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Newton Firefighters Endorse Setti Warren for Governor

February 13, 2018

BOSTON – The union representing Newton firefighters has endorsed former Newton Mayor Setti Warren’s bid for governor of Massachusetts.

Newton Firefighters Association President Marc Rizza praised Warren for the way he worked with the union and for his commitment to public safety.

“With Setti Warren sitting on the other side of the negotiating table, I also knew our members would get a fair shake, Rizza said. “Mayor Warren worked in good faith to come to two collective bargaining agreements that were fiscally responsible and that recognized the importance of our members’ work to keep the people of Newton safe.”

In 2013, Mayor Warren campaigned on behalf of a local ballot initiative to override Proposition 2.5 in order to pay for a new fire station and department headquarters. The override was approved by voters and the new facility opened last September.

“As soon as he took office, Mayor Warren understood that we had a fire station that was in terrible condition,” Rizza said. “He promised us he would get us a new station and he took his case to the voters to make sure it happened. Asking voters to raise taxes in the same year as your reelection isn’t something that many politicians would do, but Setti Warren did.”

Warren said he was honored to have the support of Newton’s firefighters.

“One of the best parts of being Mayor of Newton was getting to work with the men and women of the Newton Fire Department who are always willing to put their lives on the line to keep our city safe,” Warren said. “I thank them for their support, and I promise to stand up for firefighters in the Commonwealth as governor.”

The Newton Firefighters Association is Local 863 of the International Association of Firefighters.

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Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Call for Expansion of Gaming Commission Probe

February 7, 2018

Cite Cover-Up of Wynn’s Political Contributions to Support Governor Baker

Evidence that Wynn used the RGA to funnel campaign contributions to Baker, in direct violation of Massachusetts gaming law

BOSTON – In a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission today, all three Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates called for the Gaming Commission to investigate Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts’ financial support of Charlie Baker in his 2014 gubernatorial election, as part of their ongoing review of Wynn Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino license.

“Steve Wynn’s resignation as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts does not lessen the need for the Commission’s investigation into the company. The need for a thorough investigation is even greater today. Wynn retains his 12% ownership stake in the company, and the same staff and officers who may have abetted this ongoing coverup remain in charge,” reads the letter, signed by Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jay Gonzalez, Bob Massie, and Setti Warren.

“Given the undeniable evidence that Wynn Resorts successfully concealed information from the MGC in the past, we respectfully request that the Commission fully investigate another likely violation of Massachusetts gaming laws by Wynn Resorts and Steve Wynn: their $2 million campaign contribution to then-gubernatorial-candidate Charles D. Baker, which Wynn funneled through the Republican Governors Association (RGA).”

This past December, the Wall Street Journal reported that in summer 2014, top RGA staff discussed “helping Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker using money committed by casino magnate Steve Wynn, according to a person in the room at the time.” In October 2014, when Wynn Resorts was an applicant for a gaming license, the company gave $2 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), its largest-ever donation to the group. The same day, the RGA made a $1.1 million donation to support Baker. Eight days later, it gave $1.1 million more.

When asked by the Journal about Wynn Resorts’ $2 million donation, Phil Cox, who was executive director of the RGA at the time, said of Steve Wynn that he was “sure his interest in the casino was a factor” in the donation to the RGA.

The Massachusetts gaming law states that “No applicant for a gaming license…shall directly or indirectly, pay or contribute any money or thing of value to…any candidate for nomination or election to any public office in the commonwealth, including a municipal office; or any group, political party, committee or association organized in support of any such candidate or political party.”*

The letter also notes that “Governor Charles D. Baker and his political team have a history of concealing the source of political donations to his campaigns. In 2017, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) found two different political groups aligned with Baker guilty of illegally and intentionally concealing the true source of donations meant to influence two ballot questions in the 2016 election.”

“Both Wynn Resorts and Governor Charles D. Baker have a history of concealing financial information from the public and state authorities. There is also strong evidence that Steve Wynn used the RGA to funnel campaign contributions to Baker’s campaign, in direct violation of Massachusetts gaming law,” reads the letter. “Given these facts, we respectfully ask that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission begin an investigation into Wynn’s financial support of Baker, as part of your thorough look at Wynn Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino license.”

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*General Laws of Massachusetts, Part I, Title II, Chapter 23K, Section 46: “No applicant for a gaming license, nor any holding, intermediary or subsidiary company thereof, nor any officer, director, key gaming employee or principal employee of an applicant for a gaming license or of any holding, intermediary or subsidiary company thereof nor any person or agent on behalf of any such applicant, company or person, shall directly or indirectly, pay or contribute any money or thing of value to: (i) an individual who holds a municipal, county or state office; (ii) any candidate for nomination or election to any public office in the commonwealth, including a municipal office; or (iii) any group, political party, committee or association organized in support of any such candidate or political party.”

Full Story: Massachusetts Democratic Party

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Contest for Massachusetts Governor

February 5, 2018

Democratic candidate for Massachusetts Governor Setti Warren sits down with Sue to talk about the big stories in Massachusetts politics.

