Q&A: Newton, Mass. Mayor Setti Warren on What Pennsylvania Should Know About Mitt Romney
When does the mayor of a suburban Boston city go on a tour throughout Pennsylvania? Probably when he thinks one of the most important swing states in the country could use a refresher on his state’s former governor. Such is the case of Newton, Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren, a veteran of the Iraq War who witnessed Governor Mitt Romney’s policies firsthand as a resident of the town he now leads. As part of the mayoral push for President Obama and, in particular, his policies for urban America, Warren stopped in Philadelphia today to talk about some of the reasons he’s supporting the president in his re-election. Philadelphia Weekly caught up with him this morning in Center City to talk about the motivations behind his trip.
Why are you in Philadelphia today?
Well, as a mayor, a veteran of the Iraq War, someone who grew up, was born and raised in Newton, Massachusetts, I am very, very passionate about ensuring people know what President Obama’s record is, that he needs to be re-elected and that people know Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts. As someone who experienced it firsthand, I know we’re at a crossroads in this country and we need to make sure that President Obama is re-elected. And I need to make sure that people in communities all across Pennsylvania, in places similar to mine that face the same issues, that they know what Mitt Romney’s record is and what the president’s record is. That’s why I’m here.
There’s been a lot of stuff thrown around this election season regarding Mitt Romney—the Bain Capital stuff, his role as Massachusetts governor—what specifically do you think people in Pennsylvania need to know?
It’s simple. What hasn’t worked in the past isn’t going to work now. Mitt Romney made similar claims when he was running for governor of Massachusetts that he’s making now. He said, I’m a businessman who can turn the economy around and create jobs; I can make sure that fairness in our tax code alleviates the tax burden and reduce taxes. It’s very similar language, almost to the exact tee, that we’re hearing now.
People need to know what his failed record was. The fact is we were 47th in job creation under Mitt Romney, we lost close to 40,000 manufacturing jobs underneath his tenure and he’s taking the same approach in outsourcing that he did in the private sector and he used it in the public sector when he was governor. In fact, he outsourced state jobs. So this is a candidate who made promises. We saw those, and other proposed policies that were failures and actually put more of a burden on middle class families. People that are working to put food on the table, they need to make sure they have appropriate healthcare and get their kids educated. These same promises are being made now that were made in Massachusetts and they actually hurt middle class families. They hurt families, like folks in my community, and across the state of Massachusetts.
A lot of people are saying that things haven’t gotten better quick enough under Barack Obama.
Well, look, the president inherited one of the worst economies in generations. And we have seen 27 straight months of job growth in the private sector. Four-point three million jobs created. Right here in Pennsylvania, we’ve seen the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania go down to 7.4 percent and the national average is 8.2 percent. Thirteen thousand manufacturing jobs have been created in the last 2 years. Right here in Pennsylvania, right here in this state, we’re seeing the average monthly export percentage go up.
Clearly, the policies and this president, after being in and inheriting one of the worst economies, are working. And he’s trying to do more. He’s been prevented by the Congress from doing that. And look, Mitt Romney keeps making these promises: He’s going to cut everyone’s taxes, he’s going to create jobs. Mitt Romney, you look at his record in Massachusetts, when we talk about cutting taxes, he cut taxes for 278 of the wealthiest individuals in our state, but yet he increased the tax burden on the average citizen by $1,200…because what he did was, he piled on a bunch of fees on everything from marriage license fees to car registration fees that hurt the middle class.
President Obama is saying everyone has to pay their fair share, you know, millionaires should pay their fair share. People making over $250 thousand, they should pay their fair share. So, we have a very different vision, we have a very different record and we know that the failed policies that Mitt Romney has proposed, that have been implemented under previous administrations, don’t work. And we don’t want to move backward, we want to move forward with this administration. So we have to make sure, and this is something I feel strongly about, that people have to know, as someone who lived under the results of Governor Romney’s policies — and so did the people in my community — so that’s why I’m here, that’s why this is so important right now.
What specifically have President Obama’s policies done for your city?
Well, one of the things that was very important to our community is, we care about education. If it wasn’t for the American Recovery Act, we would have lost teachers in the classroom. That had a direct effect on the quality of education in my community and it had an effect on communities all across Massachusetts and in communities across Pennsylvania, that rely on making sure we have a good education and that classroom sizes that aren’t so large that kids can’t be educated. When Massachusetts had Mitt Romney, he cut education, which, in turn, created large class sizes. It’s very direct to how people’s lives are directed.
As a whole, it seems as though mayors, like our mayor, Michael Nutter, have been avid supporters of President Obama, while some legislators have been a bit more on the fence this year. Why do you think mayors, specifically, have been pushing more for this president and his policies than some of those in Washington?
I think mayors have a unique perspective on governing. We are a chief executive officer. We know that everything that happens at every level of government affects people’s lives — good or bad. We have to balance a budget every single year, we have to allocate limited resources and prioritize. And for a mayor, we want to make sure we have police officers on the street, we have firefighters, and teachers in the classroom. We have to make sure we can invest in our roads and bridges, that we have job creation that enables people to put food on the table, get their kids educated, money allocated for healthcare costs that makes things available that are affordable. These are things we know about. They affect us. Every day they affect our citizens, every single day, and I think that’s why you see so many mayors around the country so passionate about making sure this president gets re-elected.
And that’s why I’m here, because I know the record of Mitt Romney and I think about the two visions. There are communities in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and in Boston. They face the same issues every single day: They want to get their kids educated and put food on the table. People need to know the record of Mitt Romney and what his record would be as president.