McDonnell plans week of inaugural events

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The stands and stage are being built for Bob McDonnell's swearing in on January 16. It will be one of 17 official inaugural events, including three black-tie balls, starting this Friday.

Virginia's transfer of power is a ritual that dates back more than two hundred years, and for the last century, has been held outdoors. The theme for the occasion is "Commonwealth of Opportunity." And governor-elect Bob McDonnell will take the oath of office on the capitol steps after a week of inaugural events.

"But obviously with an eye toward what's going on with the economy, and citizens generally, we've  tried to certainly scale back from the amounts raised and spent by our predecessors," said McDonnell.

Virginia taxpayers foot the bill for the public ceremony, including the parade, programs and invitations. Cost: about $240,000. McDonnell's team uses private money for the other events, including the three inaugural balls. Cost: about $1.5 million.

Inaugurations hold a special place in Virginia, and American history, but critics wonder if all the expense is truly necessary. Historians say, even in a down economy, it's rewarding to recognize a new era in government.

"What could be more important than ratifying in a very public, and a very proper way, the choice of all of the voters of Virginia?" said Mark Greenough, State Capital Historian.

McDonnell will also be marking the occasion by making visits next week to military families, food banks, and a homeless shelter.

"It's also a chance for me to highlight the incredible generosity and charity that takes place in Virginia every day," McDonnell said.

The $1.5 million being spent by McDonnell's team would be the lowest amount in the past ten years. Governor Kaine spent about $3.1 million, and Governor Warner spent about $2.5 million for their inaugurations.

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