According to a recent report entitled “Making Ends Meet in Newton,” it is 15 percent more expensive to live in Newton than in a number of its surrounding towns in the Boston area. This is one of several reasons that the office of Newton Mayor Setti Warren, BC ’93, is teaming up with Boston College faculty to promote Warren’s “Economic Growth for All” Initiative, which is aimed at combating economic inequality in Newton.
At a press conference in the Yawkey Center’s Murray Room on Oct. 6, Warren, along with Health and Human Services Commissioner Deborah Youngblood, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, announced the new partnership.
“The issue of our time, I believe, is the issue of income inequality,” Warren said. “The idea that an individual or a family could work hard, take care of themselves, contribute to a community, be self-sufficient, and pass that onto their children may not be possible for future generations in this city.”
For Warren, such an issue hits close to home. His parents came from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx, giving him first-hand experience with economic inequality. He referred to his own economic status when talking about creating plans for his initiative.
“My parents purchased the home where I grew up with my dad’s GI bill benefits here in Newton,” Warren said. “I live in that house right now. I know that my wife and I would not be able to afford to purchase the home right now. This is personal for me.”
The partnership will create a new range of opportunities for BC professors and faculty to work with officials from Newton on research and policy projects relating to economic disparity in the local community.
“There is a real obligation to think seriously about how we contribute to the common good in our own research, teaching, and service.”
– David Quigley, Provost and Dean of Faculties
Warren described three major areas that the initiative will focus on: investing in human capital so that residents can become self-sufficient, creating more affordable housing and transportation throughout the city, and continuing to grow the “innovation economy” of Newton by seeking to create higher-paying jobs closer to the suburbs.
Warren, who spoke highly of BC, highlighted the University’s capability to help further the initiative’s goals.
“This University has the leading thinkers around all three of these issues, grounded in science, grounded in research,” Warren said. “You have the ability to work with a city like Newton to ensure that we’re putting the right interventions in place, growing the programs we have in place already, but then looking at creating new, bold imaginative programs for our citizens here in Newton.”
The University has already begun to contribute to the initiative, with Youngblood and her staff partnering with the Center for Retirement Research at BC to create a cost-of-living index for Newton. Youngblood hailed this project as an example of what the local government can achieve when working in collaboration with the University.
Leahy spoke about the importance of BC’s engagement with its local community, and hailed the newfound partnership as an exemplarily relationship.
“I think there are great possibilities for this partnership to enhance not only what goes on in Newton,” Leahy said. “But I think there will be lessons for other communities in the United States about how there are ways in which the economic and health well-being of individual citizens can be enhanced by partnerships with institutions of higher education and a caring, dedicated city government.”
As a graduate of BC, where he was Undergraduate Government president, Warren recognized that the goal of combating economic inequality aligned directly with the Jesuit value of working as men and women for others. Quigley emphasized this point, and described the correlation between the partnership and the University’s mission of furthering the common good.
“We’re really trying to push toward research and scholarship as an institutional commitment that has an orientation toward the common good,” Quigley said. “Thinking here in 2016, in metro Boston, in larger U.S. society, there is a real obligation to think seriously about how we contribute to the common good in our own research, teaching, and service, and I think this partnership opens up some rich possibilities for us.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Setti Warren / Creative Commons