Hot dogs, hold the mustard

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By Stephen Lega

Governments big and small have been going through their rituals of transition this month. 

The new Congress was sworn in last week, as was the new General Assembly in Kentucky. Governors around the country took office, and we recently had the swearing in for the new Lebanon City Council, local city commissions and Marion County Board of Education members.

On a personal level, I'm grateful that we avoided the pomp and circumstance that sometimes surrounds these events.

In Louisville, new mayor Greg Fischer's inauguration day was filled with ceremony. Starting with a breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Kentucky International Convention Center, an interfaith prayer service at 9:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, the actual swearing in at 11 a.m., a parade and a gala ball, also at the convention center that evening.

As you would expect, Fischer delivered an inaugural address, calling for the city to come together and work to improve in a number of areas. Pretty typical stuff.

Meanwhile in California, Gov. Jerry Brown had a very different kind of inauguration. Brown previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983. During his previous term, he refused to live in the governor's mansion, rented an apartment and drove to work in his own vehicle. Brown earned a reputation for fiscal responsibility to go along with his liberal politics.

Last week may have been an indication that Brown would adhere to his reputation. After taking the oath and delivering his speech, he celebrated with a hot dog reception.

I don't point out these contrasting inaugurations to single out Fischer and Brown, both of whom are Democrats. Fischer's inauguration, frankly, was more typical of inaugurations around the country for office-holders in large cities and governors.

I'd really never given much thought to the excess of inauguration days until I saw the stories about Brown. Why don't more governors, big city mayors and even Presidents do as Brown has done? I don't necessarily mean the hot dogs, but rather the low-key nature of the event.

Certainly, it's appropriate to have a public ceremony for the inauguration, and it's certainly appropriate for the official taking office to address the crowd.

But beyond that, what else is really needed?

A quick Google search produced wildly varying reports on how much was spent on the last two Presidential inaugurations (2009 and 2005), but the lowest estimates put the costs of each day's events at more than $40 million. 

To be fair, much of the costs were picked up by private donations, but that doesn't change the perception that comes about as a result of such events. 

Politicians of all political persuasions talk about being financially responsible, cutting back and making sacrifices. Who is a better example of that, the politician at the black tie affair later that same day or the one who passes out hot dogs and gets to work?

I hope more politicians will follow Brown's example in the future.

In other words, please hold the mustard.