2008-03-19 / Front Page

Historic 1st Black Chief Exec.

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Paterson being sworn in as 55th governor of New York by Justice Judith Kaye.
In a speech reminding everyone in state government to fulfill their basic pledge to render uncompromised service and cooperation before seeking personal gain in their daily working lives, David Paterson was sworn in as the state's 55th and first black governor of New York state on Monday.

The 53-year-old veteran public servant and legally blind Harlem Democrat, called upon to replace ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer at the helm of the Albany seat of power, also sprinkled his address with a liberal dose of humor.

But the message that he brought with him was serious: "I have a vision for New York. It's a New York where achievement is developed only from hard work, where doors are always open and where anyone can achieve no matter where they live," he declared.

The audience in the packed Assembly chamber, made up of past and present leaders of government eager to move forward after the partisan deadlock that marked Spitzer's almost-15-month reign, welcomed the new-governor by chanting "David, David, David" and giving him a standing ovation.

Paterson was also humble, as he delivered his message of inclusion: "Of course, I never expected to have the honor of serving as governor of New York state. But our constitution demands it!

"This transition today is an historic message to the world that we live among the same values that we profess, and that we are a government of laws and not individuals. Today we can be proud of our democracy."

The new chief executive spoke in general about the issues and problems the state faces, mentioning giving children better schools and families lacking health care some redress.

Also, he said, he has "Talked... for decades about the crumbling upstate economy, the crush of property taxes and the lack of affordable housing."

"These are issues that we will continue to focus and address. But we can do more."

Turning to the developing national economic crisis, Paterson declared, "We are looking at the economy that is reeling, and I must say to all of you in government and all of you in business that you must meet with me in the next couple of weeks and adust our budget accordingly."

But one of Paterson's major messages on this day of his induction as governor was reserved for his colleagues in government, Democrats and Republicans, at all levels of government and in every branch of government.

It appeared to be singularly similar to his predecessor's preachments on the ethics of government.

Paterson declared: "They call what we do public service for a reason: because it's not politics. It's not parties. It's not power that counts at the end of the day. Those interests can vanish in a moment. It is the service that endures. It is service that is important. It is the service that is our mark. It is our measure. It is our record of performance."

Of all his colleagues in government, he asked, "Isn't that what called us to work in government in the first place?"

He urged: "Then let us seize that poignant moment. Let us, right here and now, let us grab the unusual opportunities that circumstance has handed us here today, and put personal politics, party advantage and power struggles aside in favor of service, in the interests of the people.

"With conviction in our brains and compassion in our hearts and love for New York on our sleeves, we will dedicate ourselves to principle, but always maintain the ability to listen."

Paterson concluded: "And so what we are going to do from now on is what we always should have done. We're going to work together."

Commenting on the speech, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated, "Governor Paterson's message of hope to New Yorkers is clearly illustrated through his actions today."

Republican senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno commented: "Over the last few days, New York's government has been hard at work in moving past the crisis that faced our state just last week. The senate will continue to work with our new governor in a productive and cooperative way so that we can rise to meet the challenges that New York faces together."

Among others commenting on the new governor's induction speech included:

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo:

"Governor David Paterson is a talented individual and a great friend. He has the experience, skills and personality needed to lead this state. The recent negative developments on Wall Street serve to illustrate that significant challenges lie ahead. The Governor is exactly right; we must all work together to move this state forward."

•Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D- Queens/Brooklyn): "New York City and State stand at the crossroads of many serious challenges: looming budget gaps, perceived dysfunctionality in Albany, and the much larger problems of skyrocketing housing, health care, and food costs facing middle class families and those struggling to make it into the middle class.

"David Paterson-through his entire career-has brought people together to solve problems. That's exactly what we need in Albany, and I will be working hard to give him all of the federal support he needs to take on and overcome these challenges."

•City Councilmember John Liu (D- Flushing): "People all across New York are genuinely inspired by his rare humility and refreshing humor, coupled with his intelligence and understanding of the issues. We have a great deal of confidence in the projected direction of New York at Governor Paterson's helm."

•Assemblymember Ellen Young (D- Flushing): "As the first African-American to be elected to the governorship of New York, David Paterson is uniquely positioned to champion minority New Yorkers. I have known him for a long time, and I expect to work with him on a number of issues, including legislation I introduced last year (a5182) that passed both houses, but was vetoed by Governor Spitzer. This would provide a mechanism to allow homeowners to eliminate illegal discriminatory restrictions from their deeds."

•Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City: "I offer my support and best wishes to our incoming Governor David A. Paterson. He has been a long-time supporter of education and economic development. Governor Paterson understands the important role State government can and should play to help New York's poor and working class residents have the educational and employment opportunities to raise their standard of living and quality of life. Undoubtedly, he will soon make his mark on New York's policies and priorities in a way that will benefit all New Yorkers."

•Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch: "Everybody here is joyous that David Paterson has now become governor. The Spitzer involvement was soured from the beginning by his attitude. He alienated everybody. And he's a friend of mine but he had a screw loose."

•Randi Weingarten, United Federation of Teachers President: "In a period of 20 minutes people saw a transformation from David Paterson, who we all know, to Governor Paterson, who understands the gravity of that which is before us and made a call, sounding some big themes."

•Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco: "I think he's going to be a rescue vehicle, instead of a steamroller."

 

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