Full Story: NECN

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Can Setti Warren Unseat America’s Most Popular (R) Governor?

By Nathan Rubin
February 1, 2018

Setti Warren is no stranger to overcoming long odds. In 2010, he became the first-ever popularly elected African-American Mayor in Massachusetts, and in 2013 he won his re-election bid to remain as Mayor of Newton, Mass. And now, he’s running for Governor (against the most popular incumbent governor in the country).

Prior to entering political office, Warren served in the Clinton Administration in a number of offices, as well as the New England Regional FEMA Director, and then in higher education at Boston College.

A Navy veteran, husband, father, and Mayor, Setti Warren announced his candidacy to challenge Republican Governor Charlie Baker in May of 2017. Baker has been recently distancing himself from Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall of a tougher-than-normal re-election campaign.

Warren’s platform is one of a bold progressive. He is pro-single payer healthcare, for free public college (which includes fees, tuition, and other expenses), he’s in favor of a new “millionaire’s tax”, and he wants to create a high-speed rail project across Massachusetts.

Full Story: Millennial Politics 

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Gov. Charlie Baker’s Democratic opponents criticize decision to close Latino advisory commission meetings to press

By Shira Schoenberg
February 1, 2018

Gov. Charlie Baker’s Democratic opponents in the 2018 gubernatorial race all criticized the governor for closing meetings of his Latino advisory commission to the press.

“Baker’s team badly fumbled this,” said environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie. “Inviting the public and excluding the press is not defensible. That’s how Trump does business, not how we do it in Massachusetts.”

The Republican/MassLive.com reported that a commission to advise the governor on Latino affairs recently held listening sessions in Holyoke and Springfield, which were open to members of the public but closed to the press. The commission is exempt from the state’s open meeting laws. The governor’s office said the sessions were by invitation only and were not supposed to be listed as public events. But a state staffer mistakenly included them on public press releases and mayors in both Springfield and Holyoke advertised them as open.

The decision angered First Amendment advocates and some Western Massachusetts leaders. It also angered Baker’s potential rivals.

Former health care CEO and state budget chief Jay Gonzalez said the meetings should have been open to the public.

“The work of the commission is going to be better informed and people are going to be better informed about what its decision is and what it’s recommending to the governor if there’s open access to it,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the Latino advisory commission “is doing important work, and the press and public should have access to what they’re doing.”

Former Newton Mayor Setti Warren was the first of the three Democrats to respond to stories in The Republican detailing the exclusion. Warren said Wednesday, “It is disturbing, but not surprising that the governor banned reporters from a public meeting. Massachusetts has among the worst public records and transparency laws in the nation and Gov. Baker has repeatedly refused to subject his office to the same transparency standards that the rest of state government follow.”

Full Story: MassLive

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Tufts Democrats hosts Mass. gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren

By Austin Clementi
February 1, 2018

The Tufts Democrats held a lecture and question-and-answer session with Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and eighth-year Newton, Mass. mayor Setti Warren on Tuesday. The event took place as President Donald Trump gave the 2018 State of the Union Address.

Tufts Democrats President Misha Linnehan, a senior, said that the Q&A with Warren was the first part of a three-part 2018 Gubernatorial Series, which will feature each Democratic candidate up for nomination in Massachusetts: Warren, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie.

Linnehan explained that the general purpose of the Gubernatorial Series is to provide an opportunity for students to get to know the candidates in the Democratic primary race.

“We don’t endorse,” Linnehan said, “but we want to give the candidates a platform on campus. A lot of Tufts students are going to be voting … so we want to make sure we know who the candidates are.”

Jaya Khetarpal, the political director for Tufts Democrats, agreed that the event would be important for Tufts voters.

“We wanted to give students who are interested in the political process the opportunity to understand how a gubernatorial primary works, what issues are facing Massachusetts residents today, and how to get more involved in state politics,” Khetarpal, a junior, told the Daily in an email.

Linnehan also said that Tufts Democrats has hosted State of the Union parties in the past.

“We decided not to do that this year because I don’t think people are interested in watching it,” he said.

He added that the event was explicitly scheduled to counter the State of the Union.

“We wanted to give people an alternative to listen to somebody who’s inspiring, someone who has the opportunity to make progressive change happen and who is going to stand up to Trump, [while] Trump is giving the State of the Union,” Linnehan said.

Ben Kaminoff, the organization’s vice president, said the event gives democrats a means to advance a progressive vision.

“We thought it would be great to showcase Setti, a rising star in the Democratic party, in order to provide an alternative that highlighted a progressive vision for Massachusetts and the country,” Kaminoff, a senior, told the Daily in an email.

Warren’s comments reflected Tufts Democrats’ sentiment regarding Trump.

“I saw this as an opportunity to counter what President Trump has been doing,” Warren said in an interview with the Daily.

He also expressed enthusiasm about engaging with students through the Q&A.

