet, and having heard him speak at my home as I looked in his eyes and gauged the character and integrity of the man, I am fully confident in saying that Setti Warren would be an excellent Governor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its people.
For more information on Setti Warren's background, his ideas to benefit the people of Massachusetts, his “Social Compact for a New Generation,” and his campaign visit Mayor Warren's website at www.settiwarren.com.
(Disclaimer: This Op-Ed was prepared by Mr. Grosky in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Mr. Grosky, and although he is Vice-Chair of the Athol Democratic Town Committee, these views do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of that committee or of any agency of the town of Athol).