Gainey Made History As Pittsburgh’s First Black Mayor. What Are His Priorities?
Your definitive guide to Ed Gainey’s policies and promises from the campaign trail to his inauguration speech.
Mayor Ed Gainey made history Monday by becoming Pittsburgh’s first Black Mayor. In his inaugural address, he promised an administration that will be “progressive, principled and always on the side of the people.”
Even since his earliest days on the campaign trail, the former Pennsylvania House representative has promised to address some of the city’s most pressing issues, including public safety, economic inequity and the environmental impact of Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage, among other things.
“My promise to you is that we will work to make Pittsburgh the Pittsburgh you voted for — a city where economic opportunity is abundant for everyone, a city where affordability isn’t a luxury and a city that is prepared to lead into the future,” he said in the address. “From today forward, our city’s leadership will be a direct reflection of the people we serve.”
Gainey takes the reins of the city after Bill Peduto served as mayor for eight years.
So what can city residents expect from Gainey’s tenure? Here’s a breakdown of the promises Gainey has made, and of the policies he’s platformed throughout his mayoral campaign.
Gainey has continued to stress the importance of holding the city’s police force accountable and preparing officers to respond as public servants rather than soldiers, according to his campaign website.
“As mayor, Ed Gainey’s goal will be to make Pittsburgh a city where no one lives in fear of crime or of the police,” the site reads.
This vision includes “demilitarizing” the city’s police force, ending the use of military gear by officers and overhauling police training to focus on de-escalation.
Gainey has said he will “shift the Police Bureau’s resources from militarized gear and tactics into investments in community policing strategies that build trust and give officers the tools and training they need to be supportive community partners.”
He also plans to establish alternative response procedures for non-violent and mental health emergency calls that will reduce police interactions for those struggling with substance abuse disorders, homelessness, mental health crises and trauma. The goal is to get help for those who need it rather than warehousing them in the overcrowded county jail.
Gainey’s plan also includes use of force reform that requires officers use deadly force only as a last resort, not as a tactic to detain a fleeing suspect who has not demonstrated intent to inflict imminent harm. It includes “ending mandatory arbitration of police disciplinary cases so that the city can discipline and, where necessary, fire officers without being compelled to participate in an unaccountable arbitration process that too often sides with the FOP,” according to his website.
He also says he will work with City Council to strengthen the Citizen Police Review Board’s ability to compel testimony from officers and conduct thorough, independent investigations of allegations of police misconduct. He has also supported a ban on solitary confinement in the Allegheny County Jail, and backed the Alliance for Police Accountability’s ballot initiatives to ban no-knock warrants — called “Breonna’s Law” after Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in Kentucky during a no-knock warrant raid at her apartment in 2020.
This all comes after six Pittsburgh Police officers were fired after the tasing death of Jim Rogers, a man from Bloomfield. Rogers was tased 10 times by officers responding to an incident, and he died the next day.
Gainey has long supported unions and a living wage, and has repeatedly said that large institutions must pay their fair share. One such company is UPMC.
“Years of negotiations to establish a voluntary payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) have gotten nowhere and would allow UPMC to dictate how and where its contributions are allocated,” his website reads. “The region’s most profitable corporation should pay taxes like anyone else, and decisions about how those funds — our dollars — are spent should be made in the City Council Chamber, not the UPMC boardroom.”
Some non-union UPMC workers went on strike for a day in November, advocating for fairer wages, better benefits and the right to unionize. In a series of ads released on social media, one striking worker said he made only $18 an hour after 22 years of service. Comparatively, the Post-Gazette reported last year that UPMC’s then-CEO Jeffery Romoff made just under $9.5 million in total compensation for the year ending June 30, 2020.
Gainey has supported the demands of UPMC’s workers, saying that he will “support workers at UPMC and other major employers in exercising their right to unionize and fight for living wages, safe working conditions and decent benefits.”
He also plans to end corporate handouts, overhauling the city’s economic development infrastructure to stop pursuing corporate giants with sweetheart deals and tax giveaways. Instead, his administration will focus its resources on supporting small, community-serving businesses; cooperative businesses; and minority-, women- and disadvantaged-owned businessess.
Gainey also said his administration will take multiple measures to make sure these smaller businesses can thrive.
He also promised to work with regional workforce development agencies to create a centralized fund that all developers and businesses seeking public subsidy will be required to contribute to. These resources will then be used to supplement existing state and federal funding streams, thus creating enhanced, permanent job training programs that connect city residents to valuable skills, good jobs and career opportunities — including pre-apprenticeship programs for Pittsburgh students.
