Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Inaugural Address
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Inaugural Address
January 1, 2011
Well thank you and good afternoon to all of you. First let me begin by thanking the people of the State of New York for this tremendous honor, I am humbled to be their public servant and I will honor their trust and their confidence every day. Thank you.
Let’s all thank Chief Judge Lippman for a great job, thank you very much Chief Judge. Thanks to Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, he’s going to be the second best Lieutenant Governor in the history of the State of New York. Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and his family, Barbara. To all of my colleagues, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli -- Congratulations Tom DiNapoli on a great job. Our new Attorney General, Eric Schniederman, congratulations. Bill Clinton once said the Attorney General’s job was the best job he ever had and he had a number of jobs. Congratulations Eric Schneiderman.
To Senator Dean Skelos, thank you very much for being with us today. Senator Skelos, thank you. Let’s give him a round of applause. Senator Sampson, thank you for being with us, John. Majority Leader Canestrari, thank you very much for being here. Regards to Speaker Silver, who couldn’t be with us today because of a religious observance. And to Minority Leader Brian Kolb, thank you very much for being with us. Thank you. Special thank you to Jerry Jennings, didn’t he do a great job as a master of ceremonies. A really great mayor, Jerry Jennings.
To a man who governed this state at what will go down as one of the most difficult periods of time in the history of this state, I believe that. He became captain of the ship just when the ship was heading into a storm. And he warned us about the storm and he brought us through the storm. He’s done twenty-five years of public service. He’s a personal friend of mine and to many people in this room, let’s give a big round of applause to Governor David Paterson. Thank you Governor David Paterson. Stand up Governor David Paterson.
He has been introduced, but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and point out and thank the 52nd Governor of the State of New York, one of the greatest governors in the history of the state, a man who has taught us all very much in this room and who has taught me everything I know, Governor Mario Cuomo and First Lady Matilda Cuomo.
To all of my family -- I have so many family members here today if I start to point them out I’ll miss someone and there’ll be a whole family disturbance come the next holiday time. But to Sandy and my three girls -- One quick story about the three girls I was reminded of this morning. Election day, we were going to go down to election night headquarters, and it looks good, and it looks like we may win, and I want them to feel like they’re part of this victory. So I said to them, you know, I don’t think I could have done this without you. And Cara and Mariah, the older two, said, “That’s nice Dad, but it’s not true. You did it on your own. We respect you for saying that, but it’s not true, but it’s nice.” The little one, Michaela, says, “Well hold on a second. First, I did a lot more events with Dad because the other two were at school. And I did all those introductions. And I really think I went a long way to soften his image.” (Laughter) I’m not that soft. So to the co-Governor, thank you.
And thank all of you. Thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for being here, for helping me be here, for all the work. The people who worked in the Attorney General’s Office, I believe the best talented staff ever assembled in the Attorney General’s Office. You did magnificent work for the public. Thank you all.
This is an austere setting. And it should be, in my opinion. No grand celebrations. There’s a lot of disappointment vis-à-vis the government. There’s a lot of suffering from the economy. And I don’t think a grand ceremony or a lavish ceremony would be appropriate.
In my administration, this is going to be the way it works. When we actually do something and perform and help the people of the State of New York and we make government function, then we are going to have a big party and celebrate, and not before.
During this campaign, Bob and I had the opportunity visit all sixty-two counties once again. And doing it in a relatively compressed period of time, it’s such a beautiful reminder of the assets that we have in this state. From the beautiful falls of Niagara to the powerful waves of Montauk, we have it all and everything in between. We really have every asset that man or God could be expected to give to a place.
That is the State of New York and I saw that up close and personal. I also saw up close and personal the suffering that our people are facing and the devastating toll that this economy has taken. And it cannot be underestimated.
Young people all across upstate New York who are leaving because they believe there is no economic future left. The taxpayers on Long Island who are imprisoned in their homes because they can’t afford to pay the property taxes anymore, but the value of the home has dropped so low that they can’t afford to sell the house because they can’t pay off the mortgage. The laid-off construction worker Brooklyn who can’t find a job and is fretting about what he’s going to do to feed his family when the unemployment insurance runs out.
This, my friends, cannot be underestimated. And to make it actually worse, people then feel betrayed by their government. That they had problems, they had needs, they looked to the government, and they assume the government was going to be there to help them because that’s what government was supposed to be all about. And they look to the government and instead they find a government that is part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.
People all across the state, when you mention state government, literally shaking their heads. Worse than “no confidence;” what they’re saying is, “no trust.” The words “government in Albany” have become a national punch line. And the joke is on us. Too often government responds to the whispers of the lobbyists before the cries of the people. Our people feel abandoned by government, betrayed and isolated, and they are right.