“I was excited to come here and have a conversation with students with forward thinking ideas, energy [and] intellect and to really engage in how we can move our state forward,” Warren told the Daily.

In his lecture, Warren said that he draws political inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 sermon “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”.

“[King] challenged all of us to not embrace the powers that tell us we should accept the status quo,” Warren said.

The mayor also emphasized economic inequality, calling it “the defining issue of this generation.”

Calling for a rise in taxes for wealthy Americans, Warren said, “We know that economic inequality has risen in the last 40 years, because we’re not making these investments for people.”

After this short speech, Linnehan and Kaminoff asked Warren questions submitted by students on topics ranging from the opioid crisis to his plans for environmental action as governor.

Warren, an Iraq veteran, highlighted the importance of civic action and duty. He cited his parents, who “threw themselves into the civil rights movement,” emphasizing the need to “get out of your comfort zone.”

“That’s the way we’re going to resist Trump, and beyond Trump, that’s the way we’re going to get the Commonwealth to a better place,” Warren said.

Full Story: Tufts Daily

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Candidates speak out against status quo at Progressive Democrats of Lowell gathering

By Aaron Curtis
January 31, 2018

Criticisms of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and President Donald Trump — and a call to avoid the status quo — were recurring themes raised when a trio of Democratic candidates for state office spoke Monday night.

Jay Gonzalez, and his gubernatorial challenger for the Democratic nomination, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, as well as Joshua Zakim, challenging for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of the State, addressed a meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Lowell at Warp & Weft bar and restaurant.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned from this president … is this notion that our victories and our democracy and the strength of our communities — these fundamental American privileges — are not self-fulfilling,” said Gonzalez, the former budget chief for former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. “They need us. They need us to breathe life into them and to protect them.”

He referenced an abundance of energy focused on Washington.

“For good reason when we have a president that’s taking us back every single day,” Gonzalez said. “We need to be focused there and fight there, but we also need to recognize that the best we’re going to do in Washington right now is hold the line and we are moving backwards.”

Opportunity lays in progress through new leadership, he said.

“We have always been a leader in this state, but we are not leading right now,” Gonzalez said. “Not under Gov. Baker.”

Gonzalez said Baker has done little and is “being satisfied with sitting on the sidelines.

Gonzalez pointed to Baker ordering state police to detain immigrants, opposing Syrian refugees settling in Massachusetts, defending southern states flying Confederate flags in state capitals, “and he stayed silent on our transgender legislation only signed when forced to do so and doing so behind closed doors,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez called for a living wage, paid family leave, affordable housing, childcare and higher education. He said that will create an economy working for everyone, “not just those at the top.” He also stressed the need for dependable public transportation and a single-payer health-care system.

Warren has also proposed a government-backed single-payer universal health care system, along with a free tuition at all public colleges.

Warren criticized Baker for a lack of funding of public schools and a broken-down public transportation system.

He also addressed the opioid addiction crisis, criticizing the lack of treatment available to addicts.

“We need to invest in our fellow human being,” Warren said.

Warren, a third-generation combat veteran who served in the Iraq War, has served as Newton mayor for eight years. The city has eliminated a $40 million structural deficit, built a $22 million rainy-day fund, and are building five new schools during the next six years, and various infrastructure improvements.

Warren pointed out this was accomplished by not being afraid to raise revenue at the city level.

“I believe the same principles apply to the state budget,” Warren said.

Warren described “the defining issue of our time” as economic inequality — a sentiment met with applause from meeting attendees.

He called for asking “those who are doing really well in this economy to contribute more” to make proper investments in programs such as the opioid epidemic. He referenced the “Trump tax cut giveaway” to multi-national companies that has benefited those in the state.

“We’ve got to ask them to pay more so we can make that investment and ensure we level the playing field,” Warren said.

Zakim, a Boston city councilor, is offering a primary challenge to Secretary of State William Galvin.

Zakim sponsored the Boston Trust Act, preventing police from detaining people for Immigration Customs Enforcement officials.

He said it is difficult for residents to register to vote and find the time to vote.

“I wanted to say, this day in age when there’s a lot of cynicism in government … we need to do more to reduce these unnecessary barriers to increase participation,” Zakim said.

In addition to an open system, he discussed pursuing a secure election system and public records that are easily available.

Zakim praised Attorney General Maura Healey as an advocate and leader on these issues, adding a similar presence is needed in the secretary’s office.

“We have someone who is going to embrace a progressive agenda in the secretary’s office, someone who is going to continue to defend women’s health, to defend civil rights as I have done throughout my career .. I think it is too important at this point in time to be OK with the status quo.”

Full Story: Lowell Sun

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New tariff, charge seen as drain on state’s solar industry

By Andy Metzger
January 30, 2018

Solar panel installers rely on more than sunbeams, and two recent decisions by President Donald Trump and the state’s Department of Public Utilities have put the industry on defense as they hope to grow the renewable energy source in the state.

A complex system of incentives helps encourage solar installation, and that is being upended by a pair of recent decisions, according to solar advocates hoping to spur state lawmakers into action.

