Turn back time | Richmond Free Press

“The spirit of Virginia is alive and well,” Glenn Allen Youngkin said after being sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor.

Calling for an end to toxic politics and divisiveness, the 55-year-old new Republican chief executive sought to strike a note of unity, saying: ‘No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate , your voice, your governor. ”

But the wealthy businessman and political newcomer quickly changed in his inaugural speech on Saturday to take a shot at his predecessor, former Gov. Ralph S. Northam, finding the state of the state grim in the wake of the pandemic. and saying that the gloom could only be dispelled by the resilience Virginians followed the course he would chart towards prosperity.

Governor Youngkin, a lanky man who grew up in Hampton Roads and played college basketball, denounced his Democratic predecessors’ failure to make Virginia the “best place to live, work and raise a family,” but said said he could do it.

And just minutes after being sworn in, he sparked an avalanche of criticism by issuing executive orders aimed at ending state government involvement in measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. public and government offices and to remove the teaching of “divisive” racial history from school systems across the state.

Many of his listeners embraced the optimism that ran through his 20-minute inaugural speech. Among them was Dr. Gregory Washington, the first black president of George Mason University, who said he was energized by Mr. Youngkin’s focus on innovation and technology.

William C. “Bill” Cleveland, the former vice mayor of Alexandria, who is black, was also impressed. He applauded the new governor’s remarks as “uplifting”.

But environmental activists, who stood in the street outside the State Capitol where the ceremony took place, feared Governor Youngkin’s remarks made no mention of climate change. Governor Youngkin addressed that on Monday in his first State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the General Assembly.

Among other things, he announced the creation of a new authority to deal with the impact of rising seas on Hampton Roads and other coastal areas and pledged to find the money to finally end the discharge of raw and partially treated waste from Richmond, Henrico County, Alexandria and Lynchburg.

Others, however, saw a disconnect between Governor Youngkin’s rhetoric and the policies he advocates.

“I am extremely concerned,” delegate Henrico Lamont Bagby, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said in a text to the Richmond Free Press.

He denounced the decision of the new governor, who said he supported vaccination and sent his children to a private school that requires everyone to wear masks, “to do nothing when it comes to taking a tough decision to protect our students from COVID-19” and leave mask policies to local school divisions.

“And the war (he) has declared on black history is dangerous to say the least,” Delegate Bagby continued.

He noted Governor Youngkin’s statement in his speech that history lessons in schools should “tell the full story (of Virginia and the nation) – good or bad. That’s not what his flawed (Executive Order) and legislation say.

The inauguration of the new governor capped off a weekend of events that included installing the most diverse group to hold the state’s three highest offices. They include the first female lieutenant governor, Winsome Earle-Sears, a Jamaican immigrant and the first black woman to win statewide office in Virginia and also the third black person to hold the office of lieutenant governor; and the first Latino attorney general, Jason Miyares, whose mother came to the United States from Cuba.

Their entry into office marks the Republican return to power after eight years of Democratic control, as well as a Republican return to a majority in the House of Delegates. The only check is a narrow 21-19 Democratic majority in the state Senate.

Few governors have arrived so virtually assured of success in office, unlike many former governors who attended the ceremony.

Over the next four years, Governor Youngkin will innovate and cut ribbons on the roads, bridges and transit projects that Governor Northam has started and that will be built with the huge stream of federal revenue that the state received from the US bailout and infrastructure bill that Democrats in Congress passed and President Biden signed into law. Largely, the governor’s Republican colleagues opposed it.

Former Governor Northam, who left the inauguration with his wife, former first lady Pamela Northam, after his successor was sworn in, also left Governor Youngkin with a nearly $10 billion surplus in tax revenue. of State.

And the former governor left behind a proposed budget for the next two years that includes funding to deliver on some of Governor Youngkin’s campaign promises, including record investments in public education, significant increases in military salaries of state order and the elimination of state sales. grocery tax.

The new governor offered no praise, instead emphasizing the difficult road ahead and his hopes of turning the tide.

“Virginians sent us here on a mission to restore faith in government and return power to the people,” he said.

Governor Youngkin paid tribute to the 15,000 state residents who died of COVID-19 while saying state mandates to prevent the spread of the virus and overcrowded hospitals are dead. He said protection decisions should be left to officials, individuals and parents of school children.

Despite his insistence that he would work to heal the wounds and end the toxic political atmosphere fueled by the soundbites, Governor Youngkin was called the man of the soundbites by Opinions editor James Downie Washington Post digital.

“Instead of acknowledging the political undertones of ‘good faith’, (Governor Youngkin) is repeating the cartoons and talking points being aired in the right-wing media,” Mr. Downie wrote. “And the policies he’s highlighted since taking office are warmed-up GOP orthodoxy – tax cuts, deregulation, more tax cuts, increased funding for law enforcement and more. tax cuts.”

In his speech, Governor Youngkin focused on his campaign promises by touting his plans to increase the number of public charter schools in the state and to reduce state taxes. He also promised to improve Governor Northam’s record by attracting $80 billion in new investment and 100,000 jobs by pushing for increased incentives for businesses to move to Virginia.

Governor Youngkin, who has already hired a diversity director and will bring him into his cabinet, has made inclusion a hallmark of his inauguration. His speech used quotes from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And the ceremony itself put black groups and individuals center stage, including the Virginia Union University Choir, which performed during the ceremony and participated in the inaugural parade that followed.

The invocation was delivered by Pastor Calvin A. Duncan, the black founding pastor of Faith and Family Church in Richmond, while Fairfax parents’ attorney Suparna Dutta, originally from India, delivered a reading.

Other touches include having a Latino pastor from a church in Northern Virginia, Pastor Jonathan Avendano, deliver the blessing. However, no Muslim imams or Jewish rabbis were included.

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