Yesterday I wrote a piece expressing my disappointment with Setti Warren’s announcement that he would veto the long-awaited criminal justice omnibus bill if he were governor. I provided background information from a number of sources which attempted to contextualize Warren’s positions and evolution on others. I received an email from Warren today asking me to clarify a factual error and explaining his positions in greater detail. Thankfully, the candidate is more progressive than I characterized him, and for that I owe him a prompt apology.
However, I do think Mayor Warren owes — not just voters — but those most at risk from the criminal “justice” system a better explanation than “not abandoning principles” for throwing out a bill with so much good in it. I am firmly in favor of taking firm positions on firm principles — but not when it hurts someone. Would a reasonable person vote for Trump’s Mexican wall to save the “Dreamers?” Or hold the line opposing the wall?
Yes, the omnibus bill throws in new mandatory minimums for fentanyl as a sop to the DA’s who previously opposed reforms. It also gets rid of many others. But I would have liked to hear from Mr. Warren — and thereby get a better sense of his judgment — how precisely these limited minimums would have caused more harm than all the good built into the bill. I don’t think he’s done that yet.
Here is Setti Warren’s reply to my post in its entirety:
I hope all is well. I just read your email entitled “Setti Warren’s bad call.” I respect your thoughtful and well cited reaction to my announcement that I would veto the Criminal Justice Reform bill if I was governor. I feel that I must respond, however, in order to explain the principles which guide my decision.
I have seen the horrible damage that mandatory minimums have done to communities of color. My father Joe fought in the early days of the civil rights movement, sitting at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina to try and desegregate the city. When he came up north for graduate school, he devoted his life to working with young people in the black community in Boston. These are communities that have been devastated by mass incarceration, and the work my dad did paled in comparison to the damage that was done by our criminal justice laws.
As Mayor of Newton, I worked with twenty-four city councilors. We had to come to positive, productive compromises every single day to take on the challenges facing our city. In my eight years leading the city, we turned around the budget, invested in better roads and new schools, and implemented innovative programs like Solar Share, which invested in solar and reduced Newton’s municipal carbon footprint by 50% while passing along the savings to nine hundred of our lowest income residents. When it comes to governance, I know what good compromise looks like.
I also learned, however, to never abandon my principles. This criminal justice reform bill is a matter of principles. Because of systemic racism, mandatory minimum laws are used like cudgels in some communities while they sit unused in others. I can never support them—and I will never support a bill that includes them. This is how I will govern.
That being said, I support nearly every other reform being offered in this bill. Mandatory minimums were a compromise put in the bill so that Charlie Baker will sign it. As governor, I hope that the legislature will present me with progressive criminal justice reform untainted by new mandatory minimums. That is a bill that I will happily sign.
I hope that you will share my response with your readers. I also hope that you will take a moment to watch this video further detailing my decision.
P.S. I wish to correct a factual error at the end of your letter regarding my endorsement of Our Revolution’s “People’s Platform.” In my letter to ORMA seeking their endorsement, I specifically addressed each of these issues. It appears the link you included in your email does not have this language. I hope this information helps you characterize my views correctly moving forward.
Of the eight specific federal legislative proposals listed, I support without reservation the first five (Single Payer Healthcare, Free Public College, $15 Minimum Wage and a Union, Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance and Automatic Voter Registration) and will work to implement each of these in Massachusetts as governor.
The Justice is Not For Sale Act includes a range of federal issues which I have not had the time to fully research to be able to endorse the federal elements. I would, however unequivocally oppose the privatization of prisons and would veto any effort to introduce private state prisons by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I also support parole as an appropriate criminal justice tool.
The Inclusive Prosperity Act is a federal proposal which does not have a Massachusetts impact. I do not have enough information to offer support for the federal proposal.
The Keep It In The Ground Act deals with federal offshore drilling, which would not be within the purview of the Governor of Massachusetts. What is related and would be decidedly in my wheelhouse as governor is the unnecessary expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure within Massachusetts. I strongly oppose this.