Vote Solar, an advocacy group, has appealed a recent DPU decision to allow Eversource to levy a new demand charge and monthly minimum reliability contribution on new solar customers. The group also wants state policymakers to give the industry assistance to offset new tariffs the president imposed on solar panel imports.

“For now there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Sean Garren, Northeast director for Vote Solar. He said, “It’s kind of like a death by 1,000 cuts right now.”

Nearly 19,000 workers in Massachusetts are employed by the solar industry, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s 2017 report.

The DPU-approved Eversource rates will likely drive up the cost by about $4,400 to $9,400 over the life of the solar installation, estimated Garren.

State lawmakers in 2016 specifically authorized utilities to levy a minimum monthly contribution charge for solar customers who sell electricity to the grid at above-market rates under a system known as net metering. The charges cannot “unreasonably inhibit” solar development, under the law.

The minimum charge that new Eversource solar customers will owe after it goes into effect Dec. 31 will create a “sustainable pathway to pay for infrastructure,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton told the News Service.

“I think if you look at where they came in and where they ended up, it was a very fair decision that makes sure that we have future investment as we transition into a more distributed energy generation – renewables – over time,” Beaton said.

Vote Solar contends that the charges DPU approved go beyond what was allowed under the 2016 law and Eversource never studied whether the new costs “would disincentivize the future development” of solar net metering.

Attorney General Maura Healey has also appealed Eversource’s new DPU-approved rates and asked the DPU to reconsider them.

“The DPU’s order would increase costs for Massachusetts electricity customers by tens of millions of dollars,” Healey said in a statement. “We are appealing because customers deserve to know why the DPU chose to enrich Eversource shareholders at the expense of electric ratepayers.”

The Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy will hold a hearing Tuesday afternoon to look into the Eversource rates.

“Last session, the legislature decided that solar net metering customers should pay their fair share to maintain the electric grid’s poles and wires,” Rep. Tom Golden and Sen. Michael Barrett, the committee’s co-chairmen, said in a joint statement. “But no one expected the utilities and DPU to take this minimum bill to such unprecedented lengths. There are mainstream alternatives. We want to know why the parties put these aside.”

The Baker administration also riled some critics last week by jointly deciding with the state’s utilities to select Northern Pass, a hydropower transmission line that is a joint effort of Eversource and Hydro-Quebec, in a major renewable energy procurement.

Two Democrats hoping to unseat Baker in November blasted the selection. Jay Gonzalez called it “yet another giveaway to the state’s largest and wealthiest utility company, which has poured tens of thousands of dollars into Baker’s campaign coffers,” and Setti Warren called for an investigation by the Ethics Commission. Greg Cunningham of the Conservation Law Foundation said the choice “reflects a process corrupted by the heavy hand of our region’s largest utility.”

A protectionist stance by the Trump administration toward solar panel imports has also set the industry on edge.

The president last week imposed additional duties on major importers of solar cells and modules on a four-year schedule with the new tariff starting at 30 percent and then declining in subsequent years.

“We’re protecting our panel makers because we do make panels here in the United States, and we should continue to make panels and hire more workers in the United States,” said Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council in a briefing with reporters, according to a transcript.

While larger companies anticipated the move and likely have inventory to weather the new tariffs, smaller operations will be harmed, Garren told the News Service. The World Trade Organization governs global trade agreements, including tariffs, and the Vote Solar official expects the body will overturn the solar tariffs, which he said are unlikely to spur U.S. manufacturing of the technology.

“We think it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to see much of a burst of local manufacturing,” said Garren, who said the tariff will drive up costs of solar installation, thereby driving down demand for new panels and harming the local industry.

In response to the recent decisions by the Trump administration and the DPU, Garren wants Bay State lawmakers to remove caps on solar net metering and invalidate DPU’s recent decision.

The group’s appeal was sent to the Supreme Judicial Court. Meanwhile lawmakers in the Senate are preparing to move an omnibus clean energy bill. Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco said senators plan to put together a greenhouse gas reduction bill by sometime next week.

Not everyone in the solar industry disagrees with the new tariff.

The CEO of SolarWorld Americas, which claims to be the “largest U.S. crystalline-silicon cell and panel producer for more than 42 years,” had sought relief from subsidized imports of solar panels from China and Taiwan.

“We are still reviewing these remedies, and are hopeful they will be enough to address the import surge and to rebuild solar manufacturing in the United States,” CEO Juergen Stein said in a statement. “We will work with the U.S. Government to implement these remedies, including future negotiations, in the strongest way possible to benefit solar manufacturing and its thousands of American workers to ensure that U.S. solar manufacturing is world-class competitive for the long term.”

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said Trump’s tariff was an attack on clean energy and vowed to fight it.

