Economy Subdues State, Local Inaugurations

Inaugural events are scaled back as not to appear lavish in lean economic times.

Jan. 4, 2010— -- Newly elected governors and mayors are swearing off fancy festivities at the swearing-in: Inaugural events across the nation have been scaled back this year to avoid appearing lavish in lean economic times.

In Houston, Mayor-elect Annise Parker a Democrat, takes the oath of office today in a ceremony that is open to the public and then commemorated with a free evening concert at a downtown park. On Saturday, new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, a Democrat, will hold an open house at his office in City Hall, followed by a free concert outside. The cuisine will be provided by local street food vendors, spokesman Aaron Pickus says.

Parker wants "transparency" and "inclusiveness," says Janice Evans, spokeswoman for the new Houston mayor, who says an inaugural committee raised $100,000 to fund the event. "She didn't want an invitation-only gala. She wanted something that anyone who wanted to could come to." Parker will also go to private parties with campaign donors, Evans says.

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie will be sworn in Jan. 19 in Trenton, but the inaugural party — business attire and cocktails rather than a black-tie dinner — will be held in Newark, Christie's hometown.

"It's not an inaugural ball," Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella says. "While this is certainly a celebratory day, we want to be respectful" of the economic troubles of New Jersey residents, Comella says.

The reception, which could draw 2,000 people at $500 a ticket, will have a cake from TV's "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro of Carlo's City Hall Bake Shop in Hoboken, but not a performance by the other "Boss." Though Christie is a fan, Bruce Springsteen declined to play at the event. Instead, the B Street Band, a Springsteen tribute band, will perform.

Organizers say that as much as $200 of each ticket price will go to one of three charities and that ticket holders covered by the state's "pay to play" rules cannot give more than $300 to the inaugural committee.

Focus Shifts to Service Projects in Hard Economic Times

In Detroit, Democratic Mayor Dave Bing, elected to his first full term in November, will give away 4,500 tickets to a performance of Sesame Street Live to city schoolchildren.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who threw big soirees when he was elected in 2001 and 2005, spent the day volunteering for social-service organizations after the independent was sworn in Friday for a third term.

"In leaner times, we don't want to throw a big party," spokeswoman Evelyn Erskine says. "At a time when the city is forced to cut city services, we wanted to focus on volunteerism instead."

When Republican Bob McDonnell takes office as Virginia's governor on Jan. 16 he'll do so with all the trimmings: an inaugural parade, a first lady's luncheon, and three black-tie balls held in different cities around the state. But the $1.5 million tab is only half that of the $3.1 million spent by outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, at his inauguration in 2006, spokesman Tucker Martin says.

McDonnell has also added a canned-food drive at all inaugural events and a coat drive for the Salvation Army. The schedule reflects "a full understanding of the tough times Virginians are facing," Martin says.