Spitzer Swearing-In Ushers in New Era in New York Politics

Eliot Spitzer faced the January cold Monday and belted out a rock-and-roll style anthem for New York's future, full of breaking older generations' shackles with headstrong ideals toward new glory days.

"We know that New York is the state where the depth of our talent and the breadth of our skills and the reach of our culture have forever changed America and the entire world," Spitzer said in his inaugural address. "We know we can do it once more."

New York's 54th governor called for an end to "the politics of cynicism and division" under 12 years of Republican Gov. George Pataki who often gridlocked with the Legislature. Spitzer said that blocked the need to improve schools, reform ethics in government, cut the nation's highest taxes and revive the economy he once compared to Appalachia.

"New York has slept through much of the past decade while the rest of the world has passed us by," Spitzer said. "Today is the day when all of that changes — when we stop standing still and start moving forward once more."

The soundtrack of his inauguration could be the three most played songs on Spitzer's Ipod: "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen's anthem to restless youth;" Springsteen's Sept. 11 hymn, "The Rising;" and Tom Petty's pledge of defiance, "I Won't Back Down."

The songs could also reflect a childhood raised in a driven home where the dinner table served up nightly debates, from a political career for which an obit was written by some in 1994, and from eight years as attorney general where he built an international reputation as a gangbuster of Wall Street.

But the grandson of Jewish immigrants on Monday also called on New York's history, citing the boldness of the Erie Canal and the strength of those who passed through Ellis Island.

"What began as a babble of dialects and peoples struggling to find a way to live together, searching for balance between chaos and order, liberty and oppression, became a symphony of democracy."

But Spitzer's promises from his campaign that on "Day One everything changes" now faces its biggest test: Leaders of the Assembly and Senate who have a record of trumping governors.

Spitzer for the first time will have to draft a budget, which in the current year totals $114 billion. He also faces a projected deficit of $2.4 billion in the fiscal year beginning April 1 and a $4.5 billion deficit for 2008-2009.

Spitzer will also have to deal with his nuanced stances as a moderate Democrat that appealed to Democrats, Republicans and independents in November. He won a record share of the vote in New York — 69 percent — more than Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Nelson Rockefeller ever mustered.

Spitzer started his first workday in the footsteps of the state's last gangbuster-turned-governor, Thomas E. Dewey. Sixty-two years ago Dewey called for "exposure of rascality and subversion ... Those who exercise public and political power are trustees of the hopes and aspirations of all mankind."

On Monday, Spitzer signed orders setting a standard for the executive branch that he wants to persuade the Legislature to make law. Spitzer's measures ban gifts from lobbyists, end personal use of state cars, computers and equipment; prohibit nepotism, and ban his ex-employees from lobbing the executive branch for two years. Other executive orders ban statewide officials — including Spitzer — from appearing in state-paid commercials, criticized as free campaign ads. Another Spitzer measure establishes a state commission to make sure that candidates for judicial appointments are qualified.

Spitzer said Monday was "a day that in the rhythm of democracy marks a transition and a new beginning."

"Lend your sweat, your toil and your passion to the effort of building one New York of which we can all be proud," Spitzer said. "Our moment is here. Day one is now."