Governor Kathy Hochul’s number one goal is for New Yorkers to believe in their government again, she said after taking over as the first woman in the state’s highest office, following former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation due to a barrage of sexual harassment allegations.
“I want people to believe in their government again, it’s important to me that people have faith,” said Hochul during her first press conference as Governor at the State Capitol in Albany Tuesday morning, Aug. 24.
Hochul officially became New York’s 57th Governor and was sworn into office one minute after midnight Tuesday after Cuomo handed in his letter of resignation Monday night, and the freshly-minted leader said she’s prepared for the manifold challenges of bringing the Empire State back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an emotional moment for me, but it’s one that I’m prepared for,” Hochul said.
After a symbolic second swearing-in Tuesday morning, she told reporters that she was focused on combatting the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant, getting direct aid to New Yorkers more quickly and changing the culture of Albany.
“I’m looking forward to a fresh collaborative approach,” she said. “That’s how I’ve always conducted myself, it’ll be nothing new for me, but it’s something I’m planning on introducing to the State Capitol.”
When asked about holding Cuomo accountable for the sexual misconduct allegations by 11 women, revealed by State Attorney General Letitia James’s bombshell report, along with ethics investigations into his $5 million COVID book deal and miscounting the pandemic death toll in nursing homes, Hochul said she will leave that up to the Legislature, which dropped its impeachment probe when the former governor announced his resignation, but still plans issue a report of its findings.
“I’m going to leave that in the hands of the Assembly,” said Hochul. “They’ve been conducting themselves with great professionalism and I’m going to allow the continuation of the separation of branches of government and allow them to do their work.”
At a virtual address to the state in the afternoon, Hochul announced several reforms coming Albany and her goal to make New York’s government more transparent.
“That begins with a dramatic change in culture — with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line,” said Hochul.
She will direct an overhaul to state policies on sexual harassment and ethics, starting with requiring that all training be done live instead of allowing people to click their way through a class. Hochul also plans to issue an executive order requiring ethics training for every employee of New York State government.
The former lieutenant governor wants state agencies to review their compliance with transparency laws and publish a report on their findings. She has also told her legal team to come up with a faster process to complete requests filed under the Freedom of Information Law.
“To me it’s very simple: We’ll focus on open, ethical governing that New Yorkers will trust,” she said.
The Buffalo-native promised to work better with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio than her predecessor, who frequently sparred with de Blasio and undercut efforts to shut down the city early on in the pandemic in spring of 2020.
“There will be no blindsiding, there’ll be just full cooperation, because I need his best and brightest integrated with my best and brightest, and that’s how we’ll get through this,” said Hochul.
She noted that Mayor Bill de Blasio had alerted her prior to his announcement Monday about mandating vaccines for Department of Education teachers, which she said showed a new “era of cooperation.”
For his part, de Blasio was optimistic about the new governor, and was happy to leave the turbulent Cuomo administration behind him.
“I am happy that we have a new governor, we needed one,” he said at his daily press briefing Tuesday morning. “I’m glad we are ending that chapter and it’s a very sad chapter, and, you know, there could have been so much good and instead we see the corrupting influence of power.”