“Imposing a tax on solar panels is a direct attack on hundreds of thousands of American blue-collar workers,” Markey said in a statement. “President Trump’s decision isn’t about domestic manufacturing, it’s about manufacturing an excuse to attack clean energy on behalf of Big Oil. Solar energy continues to be a bright spot in our economy, eclipsing jobs and growth in coal. The solar industry was poised to create 100,000 U.S. jobs over the next three years. We created as many solar jobs in the United States in 2016 as exist in the entire coal mining industry today. Massachusetts has led the way in driving the solar revolution and in creating good-paying jobs in installation, supporting more than 7,000 jobs.”

The United States has enacted measures to protect other industries, such as shipbuilding, automotive manufacturing and energy.

Gov. Charlie Baker in September joined governors from Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina to oppose the idea of tariffs on solar components.

“The requested tariff could inflict a devastating blow on our states’ solar industries and lead to unprecedented job loss, at steep cost to our states’ economies,” the governors wrote.

Full Story: WCVB

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Gubernatorial Candidate Warren Talks Opioids In Pittsfield

By Andy McKeever
Monday, January 15, 2018

Gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren says five people a day are dying from opioid addiction.

“In 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency around opioid addiction. We were the first state in the country to do so. Since then, 6,000 people have died of opioid addiction in our state, 250,000 are living with addiction in our state right now and that number is growing. Over five people a day are dying from opioid addiction or are sick. This at a cost of $10 billion annually,” Warren said.

Those numbers are what started him on hosting a series of forums across the state. The former Newton mayor said he had first recognized the issues in his hometown and his campaign for governor has shown him that the issue of opioid addiction isn’t confined to pockets in Massachusetts, it is everywhere.

“We started to put some programming together in my own hometown, a path to bring people to treatment. When I announced for governor, I started moving around the commonwealth. I’ve been in over 150 communities. There was not one setting where someone didn’t raise their hand in a public setting or come to me privately and say ‘what are you going to do about opioids?'” Warren said.

The Democrat’s approach to dealing with it would be based on three keys: ridding the stigma surrounding it, bringing in “the best ideas possible,” and additional resources. He said the concept of addiction needs to be viewed more as a disease. He said there are not enough beds, stays, and time for detoxification. And it will take new ideas.

“This is going to take some new thinking, it is going to take new resources so that we have community-based, lifelong, wraparound services,” Warren said.

To get those ideas, he is asking for assistance from people across the state. About two dozen Berkshire residents joined him at Conte Community School on Sunday night for an open discussion on the issue.

“We need a major cultural shift in how we view addiction. Addiction is a lifelong disease, it is not a moral failure,” said Tess Lane, who introduced the gubernatorial candidate.

The group then dug into the weeds somewhat. A woman who works in the field told stories of how the bureaucracy of MassHealth often serves as a barrier for someone getting treatment. She said the paperwork involved can be tricky for someone looking to treat their addiction and becomes another challenge pushing them away from tackling the issue.

Meanwhile, she said there are insurance companies that will pay for visits but not medication. The medication can costs around $30 a day, making it difficult for those to stay with the program. At the same time, if they work too many hours, then they will no longer qualify for MassHealth and can’t afford the care. She asked that doctors and clinicians have more discretion with the medications they prescribed and MassHealth should cover those medications.

Warren said the confusion over insurances can be eased by moving to a single-payer system. That way the insurance offerings are focused on results.

“Our system needs to be based on health outcomes for people not based on an insurance company’s willingness to provide you access to services,” Warren said.

Another man said back in the 1970s, he got addicted while in the hospital. He had to be weaned off the painkillers. And just last year, without being asked a doctor prescribed him more – even though he didn’t want them. He ultimately filled the prescription and took the remainders to the prescription drop box at the Police Department.

Another resident added that doctors often do that because they have so little time with patients – treating the pain becomes easier. That resident added that acupuncture and other alternative pain treatments are available, but they are much more expensive and insurances won’t cover many of them.

On the other hand, another man said his partner lives with chronic pain and opioids are what helps her. But, she now struggles to get access to those medications. He said there is a “witch hunt” going on in which doctors are afraid to prescribe them for fear of lawsuits.

“There needs to be some real training around opioids and prescribing. There are people who need opioids for pain,” Warren responded, saying the “one size fits all approach” is wrong.

A nurse, meanwhile, said she has seen the occasions in which judgments were made automatically on someone seeking medication for pain.

“I have witnessed co-workers, and even myself cast judgment. They come in seeking pain medicine and that stigma and that judgment is there,” she said, adding that there needs to be education around the issues of chronic pain.

But, she also saw the other side of the issue. She said back in 2013 she remembers in nursing school seeing a video shown in class claiming that opioids were not addicting — so there needs to be a better understanding of what prescribing them truly means as well, she said.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Brien Center said getting enough qualified workers is posing a challenge to those in the recovery field. She is also looking for additional funds for such things as a peer recovery center, which Berkshire County lacks.

“We can’t fill positions for skilled providers of recovery care and we can’t pay them enough,” she said.

Warren agrees saying, “we’re going to have to make some investment in growing those numbers of clinically trained people to do the kind of work we are talking about.”