New York faces a deficit, a deficit that we talk about all day long: the budget deficit, the budget deficit. But it’s actually worse. The state faces a budget deficit and a competence deficit and an integrity deficit and a trust deficit. And those are the obstacles we really face.
And the state is at a crossroads. I believe the decisions we make, the decisions my colleagues make, this year will define the trajectory of this state for years to come. The decisions we make today will shape the state we leave our children tomorrow.
As governor, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do, because I told you what I’m going to do. I told the people all across this state: this was a different kind of campaign. Bob and I put together a very specific agenda. And we said we wanted to win not just with a personal mandate -- this was not about electing Andrew Cuomo and Bob Duffy -- this was electing a mandate for change that the people of this state endorsed overwhelmingly all across this state.
We have a very specific mandate for change that the people want. And our expectation is that the politicians and the elected officials of people are now going to do what the people voted for and what the people need.
It starts with jobs, jobs, jobs, getting the economy running once again. Getting the economy running all across this great state.
Number two is going to be cleaning up Albany and restoring trust because Bob is right, you have nothing without trust. Any relationship is only as good as the level of trust and we have lost the trust. And we are not going to get it back until we clean up Albany and there’s real transparency and real disclosure and real accountability and real ethics and real ethics enforcement. That’s what the people have voted for; that’s what the people deserve.
We have to pass a property tax cap in the State of New York because working families can’t afford to pay the ever-increasing tax burden. Nothing is going up in their lives. Their income isn’t going up, their bank account isn’t going up, their savings aren’t going up. They can’t afford never-ending tax increases in the State of New York and this state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation. We have to send that signal this session by passing a property tax cap.
And my friends, we must rightsize the state government for today. The state government has grown too large, we can’t afford it, the number of local governments has grown too large, and that we’re going to have to reduce and consolidate.
We know what needs to be done. We have known, in truth, what needs to be done for many, many years. What we have to do this time is we actually have to do it, we actually have to deliver for the people of the State of New York.
In a few days in the State of the State, I will be providing and presenting an emergency financial reinvention plan, which will lay out all the specifics, a blueprint for change, a blueprint for action.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not underestimating the severity or difficulty of the task that we are about to undertake. My gray hairs are multiplying just thinking about what we have to do.
We will be taking on powerful interests and long-entrenched patterns of behavior. And change is very, very hard. Change is hard individually, in our own lives. Change is especially hard in a collective and to get this government to change, to get this body to change, after all the years and after all the attempts and after people are so set in their ways, it’s going to be difficult.
But I believe we can do it.
First, we have to start with a new attitude that reflects a new reality. We need to correct decades of decline and billions of dollars in overspending. The special interests who have ruled our government for years must give way to the people’s agenda.
There is no more time to waste. It is a time for deeds not words, and results not rhetoric. It is time for a bold agenda and immediate action. There is no more waiting for tomorrow and there are no more baby steps my friends. My attitude will be constructive impatience with the status quo of Albany. We need change and we need it now.
Second, we need a new partnership. To the state legislators, I say I reach out to you to form a new partnership, because in truth the partnership between the Executive and the Legislature has not been working well for years and that must change.
I respect the electoral responsibility of the legislators, I respect the constitutional independence of the Legislature, but I also know that success will require a different approach. We must accomplish more, faster, smarter, and better, than we have in decades. We have no more time to dally.
Rather than seeking the apparent safety of the lowest common denominator, we must strive to reach the highest possible goal. We must realize that achieving political consensus in a political conference is different than providing governmental leadership for the people of the State of New York.
To my Republican colleagues, I say I will not govern in a partisan way and my administration will not be a partisan administration. I was not a partisan Attorney General, I did not run a partisan campaign. I don’t believe the Democrats or the Republicans alone created the problems we face today and I don’t believe the Democrats or Republicans alone will be able solve the problems we face today.
I believe we are going to have to do it and do it together.
President Lincoln said in this city on his way to his inauguration, “Citizens may swear allegiance to one party or the other and believe with all their might that they are right, but once an election is passed, and until the next election, they should be one people.”
President Lincoln’s words are profound. We are not first Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. We are first New Yorker and we must act that way.
Today, I extend my hand in partnership across the aisle to my Republican colleagues so we may take the first step immediately.
And third and most importantly, in my opinion, we need the people of the State of New York to be part of this effort.
A governor’s inherent power is limited. A governor’s potential power is limitless.
The potential power of the governor is to mobilize the people of the State of New York. And that is the real power of being governor. Only the people’s voice can silence the calls of the special interests in the halls of the Capitol.
I will lift the veil of secrecy that now surrounds Albany and I will communicate in every way I can, ways never used before, but I need the people to join in.
I said in my campaign this effort is not going to be about “me” but “we.” We the people formed the government, we the people must reform the government, and that’s going to have to start today.
And this is going to be a dramatic shift for Albany.
