Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo swore in George Latimer at the Westchester County Executive inauguration.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below.
Thank you. Thank you very much. What a pleasure to be here today. It is a good day, isn't it? First to Westchester Community College, it's a great day to be back. Let's give them a big round of applause for their hospitality and the service they do, President Miles. To your Congressperson, Nita Lowey, our mistress of ceremonies today who is just a superstar, has always been a role model for so many of us. She was very kind in her introduction. It's not the way she normally talks to me. She normally calls up and says, "Andrew, you have to do this today." I say, "Yes Nita, yes Nita, yes Nita." Nita worked with my father, so I don't mess around with Nita. And Nita has delivered time and time again. I worked hard to build the Tappan Zee Bridge, but Nita Lowey got the money to fund the Tappan Zee Bridge. To the next county executive, George Latimer, let's give him a round of applause. And to all the elected officials and the dignitaries.
I am a resident of Westchester County, and I have to tell you it feels a lot better to say Westchester is my home county now. It is a beautiful place. I've raised three beautiful daughters here. I've enjoyed it thoroughly. But I think I'm going to enjoy it a little bit more under County Executive George Latimer, don't you think? And you're right, the organizing effort around the campaign was phenomenal. And there's a lesson there. Don't forget what you accomplished here. It shows what team can do when we put aside the differences and all the pettiness, and we come together and we say we focus on one goal. Because George Latimer's win was not just a win. It was a resounding statement by the people of this county. And you made it happen and congratulations. It also is a statement of political times, as the other speakers have mentioned. Don't be surprised when government assaults people's rights if people get upset and people move to defend themselves. Because that's what this has been. This has been an assault on people's rights on every level and in every group.
You know, there are different levels of concern about government. Congressman Engel mentioned during Richard Nixon, that was a time of concern. Relevant during my lifetime was the Reagan years, was a time of concern because there was a different philosophy and a different set of priorities because they were trying to reorder society and reorder people's rights. Those situations pale in comparison to what this administration is trying to do. I mean just think about it. This is not just about politics. They're making statements about who we are as a people, who we are as a society, what our character consists of, how we treat one another. They're trying to take decades of process and civil rights and human rights and roll it all back. They want to roll back a woman's right to choose. They want to roll back the way we treat women with respect and dignity and equality. They want to roll back LGBTQ rights. They want to roll back environmental protections. They want to roll back health care for the poor. They want to roll back our gun safety laws. All across the board. And that's why we're so blessed to have the congressional delegation we have, with Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey. Let's give them another round of applause.
They have assaulted the state of New York. They have assaulted the state of New York. Their federal tax bill does not say, all 50 states will be treated like this. The federal tax bill says, Democratic states will be treated like this and Republican states will be treated like this. What the tax bill did is it targets the Democratic states to serve as a piggy bank to fund the tax cut for the red states. The state and local issue, loss of deductibility, hurts New York, hurts California, hurts 12 other states - conveniently, all Democratic states. It takes $18 billion from the state of New York, on top of the $48 billion that the federal government already takes from the state of New York.
State of New York - God bless Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he used to make this point over and over and over. Eventually it sunk into my skull, which means he is really persuasive. New York State is the number one donor state in the nation, meaning we give more money to Washington than we get back. And there is no state in the nation that gives more money to Washington and gets back less than the state of New York, and that's why to steal another $18 billion from New York under the state and local deduction is really reprehensible. It is so bad that our Attorney General had to leave here. You know why? He had to leave because he is suing the federal government for what they're doing to the state of New York. And this is not a partisan issue, or it should not be a partisan issue. I said to my colleagues on both sides of the isle when I did the State of the State, I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, you are a New Yorker first and act that way. And this is a bill that is bad for New York, so you should stand up and say I'm against this. Because you don't put party above the people you represent. That was the oath you took.
And in the meantime, it is going to place a tremendous pressure on local governments. Westchester County has one of the highest property taxes in the United States of America. You know, I know - and not as Governor, but as a taxpayer. We've been talking about it for years. What this bill does, this tax bill, it says you can't deduct that amount of money. It essentially raises property taxes 25 percent. Just think about it. If we don't handle this well, it could have devastating effects in Westchester County and other high tax counties. It could affect home values. You could see a whole transformation. So this is probably one of the most important times in history for government, both from a principle point of view and from a practical point of view. We have to fight in Washington on the statement of who we are as a people and principles and values and how we treat each other. And here at home, we have to make sure we handle the state and local deductibility issue and it doesn't have a practical, negative effect on our home communities. So, it requires all of us, from the federal officials, to the state officials, to the county executive to deal with this time because this is going to be a crucial and transformative time for the state.