A North Adams woman suggest bringing more resources to the community, such as by providing information at places like libraries. It would be an attempt to reach people where they are at, rather than relying on them seeking out clinical care.

“Resources are scarce but they exist and a lot of times people don’t know where they are,” she said.

And to pay for those resources, Warren said he is supporting efforts to get that money from the wealthiest in the state.

“We are going to have to ask people who are doing really well in this state, making a lot of money, to contribute more so we can invest in people’s lives,” Warren said.

Warren is facing Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez in the Democratic primary for governor.

Full story: iBerkshires.com

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Could This Man Be Your Next Governor?

By Saul Elbein
January 10, 2018

On a warm Labor Day afternoon, Newton Mayor Setti Warren—youthful, good-looking, earnest—is delivering a speech to an audience of 200 people wearing pussyhats and “Make America Not Racist” shirts, all jammed together on a manicured Newton lawn. “This is a generational moment,” he shouts above the clinking of ice cubes. “I believe economic inequality is the greatest issue of our time.” Then he begins rattling off a list of policies that sound like a Massachusetts progressive’s letter to Santa: single-payer healthcare; bullet trains across the state; free, lifelong public college—all of it paid for by taxes on the rich. With each beat, the crowd seems to get more excited, more hopeful. When the speech is over, a young man with his hair in a bun walks up to Warren, eyes shining: “Man,” he gushes, “I fuckin’ love hearing you talk.”

Technically, Warren is here campaigning against two other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls—but his real target is Governor Charlie Baker. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Baker is unbeatable in 2018. He’s the most popular governor in the country, boasting a 70 percent approval rating. As the national GOP coalition fractures, Baker has played the likable Republican, quietly chastising Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell and splitting from the national party’s policies. For Baker, “Don’t make waves” has been an effective strategy in a divisive climate: The economy is good, the governor is charmingly inoffensive, and the state isn’t in crisis. While few people may love Baker, it seems that almost everyone feels pretty darn good about him. As of October, he’d already amassed more than $6.5 million in campaign funds.

The GOP, of course, calls the attempt to take down Baker a fool’s errand. “As Massachusetts Democrats draw from the same old tax-and-spend playbook,” MassGOP spokesman Terry MacCormack said via email, “Governor Baker has increased funding for substance misuse prevention and treatment by 50 percent, increased state education spending by $346 million to a historic $4.7 billion high, doubled tax relief for over 400,000 working families, and seen state-of-good-repair investments at the MBTA reach over $811 million for the first time ever, all without raising taxes. With over 120,000 new jobs, the most people working in decades, and household incomes on the rise across the board, Massachusetts’ communities and residents continue to grow and thrive under Governor Baker’s leadership.”

Conversely, the line from the three Democratic contenders is that Baker’s invulnerability and accomplishments have both been vastly exaggerated. “It’s easy to be popular when you don’t do anything,” Jay Gonzalez, who was secretary of administration and finance under former Governor Deval Patrick, said on WGBH. Bob Massie, a longtime activist and entrepreneur, pointed at the “deep structural problems”—primarily income inequality and the environment—that threaten to sunder the state while Baker pursues mild-mannered business as usual. But no one plays the Democratic heir apparent quite like Warren, who claims that the way to beat Baker is to offer a bold vision in opposition to the governor’s middle-of-the-road political harmony. He’s promising more and wants to go further than any of the other contenders.

In an era of cynicism and progressive despair, Warren inspires a response that can be surprising: optimism and enthusiasm that stand apart from the politics of anger, distrust, and loathing that has oozed from Washington all the way down to the local level. It’s almost intoxicating. And Warren is counting on this wild, fragile inspiration to sweep him all the way to Beacon Hill, which is perhaps proof that he might be the biggest optimist of all. Yet while the odds may seem improbable, he and his team—some of the best and brightest in Massachusetts politics—are betting their reputations and careers on the idea that Baker is not so invulnerable as he seems, that he can be beaten. In fact, they think they’ve figured out a way to do just that.

On a Monday this fall, I’m driving with Warren during a 12-hour stretch—which for him passes for a light day on the campaign trail. At 47, he exudes energy, seeming simultaneously relaxed and recharged by the rigors of campaigning. More than once, his aide Kevin Franck told me, he has stumbled bleary-eyed into Warren’s house early in the morning to find the mayor wide awake, having already worked out, showered, and dressed, and now eager to go through the day’s plans. Warren was literally born to be an officeholder, having grown up inside Massachusetts politics. His father, Joseph Warren, a respected African-American studies professor at Northeastern, was the assistant secretary of education under Michael Dukakis, who even as governor was famous for cadging rides from friends and aides. Which meant Warren spent much of his childhood in the back of his dad’s VW Rabbit, much like I’m riding with him now—and arguing.

“Dad would always ask, ‘What do you think?’” Warren says as the green hills of the Berkshires rise beside the car. “And he never gave us the answer—he always made us explain our positions. He’d be kinda harsh. ‘What do you mean? That won’t work.’” Eventually, Warren and his sister learned “to give a live, real answer about a person. And inevitably it would come back to our family story, our family values.”

