Since launching his campaign for Governor, in pursuit of his long standing quest for higher office, Mayor Setti Warren has spent nearly every day working hard outside of Newton promoting himself. Rather than engage Newton’s residents, last week alone, he spent Thursday in New Bedford, Friday in Lynn, and Saturday in Pittsfield and Springfield. If his Facebook posts are any indication of intent, it is clear that Mayor Warren plans to spend increasingly more time outside of Newton promoting himself and less time serving the people of Newton.
The problem with Mayor Warren’s blatant abdication of his responsibilities is twofold. First, there is a strong argument that he is violating Newton’s Charter, which reads: “The mayor shall devote full time to the office and shall not hold any other elective public office, nor actively engage in any other business, occupation or profession during the term of office as mayor.” Given the clear mandate that a sitting Mayor must be fully committed to Newton, shouldn’t it follow that a sitting Mayor should not be allowed to run the largest grassroots campaign in Massachusetts’s history?
But Mayor Warren isn’t only in violation of Newton’s Charter. He is also in violation of his own word. When he was running for Mayor, Candidate Warren made a promise to voters that he would not pursue higher office while serving as Mayor. Rather than be a man of his word, he will spend a reprehensible twelve months as Mayor pursuing his personal political ambition of higher office. If he is willing to violate his own promise so egregiously, why should we take him at his word that Newton will remain his first priority over the next seven months?
In terms of leadership, because Newton is struggling with serious problems that require a fully committed Mayor, Mayor Warren’s blatant abdication of his responsibilities is an insult to those who elected him to lead. For example, Newton recently saw an unconscionable 142% growth in opioid related deaths. Newton’s school system faces a significant budget deficit. And the City faces a tremendous $700+ million Other Than Pension Post-Retirement Employee Benefits (OPEB) liability. The list of reasons why Newton needs fully committed leadership could go on for pages.
Mayor Warren needs to be held accountable for his actions as he is setting a bad example for Newton. Rather than call on him to resign, however, I propose a better idea – we should challenge him to put his money where his mouth is. He claims that he is running for Governor to tackle economic inequality. To emphasize how he has done so in Newton, his primary point of emphasis is the Mayor’s Summer Internship Program. The program is well intentioned as it offers a handful of teenagers an opportunity to intern with local businesses. However, it does not pay a salary nor provide transportation, both of which are universally accepted prerequisites to successfully combating economic inequality.
My challenge to Mayor Warren is simple: Do the right thing and invest $27,125 of your Mayoral salary – money which you have not earned from that time you pushed for your own salary increase of $27,125 – into the creation of a paid summer jobs program that is specifically designed for kids living in Newton’s public housing. By investing the portion of your salary increase that you have not earned by virtue of spending twelve months running for higher office, we could create a summer jobs program that would pay a sizable number of Newton’s most disadvantaged kids $15/hour. Over the course of the summer, this would afford our most disadvantaged youth the opportunity to earn enough money to purchase the necessities that poor kids often need provide themselves – food, clothing, school fees, and more. If the goal is to tackle economic inequality in Newton, this is how you do it.
Mayor Warren won’t listen to me alone, which is why a petition will soon be circulated that will require the City Council to debate the blatant abdication of his responsibilities. For all his talk about moral obligations and economic inequality, it is my hope that Mayor Warren sees the value of investing the unearned portion of his salary increase directly back into Newton’s most disadvantaged youth. With your support, I believe that we as a community can create the change that we want to see.
Setti Warren claims that he wants to be Governor to tackle economic inequality. He now has an opportunity – and an obligation – to lead by example in Newton.