A sea of umbrellas could be seen outside Legislative Hall in Dover as Governor John Carney officially took the oath of office.
On a dreary morning in Dover, a crowd of several hundred gathered outside Legislative Hall to see John Carney take the oath and deliver his first address as Delaware’s governor.
In his brief speech that lasted a little more than ten minutes, Carney spoke of the challenges the state faces, including the $350 million shortfall in the state budget.
“We have a revenue problem; but we also have a spending problem,” Carney said. “In the coming months, we’ll put forth a plan for addressing our budget crisis not just for one year, but for years to come.”
After eight years of lean budgets under former Governor Jack Markell, Carney said the state’s finances need a more permanent fix.
“We are at the end of the road on this one. There’s nowhere else to kick the can. Working hard and working together with leaders on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly, we will begin to address our long-term financial issues without delay.”
On Wednesday, Carney plans to announce his first executive order concerning the Delaware Economic Development Office. In his address Tuesday, he briefly mentioned the agency, “We’ll also rethink our economic development efforts,” he said.
Another major challenge in Delaware he cited is the ongoing violence in the state’s biggest city. Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki was in attendance at the inauguration as Carney pledged to work with city leaders to reduce the violence in Wilmington neighborhoods.
“I truly believe that our state cannot succeed if Wilmington does not succeed,” Carney said. “Wilmington residents and the tens of thousands who commute into the city deserve to feel safe and feel proud of where they live and work.”
To combat crime, Carney said he wants to reduce the “poverty to prison pipeline,” and work to prepare ex-offenders to integrate back into the community. Helping ex-offenders was also a big plank of former Governor Markell’s administration.
Carney also touched on the need to improve Delaware schools, saying that his Department of Education will be a place of support for teachers.
“We will hold schools accountable, yes. But above all, we will partner with teachers and parents in serving the best interests of our students.”
However, it all comes back to the budget. “The hardest truth may be that we can’t do anything else unless we get our state’s finances under control,” Carney said, likely signaling the one issue that will dominate discussion in Dover this legislative session and beyond.
‘He’s got a plan’
Dozens endured the rain to witness Tuesday’s inauguration, most notably former governor Ruth Ann Minner. Gov. Carney served as Minner’s lieutenant governor when she held the office from 2001-2009.
“We worked very closely for those eight years and it was like a big tug when he and I parted, if you know what I mean, and it’s just terrific to see him sworn in as governor,” said Minner, shortly after the ceremony.
During his inaugural address, Carney highlighted his priorities over the next four years; chief among them, the state budget, the economy, crime in Wilmington and public schools.
“For all of us who work for the people in the Delaware General Assembly it’s a time to celebrate, but also, I think his remarks are very reflective of the immediate needs and concerns that we have here in our state,” said Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes. “We’re facing a tremendous fiscal deficit and I was very pleased to hear his remarks in regards to finding bipartisan solutions to the problems that are facing each and every Delawarean from New Castle to Sussex.”
“I thought it set out a good vision for the state. I think he outlined very well the issues that we’re going to have to deal with. It’s an inaugural speech and it’s raining out so I think everyone was grateful that he was to the point,” said Matt Denn, attorney general.
Community activist Larry Morris was inspired when Carney mapped out how he plans to take on the state’s economic and societal challenges.
“He showed a great vision for how he wants to conduct business in the state, showed great pride for the state, he showed inclusiveness for everyone. You know the way we are going to move forward is together.”
“I thought it was very hopeful and upbeat. Coming in in tough times, but he’s got a lot of really good experience and brings not only his past state experience, but his federal experience to the job and that will be helpful, I think, and looking forward to seeing what happens,” said Ron Vickers, a retired state employee who worked with Carney when he served in the Carper Administration and as lieutenant governor.
“He’s got a plan, he knows what he wants to do and knowing John, he will do it,” Minner said.