Plans for diversifying and growing the workforce have often taken center stage throughout Gainey’s campaign, and in his inaugural address, he said he hopes to help establish “policies that create and sustain investments in literacy, career and workforce development, civic infrastructure and housing options.”
Time and time again, Gainey has emphasized the importance of home, critiquing the luxury development and gentrification that has driven local housing costs up drastically over the last few years.
“Luxury development is transforming mixed-income communities into playgrounds for the wealthy, forcing many Pittsburghers out of neighborhoods where they’ve lived for generations, while in other neighborhoods a complete lack of investment and support leaves residents feeling forgotten and abandoned,” his website reads. “No one wants to be pushed out or forgotten; at the end of the day, we all want to belong.”
Gainey has plans to address this disparity by taking an active role in the housing market, deploying tools like Community Land Trusts, the Land Bank and Inclusionary Zoning to build neighborhoods that are accessible for everyone.
He also says he plans to focus the resources of the Housing Authority and URA on expanding affordable housing options, preventing displacement and protecting neighborhoods from predatory development. He promises to protect renters, too, by continuing to try to implement the Rental Registry to take on “slumlords” and protect renters from unsafe conditions.
While the region has made great progress since the age of smoggy skies and soot-stained buildings, Gainey says the duty of addressing industrial pollution from the city’s past remains unfinished.
He plans to reduce Pittsburgh’s carbon footprint by continuing to electrify the city’s fleet of public transit vehicles, while also investing in renewable energy sources and pushing developers to be more energy-efficient in new construction projects. He has also said he hopes to grow the renewable energy sector, tying his environmental goals to his economic goals by touting the sector as a source of employment.
“Ed is committed to making Pittsburgh a model for bridging the false divide between the environmental and labor movements and demonstrating how the renewable energy and sustainable construction sectors can help us combat climate change while creating good union jobs, building healthy and affordable housing and growing our regional economy,” his website reads.
He also has spoken at length about the intersection of environmental concerns and racism; communities of color are more likely to be exposed to pollution, particularly air pollution generated from manufacturing and fossil fuel extraction and deteriorating homes constructed with toxic materials.
Gainey plans to eliminate all lead piping in the water system by 2026, and to disrupt real estate development patterns that disproportionately put marginalized communities at risk. He says he will invest in green, sustainable infrastructure that will better manage the stormwater drains, particularly in South Pittsburgh and the West End.
He’ll also preserve the city’s ban on fracking.
With Pittsburgh Public Schools facing budgeting issues and staffing shortages and even considering school closures, Gainey has often made the city’s education infrastructure a talking point of his campaign.
Once again, he has said that UPMC must pay its fair share of city and school district taxes, providing the funding the district needs to best serve its students.
Gainey has also promised to address broadband access for students — something he says is essential for 21st-century education, especially as remote learning comes and goes with the ebb and flow of the pandemic. He said he will ensure all neighborhoods have access to high-speed internet service.
He will also work with allies in Harrisburg to secure funding for urban school districts.
Pittsburgh Public Schools recognized Monday as Mayor Edward Gainey Day, said school board member Devon Taliaferro, who spoke in a prerecorded video at Gainey’s inauguration.
She added that leaders in the school district “hope that our district can build a bridge toward a stronger partnership with the City of Pittsburgh.”
The issue of mobility came up over the summer with the implementation of the sometimes-controversial Spin scooters, and again toward the end of 2021 when BikePGH announced improvements to its bikeshare program. Gainey also stressed the importance of a multi modal mobility system in his address, prioritizing safe travel for city residents whether they are walking, biking, driving or taking public transit.
He said he will reinforce the city’s commitment to Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate transportation fatalities and serious injuries and provides safe, healthy and accessible transportation options to all Pittsburghers.
He also plans to create safe walkways for pedestrians to connect schools and childcare facilities to parks and school bus or transit stops.
The Mon-Oakland connector project will be nixxed, too, as part of Gainey’s promise to prevent the construction of “privatized or quasi-privatized” mass transit systems “designed to support luxury development at the expense of existing residential communities.”
“The youth of our city understand more acutely than anyone else what Dr. [Martin Luther] King called ‘the fierce urgency of now,’” reads Gainey’s website. “Young leaders are at the forefront of urgent movements for racial, environmental, economic, housing and education justice.”
Gainey said his administration will uplift the city’s youth by establishing an Office of Youth Engagement to oversee the Mayor’s involvement with youth stakeholders in the region and manage a team of youth liaisons to represent the perspectives of young Pittsburghers in decision making.
He also promised to establish a Youth Commission that will collaborate with the city agencies, community organizations, nonprofits and private entities to improve the lives of Pittsburgh’s youth.