Kathy Hochul Pledges 'New Era of Transparency,' Ethics in First Address as New York Governor

New York Governor Kathy Hochul pledged a "new era of transparency" and government ethics during her first address to the state on Tuesday.

She said one of her top priorities is to "get this state working again" without distractions, saying she will lead a change in New York's political culture "with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line."

"It's very simple. We'll focus on open, ethical governing that New Yorkers will trust," she said.

Hochul said she is directing an overhaul of state policies regarding sexual harassment and ethics, requiring that all ethics training will be done live, instead of letting people "click their way through a class."

As part of this promise, she outlined several plans to improve transparency. Hochul said she will direct state entities to review their compliance with transparency laws, instruct her council to create an expedited process to fulfill public information requests, and sign an executive order requiring ethics training for all state employees, which she said is "shockingly" not currently required across the board.

Hochul also discussed her plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

"None of us want a rerun of last year's horrors with COVID-19," she said.

Hochul said her top priority is getting students back to school safely. The governor said she is working on a policy to require all school personnel to either be vaccinated or report a weekly negative test. Hochul added that she is ordering the state's health department to require universal masking in schools.

She also plans to increase vaccination rates among New Yorkers, saying they can "expect new vaccine requirements" following the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday and ensure booster shots will be available.

Hochul said she is "not at all satisfied" with the pace COVID-19 relief has been released, announcing a new targeted plan to reach more residents on rent relief and a plan to hire more staff to process relief requests.

"I want it out with no more excuses or delays," she said.

Hochul said New Yorkers should have a "powerful sense of optimism and determination" and that she has the confidence and courage to lead the state.

She acknowledged being the first woman to become governor of the Empire State, promising to "make New York's women proud."

"It's time to show the world that 'ever upward' is more than just our state's motto," she said. "It's who we are, and it's where we're going."

Hochul assumed the office Tuesday after former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned following a scathing report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, which stated he allegedly sexually harassed several women, breaking state and federal law.

On August 10, Cuomo announced his resignation, saying he "cannot be the cause of" distractions amid "one of the most challenging times for government in a generation."

Hochul said she agreed with Cuomo's decision to step down.

"I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers," she tweeted.

Hochul was sworn in shortly after midnight, when Cuomo's resignation went into effect. She has already said she intends to run for a full term in 2022.

"I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders and I'll tell New Yorkers I'm up to the task. And I'm really proud to be able to serve as their governor and I won't let them down," Hochul told WGRZ while leaving the state Capitol early Tuesday morning.

Governor Kathy Hochul

New York Governor Kathy Hochul pledged a “new era of transparency” and government ethics during her first address as governor on Tuesday. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images