To hear Warren tell it, this Socratic training honed his family’s story into a sort of civics lesson, starting with his parents’ experience rising from poverty and segregation into the middle class thanks to the New Deal and LBJ liberalism. His dad grew up in Harlem “on a block CBS called the worst block in America, full of drugs, gangs, violence,” Warren says, but enlisted in the Air Force, served in the Korean War, “and bought the house I live in now on the GI Bill.” Joseph Warren “always stressed: yes, we worked hard, but government plays a role for people willing to work hard and make a life.”

It’s not surprising, then, that Warren gravitated toward politics at a young age. He was class president at Newton North High School, student-body president at Boston College, and took jobs in the Clinton White House and with John Kerry’s presidential campaign. After 9/11 he joined the Navy Reserve and eventually served as an intelligence specialist in Iraq. That experience forms a crucial part of his stump speech: that though Americans of all stripes were on that base, “I realized that despite our differences, we had to work together.”

This is, of course, basically the Platonic ideal of a politician’s narrative, and he repeats it more or less verbatim at every stump speech. It plugs directly into Warren’s main message: He is running for governor, he says, in library basements and coffee shops and house parties, because this upward trajectory is something that no longer seems possible in America.

Warren believes his strongest résumé item is the work he’s done in Newton, where he’s served as mayor since 2010. “We need the government on Beacon Hill that I brought to City Hall,” he says. When he took office, Newton was running a $40 million deficit and Moody’s had downgraded the city’s credit rating (just like Standard & Poor’s did to the state’s rating in June). So Warren negotiated with all 17 public service unions, and they “worked together” to limit payroll growth. As reelection loomed in 2013, with the fiscal crisis still the foremost issue, Warren bet big: He put a referendum for a tax increase on the ballot, holding dozens of town-hall meetings to argue for the plan. It passed, and he won reelection—today, Newton is in the black, with about $20 million in a rainy-day fund and a Moody’s Aaa bond rating, meaning the city can get low interest rates to finance construction and infrastructure projects.

Warren often describes himself as a hands-on manager, and he set himself on a course to transform Newton and make development easier. He pitched a new housing strategy that called for fresh construction and moved to streamline the housing code and zoning laws to make it easier for new developments to go in. The plan resulted in two major building projects. This past September he endorsed Newton’s new charter, which would cut the council in half, impose term limits, and require all members to be elected citywide—a move, he says, that will help bring Newton the citywide solutions it needs.

But, as Warren himself admits on the campaign trail, Newton’s a microcosm of exactly the sort of dystopian economic inequality that afflicts America as a whole: The city has the second-highest number of millionaires in Massachusetts (after Boston), but 1 in 8 households make less than $25,000 per year. He uses this to talk about the importance of affordable housing and access to transit, and the importance of the Fair Share Amendment, or millionaires’ tax, to help pay for the Massachusetts he envisions.

While Warren touts his record in Newton as a guide for how he’d govern, it can read more like that of a pragmatic, pro-business centrist than a progressive fire-breather. As Newton housing prices have skyrocketed, with teardowns selling for $700,000, Warren has pushed for, at best, moderate reforms to the status quo. After an attempt to get an old firehouse transformed into a nine-unit affordable-housing development triggered a community backlash, for instance, Warren backed off. Instead, he has pushed to raise the rate of “affordable” units in new market-rate developments from 15 to 20 percent, with an additional 5 percent set aside for “workforce housing,” i.e., housing for the middle class—a solution that made some residents more worried about being priced out. His proudest accomplishment, in terms of development, was rehabbing a faded shopping center with a Starbucks and condos. A nice shopping center, to be sure, but it is hard to stand in the middle of a parking lot and believe you’re in the center of a New America.

When a public-access-TV interviewer in Pittsfield recently asked Warren who his hero was, he leaned in, smiling like no one had ever been considerate enough to ask that before, and said “JFK.” Who, he went on to explain, was a generational president, in a generational election, much like the one we’re heading into now. Warren likes this role: the leader challenging Americans to do more, to be more, to, as he says, “step up.” With a progressive wave on the horizon, Warren is offering a callback to the Great Society that could have been lifted from the Kennedys—a full-throated update for a classic vision of progressivism. In the face of the “Make America Great Again” history-halting impulse, Warren’s platform—and the ideals on which it is founded—retorts that we’re cribbing all the wrong bits from our past.

And yet for all of Warren’s talk about the ladder his father climbed into the middle class being broken, and what I take to be his sincere regret about the income divide in Newton, the fact remains: If people in his city can’t come up with about $1 million for a house, a lot of them are ultimately going to have to find a different place to live. He’s promising sweeping, progressive change if voters promote him to the governorship, but if Warren trades Newton City Hall for Beacon Hill, will he be able to follow through? For us to find out, he’s going to have to win.

