Governor Crist takes office amid skepticism

Florida’s 44th governor was inaugurated Jan. 2., leaving many citizens anticipating the new governor’s plans for a better state.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist won the Nov. 7, 2006 election with 52.2 percent of votes. His Democratic opponent, Jim Davis, had 45.1 percent of votes.

Crist’s lieutenant governor is Jeff Kottkamp, a former representative for District 74 in the Florida House of Representatives.

The day of inaugural events began with a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University’s Gaither Gymnasium.

Eva Wanton, special assistant to the president, said the governor received prayer offers from various religious leaders.

“The governor was graced with performances by the Tallahassee Boy’s Choir, FAMU’s Concert Choir and a special performance by Grammy-nominated gospel recording artist Vickie Winans,” Wanton said.

Crist then delivered his inaugural address to an audience of more than 3,000 supporters in front of the state’s old Capitol.

Honored guests included former Govs. Claude Kirk, Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush.

“Jeb Bush showed us how government can pursue audacious goals with vision and integrity,” Crist said in his inaugural address.

After the speech, Crist did not have the traditional inauguration ball. Celebrations continued all across the city.

A parade took place along Adams Street, which included a performance by FAMU’s Marching 100.

“It was a good experience and good publicity,” said Jessie Boyce, 23, from Marietta, Ga. Boyce is a drum major in the Marching 100.

The next day, the governor signed his first executive order with intentions of making government offices more open to the media, according to a press release. The order was created because various newspapers across the state were complaining about receiving official records months after requesting them.

The governor’s plans are to lower the rapid increase of property tax and property insurance.

“Everywhere I go I hear from our people that escalating property taxes and insurance premiums are each day taking more from our wallet, diminishing bit by bit our opportunity to enjoy what Florida has to offer,” Crist said in his inaugural address.

Crime prevention, graduation rate increase, childhood obesity and ex-offender civil rights reinstatement are a few other issues on the governor’s top priority list for his term.

Crist has been an advocate for civil rights while working for the U.S. and local governments, according to Crist’s Web site, The site said one of Crist’s priorities will be the reinstatement of the civil rights of former prisoners.

“Governor Crist believes that once a prisoner serves his or her debt to society, the state should automatically restore his or her civil rights so that the ex-offender may vote and become gainfully employed,” the site said.

FAMU’s student body president agrees.

“Many people make mistakes, and once someone has served their time for a crime they committed, I think they should be granted the right to vote,” Phillip Agnew said.

“Obviously you wouldn’t allow a thief to work at a bank, but I think there should be better opportunities for former criminals.”

Politically aware students at FAMU also agree with the governor’s plans to create better opportunities for former prisoners.

“I think that would be a good thing, to at least allow them to vote,” said Aldrick Schultz, 22, a landscape architecture student from Orlando.

According to Crist’s agenda, the state of Florida should expect to see a great deal of difference within the coming years.

But FAMU students, and faculty alike, want the governor to bring the current issues on campus to the table.

“I hope that FAMU and that African Americans remain a priority throughout his term,” Agnew said.

Other students have education-related concerns.

“I would like to see Gov. Crist create more federal educational grants,” Schultz said. “I will also like to see him make residency more obtainable for out-of-state students.”

One college official spoke out on the matter of education at the university.

Wanton said she wants the governor “to do everything he can to enhance education along with the growth and development of FAMU.”