Christie stresses unity; no mention of scandals at inauguration

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Gov. Chris Christie, first lady Mary Pat Christie, and their son Andrew Christie listen to a scripture reading given by Rev. Joe Carter at the inauguration day morning church service Tuesday, Jan. 21 at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark./Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen Gov. Chris Christie, first lady Mary Pat Christie, and their son Andrew Christie listen to a scripture reading given by Rev. Joe Carter at the inauguration day morning church service Tuesday, Jan. 21 at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark./Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie sought to put weeks of controversy and scandal behind him during his inaugural address Tuesday, Jan. 21, stressing unity and diversity and calling for opportunity rather than big government.

Christie’s landslide win for a second term as governor in November had fueled widespread speculation about a possible bid for the White House, but he was slammed this month with a series of scandals and accusations starting with indications that traffic-snarling lane closures on the George Washington Bridge were planned as political payback. Christie denied having any part in the lane closures.

In his second inaugural address, Christie hit many of the topics favored by American conservatives, including calls for small government and lower taxes, while at the same time decrying political gridlock and praising compromise.

“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity,” he told the audience gathered at the Trenton War Memorial. “What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government-guaranteed result.”

To achieve that, government should pursue policies that “believe in the effort, talent and optimism of New Jerseyans, not in the power of almighty government to fix any problem, real or imagined," the governor said.

Unity was another theme Christie explored in his speech.

“One of the lessons that I have learned most acutely over the last four years is that New Jersey can really be one state,” he said. “This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other – by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party – is neither permanent nor necessary. Our dreams are the same: a good job, a great education for our children, safe streets in our neighborhood and core values which give our lives real meaning. Those dreams are not unique to any one group in our state.”

He pledged to fight to continue to change government so that differences are valued and the state’s diversity is honored.

“We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C.,” he said, warning against putting wins ahead of policy agreements. “As we saw in December regarding the Dream Act, we can put the future of our state ahead of the partisans who would rather demonize than compromise.”

He said New Jersey came together to confront the ravages of Sandy, “and now we must stay together – people of every background and belief – the government and our people – to help our fellow citizens reach their dreams.”

Those dreams begin with a growing economy, he said.

“This growth will not happen by following the path that some of our neighbors seem prepared to pursue. For those who prefer economic growth and opportunity to government redistribution and higher taxes, I say this: Come to New Jersey. You will be welcome here.

Education was also stressed by the governor.

“No matter what adult we have to offend, no matter where you came from, no matter what sacred cow we must slay, no matter how much we have to change the conventional thinking, we will not stand for the achievement gap which exists between our best and least educated children.”

The former prosecutor also addressed what he called the “failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse.”

“We will make drug treatment available to as many of our nonviolent offenders as we can, and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable,” he said.

His speech made no specific reference to the scandals and controversies that have confronted his administration in recent weeks, except for a pledge of accountability to the people.

“In the end, I have had no greater honor in my life than having twice been elected by my fellow citizens to be the governor of the state where I was born and raised,” he said. “With that honor comes solemn obligations – to make the hard decisions, to raise the uncomfortable topics, to require responsibility and accountability, to be willing to stand hard when principles are being violated, and to be willing to compromise to find common ground with all of our people. To work every day, night and day – to make New Jersey all it can be. In short, to be the governor.”

A legislative committee is looking into the lane closure, which appears to have been politically motivated, and other stories have broken since then, including an accusation from the mayor of Hoboken that members of the administration pushed for approval of a specific project, suggesting that otherwise recovery money from Hurricane Sandy could be in jeopardy. The Christie administration has dismissed the allegation.

Inauguration Day began with Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno attending morning a service celebrating the inauguration the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

An inaugural celebration planned for Tuesday night on Ellis Island was canceled due to weather.


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