Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Insight: Setti Warren and the Brown-out facing the Unemployed...

 **UPDATE** Editor's Note: In response to a comment, we wanted to add a clarification on the post itself.  The comparison between Scott Brown's and Setti Warren's service is NOT intended to cast aspersions on National Guard service.  There is a difference between touting one's own service retrospectively as opposed to prospectively securing that service so as to retrospectively tout it.  The comparison below is intended to suggest the Mass GOP perceives Warren as a threat, not speak to an individual's service or how that service qualifies a candidate.

Mayor Warren with Rexene Picard (WMassP&I)
Yesterday in Springfield Newton Mayor and candidate for the Democratic nomination in next year's Senate race toured Futureworks, the jobs training and labor exchange based at the STCC Technology Park opposite the college  Rexene Picard, the organization's executive director showed the mayor around the facility and explained the importance of funds form the Workforce Enhancement Act, especially at a time when so many are looking for jobs.

Warren met with both job seekers and the people whose job it is to take the less out of the jobless.  Futureworks programs cater to a wide range of people from all skill levels, education and age group.  Picard noted that the organization often helps people, who are looking for work for the first time in twenty years, navigate the more complex and often electronic aspects of modern recruiting.

WMassP&I spoke with Mayor Warren at the conclusion of his tour about a range of subjects affecting both the Springfield area and the commonwealth at large.  On a local level, Warren was asked about the Environmental Protection Agency and how it relates to the controversial biomass plant proposed for Page Boulevard in Springfield.  Specifically, the question related to Sen. Scott Brown's vote to gut the EPA's rule-making ability, just as the agency began a 3 year evaluation on the impact of biomass plants and Springfield was locked in a high-stakes fight with a developer over the same issue.

The Newton mayor said he was "deeply concerned" about Brown's positions on the environment, particularly his vote on the EPA and the senator's questioning of the science of global climate change.  Warren encouraged a movement toward renewable energy, but remained cautious about biomass.  Energy produced by burning dead plant matter needs "deeper study," he said.  Fundamentally for Warren, the concern is that the health and environmental effects of these plants were unknown.  When asked, Warren did say he had met many residents of Western Massachusetts who also expressed concerns about the unknowns of biomass plants' health and ecological impact.

The Old Seal of FEMA (wikipedia)
Under President Bill Clinton, Setti Warren was the New England Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  As a result Warren was asked about the fiscal impact that reckless budget cutting could do to imperil federal disaster relief from which Springfield and its neighbors have recently benefited.  Warren, who has visited with tornado victims at the MassMutual Center, took a moment to point out that FEMA, under Pres. Barack Obama's leadership, has vastly improved itself since Hurricane Katrina.  The president "values this agency," Warren said adding that the Bush administration had "dismantled" the work of James Lee Witt, the Agency Director under whom Warren served.  As a result, the current talk in Washington over the debt and deficit has thus far been "irresponsible." It is neither focused on investing  in our workforce nor maintaining adequate preparedness for disasters to the benefit, Warren suggests, of tax cuts for the wealthy.  Warren was unequivocal, "We need to invest in recovery."

WMassP&I mentioned that Senator Brown was in Springfield recently.  At Brown's appearance, this blog posed a question to Brown as to whether he was telling his colleagues, namely the anti-government ones, about the good work being done in Springfield by government.  Brown deflected and did not answer.  So a similar question was posed to Warren.  As Senator, would Warren go to Washington and inform his colleagues there about the good work public service and servants are doing in Massachusetts in order to counter the anti-government sentiment prevailing there?  Warren spoke more broadly.  Yes, he would bring those positive observations back to Washington, but he would also be telling his colleagues about what his constituents are most concerned about.  Having held 24 town hall meetings across his own city of Newton, Warren says that his constituents are more interested in jobs and how budget cuts will affect them, not vapid demagoguery about government.

Sitting in Picard's office, Warren made numerous references to Futureworks.  Specifically, he noted that the organization received money for job training, money that Scott Brown voted to cut in the Senate.  Brown also voted against renewing a decades old program, Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, which has been in times past secured wide bipartisan support.  "I visited with folks looking for work," Warren said.  This was where the focus should be right now, Warren continued.

Newton City Hall (Wikipedia)
Warren returned to cuts to funding for business innovation and workforce development.  Building the workforce will get the unemployment rate and the deficit down, the mayor explained.  "I make critical decision as to where budgets go," he said referring to his budget preparation responsibilities as mayor under state law.  However, the budget priorities of Republicans are just not in sync with what his constituents are telling him.  He rattled off a list of the priorities he hears Bay Staters talking about.  "I believe health care is a right and not a privilege;" he supported Medicare negotiations on drug prices; cuts to antiquated weapons systems that put a drain on the budget; a tax code that is fair and does not reward the top 2% percent and large corporations at the expense of the middle class and small business.  "I'm an Iraq War veteran, I care about our nation's security," Warren added, but he said the waste in the Department of Defense was not keeping America any safer.  Not coincidentally, many of these articles of political faith not only represent his Warren's view, but also could have positive implications for our nation's fiscal situations.

It was clear that throughout the interview, that Setti Warren is putting his focus on jobs and on meeting with constituents to bring better representation to Washington.  There was clearly a pattern here between noting Brown's support for a filibuster of a traditionally bipartisan bill and the senator's notable lack of constituent access.  While these messages are not necessarily unique to Warren among Democrats, the Brown camp and the Massachusetts GOP seem to be taking the Newton mayor seriously.  Ethics complaints against Warren have been tied to Brown supporters.  Earlier in the year Brown  let slip  that he was going over to Afghanistan to "do some missions."  This unorthodox way for Brown to meet his two week training National Guard obligations was revealed, somewhat haphazardly, when it became clear Warren would be a candidate for Senate.  By comparison, Setti Warren served a more traditional tour in Iraq with Naval Intelligence as a member of the Navy Reserve.


Anonymous said...

There are other candidates in the race, it is not a tit for tat over National Guard service or a guards man compitition. Both men are cashing in with the credential while neither one is all that impressive.

Matt S. said...


It is not meant to be tit for tat. The point is not that reserve is better than the national guard. Any service is appreciated. But that one fulfilled a real tour and the other is using a standard training period in a way that appears to be uncommon is worthy of note. I will add an editor's note to reflect that.

Also, I know that there are other candidates and have mentioned them in past posts. This was, essentially an interview with Warren alone. That said there was a portion of the interview I did not include (but will) that mentions the existence of the other candidate if not an exhaustive list. This neglect was my error and it will be corrected later today.

Matt S. said...

Anon: I should also reiterate that mentioning each man's service is not intended to actually boost one candidate or another, but highlight the threat the Brown camp may see in Warren as the editor's note mentions.

Anonymous said...

Matt, There was noting wrong with your article. I like how you clearified with the retrospective/prospective comment though. If you go to the John Zelazo (for United States Senate)web site and read the two laitest blog posts, you will see that there is a lot going on with the issues you touch on. The one thing I would have added to your article in fairness is that the contribution of $100 by Haywood to Setti Warren which was returned after the city contract award was questioned... of course the Warren campaign says now that it just does standard house cleaning at the close of a reporting quarter. Still, Haywood was an honorary campaign chair during Warren's run for Mayor and probably made some donations, information I have not seen yet. Once again, I thought your article was very professional. Media standards are not always consistant, I think that this is the first time your blog has come to my attention. John Zelazo, the Western Massachusetts candidate.