Now, when George Latimer - I'm going to tell you a secret, but you can't tell anyone else. When George Latimer started this race, it was a long shot race. I called up George Latimer and I said, "I'd like you to come over to the mansion and have a cup of coffee." Now, no good ever comes from coming over to the mansion and having a cup of coffee. It sounds innocent enough - it's just a cup of coffee, but when you're the Governor, you have to have the tough conversations. So come over for a cup of coffee is meaning we have to have an important but difficult conversation. And George came over and we sat down and we talked about what was going on, and I said, "You know someone has to run for County Executive in Westchester County, and it's a very important race, and it's a race we can win if we do it right. But it is a very hard race." And George said, "I see. Hard, more than hard. The opponent has millions of dollars in the bank. He's an incumbent. He's way up in polls. This is all uphill." I said, "Good point." But sometimes it's about a bigger issue than us. And sometimes we do things for the cause. And for the mission. Sometimes someone has to be the first one up the hill. And I know there's a machine gunner at the top of the hill, but somebody's got to go first. And George was the talent of the field in my opinion.
And George had the courage. You know, politics like any other occupation, courage is hard to find. Courage when you're putting your professional career on the line, is hard to find. Courage when you may be embarrassed publicly is hard to find. Losing a political race is not easy. I know I've done it. There's no secrecy about it. Everybody knows you lost. Wherever you go, they know you lost. You go to the diner, they know you lost. You go to the gas station filling up your car with gas, the person on the other side of the pump they know you lost. You're a loser and everybody knows it. So it's not easy. But we talked it through. George said he would talk about it. You heard the Congressman say when he stated everybody said what are you crazy, you can't do this. George knew the odds. But he knew it was important to start to make the statement and to articulate the case. For people to understand what this is all about. And he had the personal courage to do it. And in this occupation, courage is the number one qualification in my opinion.
Second, he's something else. The Attorney General mentioned that I use the term progressive pragmatism. I was getting ready for the State of the State. I lost my father three years ago. January 1. So every January 1 a lot of memories come flooding back. Why did he die on January 1? Because he was failing through November and December. And I had been saying to him through November and December, "You know Thanksgiving is coming up, and you can't leave before Thanksgiving, we're all together and it's Thanksgiving. That would be terrible. You wouldn't do that." And you get past Thanksgiving and then Christmas is coming. It's Christmas, the whole family is coming for Christmas. But my father was a very prideful man, and he had reached the point in life where he needed a lot of assistance just to do daily basic functions. And his quality of life had deteriorated where it was not who he was. It was not who he wanted to be. So selfishly I was arguing, I said "Well Dad, Christmas you can't leave before Christmas. Kids, gifts, grandchildren." He said, "Okay Christmas."
After Christmas I needed another excuse. I said, "Dad I get inaugurated January 1." It was my inauguration for my second term. I said, "I need your help on that speech. I need you." He said, "You don't need me on the speech, you never listen to me anyway." I said, "You have to be here for the inauguration." And he wouldn't answer me. And I said, "You have to tell me you're going to be here for the inauguration." And he wouldn't answer. I went back the next day, I said, "I want the answer on the inauguration." He said, and he was very careful with his words, my father, "I will be here for your inauguration." Period. I said, "Okay." The morning of the inauguration, January 1, I went by. I said, "Do you want to come?" He said, "No, I'm going to stay here, I'm going to listen to it, your sister is going to go with the cellphone." I went to the inauguration, he heard the inaugural speech on the cellphone and he passed away. Right after the inauguration. So, I think about him every January 1 and even the way he left was such a powerful statement. But I was reading through his works. He described himself as a progressive, I'm sorry, pragmatic progressive. Pragmatic progressive. Only my father would use terms like that, where you need a dictionary to figure out exactly what he was saying. But he was putting two concepts together.
Everybody now is a progressive, you ask any democrat, who are you? Well, I'm a progressive. I'm a progressive. Yeah, great. What the heck does that mean, progressive? It means I don't want to say liberal, so I say progressive. I know that. Besides that, what does it mean? And my father wanted to say we need more of a definition of your leadership than just "progressive." Pragmatic progressive, meaning a progressive person in ideology, but a person who gets something done. Because his big point was we lose people when you are unable to affect their lives. They are tired of hearing speeches about how progressive people are, and nothing changing. They want change. They want results. FDR's definition, real change for real people, real time. Made a difference in my life. I don't want the theory, I don't want the speech, I don't want the press release. Keep the press release. Do something that makes a difference in my life. That was progressive, pragmatic progressive. That's George Latimer. That's George Latimer. Evidence first, ideology second. Politicians talk, they talk, they talk. My grandfather Andrea, my father's father, when he wasn't watching a politician would come on. My grandfather would gothey talk. We should do this, we should do this, we should do this. That's great. Do something. George Latimer. He is a visionary, but he's a manager. He's a dreamer, but he's a doer. He's going to make this county practically, tangibly, a better county. You put courage together with a progressive ideology together with the pragmatic ability because he's a professional in government. He has done it on every level, he knows it, he knows how to make it work, and he's got the guts to do it. George Latimer is exactly the right man for this time.
I am honored that he is going to be my partner in helping the people of Westchester County. And now, so we can get George Latimer to work, I would call up George Latimer, Robin, please come up. Hilda Pungello, George's sister, Ron Pungello, George's brother in law, James Pungello, George's nephew, so I may administer the oath of office.