I was walking in the hallways of this Capitol a few months ago and I was a few steps behind a mother and apparently her daughter. And they were walking through the hallways and the daughter was obviously taken with the majesty of the building and the daughter turned to her mother and said, “Mom, where are all the people?” And the mother said, “The people are working, they are in the offices, they are in the offices.” Because the halls were fairly empty. And the girl said, “But doesn’t anyone come to visit? It is so beautiful and it is so important.”
It is so beautiful and it is so important. And I thought to myself, “out of the mouths of babes.”
Where are the people? Where are the people in Albany? Where are the people in the Capitol? That is the profound absence in this system. The people aren’t engaged. And that is what is going to have to change. If there is a silver bullet in the battle to recapture Albany, it is the reengagement of our citizens.
This Capitol has become a physical metaphor for the isolation and alienation of our people. In the name of heightened security, they have erected barriers and barricades all around this Capitol. To get into this Capitol is now like running an obstacle course and it shouldn’t be. People refer to the Capitol as a fort or as a bunker; it is anything but.
This is a beautiful monument to democracy, this building. This is the people’s meeting place and they should be invited in.
And today, my friends, we will reopen the Capitol, literally and figuratively. We will remove the barriers on State Street so the tour buses can return once again. We will be opening up the second floor, the Governor’s floor, so the members of the public will once again have access to their government.
It is a symbol of a new approach: to reconnect with people; to build back trust; to defeat the power of the special interests with the power of the people.
And, my friends, look at this Capitol that you are in today. I am sure you noticed on the way in, notice on the way out, look at the magnificent building that they built. Look at this room, the Governor’s Reception Room, the War Room. Twenty-five hand-painted murals by William deLeftwich Dodge. Look at the granite, marble, carved mahogany, the carved oak in this building. The million-dollar staircase, the most expensive building to build at the time, $25 million. It took them 30 years.
Look at the statement that they were making. Look at the commitment, look at the resources. They could have built a building in one-tenth the time, with one-tenth the expense, and one-tenth the effort. That’s not what they wanted. They wanted to make a statement when they built this institution of government. They wanted to say: we believe in government; we respect government; we are committed to government; we want the government to succeed.
Why? Because they believed when the government succeeds, they succeed. Because the government is them. It is not an alien force, it is the organizing force for people. And if the government is successful at organizing and mobilizing, then society is going to be successful.
So they invested in the government and it was theirs and they were proud of it. That is what this building is all about. That is what the Court of Appeals is all about. People believing in the institutions of New York State and believing in themselves and believing in the state and investing in that belief.
I first came to this building, I was in my twenties, very early twenties, and at that time I had the good fortune to watch some truly extraordinary public service: my father, Governor Mario Cuomo, who was Lieutenant Governor at that time; Governor Hugh L. Carey; Mr. Fink, Mr. Stanley Fink; Mr. Warren Anderson. Different people, from different parts of the state, with different cultures and different accents, but they were beautiful to watch. They were people of honor and people of talent. It was always about principle, it was always about serving the people, and they always got the job done. And they made this government work in a way that made this state a better state and I was inspired just watching them.
And I remember sitting there, watching them, saying, you know what, maybe one day I could do this. Maybe one day I could be in public service. Maybe one day I could help my community, I could help my state. Maybe one day, I could be in this place of honor. That’s what this Capitol represents to me and so many others. That, my friends, is what I want to recapture.
I want to rebuild this government. Rebuild it by bringing back competence; rebuild it by bringing back integrity; rebuild it by bringing back performance; by bringing back people of talent; by bringing back people of good will; rebuild it by bringing back professionalism and respect and decorum and protocol and collegiality and partnership with the Legislature and product for the people of this state. Rebuild a government to be what this government was and what this government needs to be once again.
That’s what this administration is going to be all about -- restoring the pride. Making the government work, my friends. So people once again trust the government and trust the institution. So that people once again believe in government, in themselves, and in this state.
And that’s what this is all going to be about. Rebuild the government, restore competence, restore trust, get the people of this state believing once again. Believe in government, believe in themselves, believe in each other, believe in our future, believe in our potential, believe that we can fulfill this dream of New York and that we’re going to make this state the Empire State, greater than it’s ever been before. At the end of the day, what this is all about is making this state a better state for the nineteen million people who live here.
I have my three best, beautiful reasons with me today, my three children. And as a parent, as a citizen, the fundamental obligation is to leave them a home that is better, sweeter, fairer, stronger than the home that we had. And their home is the State of New York and their home is going to stay the State of New York.
Let’s go forward, let’s go forward together, as New Yorkers, as people of good will. And let’s not just rebuild this New York, let’s make this New York bigger and stronger and better and sweeter than it has ever been before.
That is our challenge, that is our destiny, that is our legacy, and that is what we launch today.
Thank you for being with us. God bless you.