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Politics and Government

Andrew Cuomo takes somber tone in inaugural speech

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Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his inaugural event in New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent his inauguration day in New York City and Buffalo, where he spoke about fixing the criminal justice system and welcomed Western New York native and the new Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul into his administration.

Cuomo, at the recently finished World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, gave his address in the midst of strife over the police killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed citizen in State Island who was selling illegal cigarettes, and the murder of two police officers.

“The situation has devolved into one in which everyone is talking but no one is listening,” Cuomo said. “The truth is there are troubling questions that have been raised that must be answered. The truth is police officers need do more safety and need more protection. The truth is law enforcement needs the respect of the community as much as the community needs to respect law enforcement."

Cuomo is expected to detail criminal justice reforms in his State of the State message on January 7.

The governor, who has said he wants to break the public education monopoly, also says people are questioning whether the state’s school system working for them.

“Today, we have two education systems if we want to tell the truth– one for the rich, and one for the poor,” Cuomo said. “If you happen to be born in the wrong zip code and go to a failing public school, you can get left behind and never catch up. Public education that was the great equalizer in the society has become in some communities the great discriminator.”

Hochul, who was also honored in Buffalo at a separate event later in the day, spoke of her excitement about the new job and says she knows more work needs to be done. She asked the public to judge her and the governor on their progress over the next four years on social justice issues, like equal pay for women, and keeping more young men of color out of prison.  

The governor promised to replicate the economic resurgence in Buffalo in the rest of upstate during his next four years, and he acknowledged the growing problem of economic inequality.

Cuomo also mentioned his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died just hours after the two inaugural events. The governor said the elder Cuomo gave him advice on his speech.

“He said it was good, especially for a second-termer," said Cuomo, whose father served three terms in office. “He couldn't be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room.”

The governor also relayed a tale. He says recently a sad-faced man wished him good luck in his next term in office, and Cuomo asked him why. “You are going to govern in very troubled times,” the man said.