Warren’s secret weapon against Baker isn’t a progressive agenda or a civic turnaround story or even his impeccable résumé. To knock off the man who is thought to be the most popular governor in the country, he’s counting on simple math. But while a WBUR poll in November has Warren leading the Democratic charge, he’s also more than 30 points behind Baker. So what does he know that we don’t?

“I’m not delusional,” John Walsh, Warren’s senior campaign adviser, told me. “We know that Baker has 70 percent approval ratings, and he’s going to have a $30 million war chest. That’s all significant. But we also think he’s going to need it.” Walsh lays out their calculation: Massachusetts Republicans have long made up for their low numbers with an animated, active base—they can reliably get out 1.1 million voters in an off-year election, which helps account for the fact that seven out of the past 10 governors have been Republicans (in addition to Ed King, an extremely conservative Democrat). “It’s a solid, consistent winning base,” Walsh said, “but it’s also a ceiling”—in a high-turnout election, those 1.1 million committed Republicans get swamped by lukewarm Democrats.

Warren likes to remind folks that Donald Trump got more votes here than Charlie Baker (1,083,069 versus 1,041,640), but was still soundly beaten by Hillary Clinton. His point: In a high-turnout election, that stable Republican base isn’t enough to hold down the governorship. And Democrats are anticipating 2018 will be a high-turnout election. Though it’s not a presidential year—as Warren explained to a group of older women at a house party in Northampton, grilling him about his ability to win—the left is fired up after Trump’s election, and a number of red-meat progressive issues are on the ballot (like a referendum weighing in on Massachusetts’ transgender antidiscrimination bill). Then there is the upcoming run of Senator Elizabeth Warren (no relation), whom Setti Warren thinks will turn out the base. “It’ll be Warren and Warren,” he told the women, laughing.

Also consider, Walsh says, the two liberal Democrats who have become governor in the past 40 years, Dukakis and Patrick: They touted progressive messages, mixed with bare-knuckled, on-the-ground organizing, a style that Warren is built for. He door-knocks with the best of them. In his campaign for mayor he claimed to have knocked on 11,000. He held those dozens of town halls in the lead-up to his proposal to increase Newton’s taxes. He promises to parlay that experience into the largest grassroots movement Massachusetts has ever seen.

Finally, Baker’s position might be more tenuous than his imposing popularity numbers suggest. Baker, Walsh points out, won in 2014 by only 18 votes per precinct, and he’s being attacked on his right by the Massachusetts Tea Party, which gives him little room to maneuver. Walsh thinks that leaves the Warren campaign with an easy, winning message: that where Warren pushes investment in the future, Baker has hidden in his office, running up a chronic deficit so big that Standard & Poor’s recently downgraded Massachusetts’ bond rating (which had been upgraded under Governor Patrick).

It’s a long shot, said Barney Frank, the former longtime Massachusetts Democratic congressman. “But I think Setti has as good a shot as any Democrat.” One problem, Frank points out, is that there’s a tendency in Massachusetts for people to see Democratic gubernatorial candidates as corrupt, patronage-oriented creatures of the political machine. Warren, though, like so many successful Democrats of the modern era, is painting himself as a nonconformist in the same way Dukakis—who endorsed Warren in December—was a conspicuous opposition leader, and Deval Patrick was a political outsider. It’s a strategy that Warren has used before, Frank said—in his run for mayor, Warren defeated state Representative Ruth Balser, whose political loyalty had forced her to stay close to former Speaker Sal DiMasi, a powerful liberal who was criminally indicted shortly thereafter. By breaking ranks with the liberal establishment, Frank said, “Setti was able to beat her.” Now he is running as a triangulator between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, carefully effusive in his praise for both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

But in proposing to knit back together the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party, Warren is betting that old-line liberalism, updated for the 21st century, is still popular. One question will be whether the old dreams still motivate, a front his Democratic opponents will challenge him on in the coming primaries. “Setti is extremely well intentioned,” says Bob Massie, one of Warren’s Democratic challengers. “But he is a city manager, and what we need is transformational change. The systems we developed over the last century aren’t providing what we need anymore. Instead of, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make the old thing come back’—because it won’t—we need to rack our brains and find something new.”

Warren will also be facing a hurt, disaffected Democratic base. At a rally in Pittsfield, near the end of my time with Warren, a woman named Cheryl Rose told him that his patter sounded good, but “all the candidates say the same thing.” Barack Obama, she said, had promised to fight for them, too, and look how that had gone. How did they know he would really stand up to special interests? Warren considered her gravely. “I understand the skepticism,” he said, “after all these decades of Massachusetts barely scraping by, not making investments—and Democrats going along with it. If I’m elected, I’m going to need you to hold me, to hold your legislators, accountable, make sure I’m doing my job.” It was a far cry from the optimism that ended the Newton rally. As Rose left the public library where the meeting was being held, I ran after her. “What did you think about that answer?” I asked. “Do you buy it?” She stopped. She looked stricken. She touched her hair and then spoke: “I’d really like to.”

Full Story: Boston Magazine

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