Gainey sworn in as Pittsburgh mayor, bringing new voices to city hall

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey being sworn in by President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark on Jan. 3, 2022. (Photo by Lindsay Dill/PublicSource)

Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor has an array of equity, development and public safety challenges to attend to in the first months of his term.

by Charlie Wolfson, PublicSource

Ed Gainey was sworn in as the 61st mayor of Pittsburgh Monday, taking the reins of the city as it tries to rebound from the pandemic and becoming its first Black mayor as it confronts its racial inequities. 

Gainey, 51, comes to the office from Lincoln-Lemington after almost nine years as a state representative. He goes from representing northeastern majority-Black neighborhoods such as Homewood, East Hills, Larimer and Garfield to being the mayor of all of Pittsburgh, a city that lost thousands of Black residents in recent years.

“My promise to you is that we will work to make Pittsburgh the Pittsburgh you voted for,” Gainey said in his inauguration speech. “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 inherits a city that managed to almost halt its decades-long population decline in the 2010s, but the 2020s present critical fiscal, housing and public safety problems. 

Gainey won the Democratic primary over the incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto vowing to tackle those daunting challenges. After almost a year of campaigning and a brief transition period, the time has finally come for him to try to turn his promises into policy.

Some of his agenda will depend on the cooperation of city council, which has signaled that it may take steps to bolster its own power as its former member, Peduto, departs the mayor’s office and a city government outsider enters. On Monday, council unanimously re-elected Theresa Kail-Smith as its president, a sign of continuity as the mayor’s office turns over.

Gainey is the first mayor to come from the majority-Black northeastern corner of the city in modern history. Some say that will bring much-needed representation to the mayor’s office — Gainey campaigned on the idea that for too long Pittsburgh has been unequal and that majority-minority neighborhoods face problems with housing, food and water access and public health that others don’t. 

“He’s one of us. He’s lived in this community his whole life,” said City Councilman Ricky Burgess, who represents Gainey’s neighborhood. “Having this shared pain absolutely will give him this opportunity to clearly understand and articulate the need.”

Jasiri X, a local activist and founder of 1Hood Media, said Gainey’s background — he was brought up in an East Liberty low-income housing complex and lost his sister to gun violence in 2016 — should position him to serve Pittsburgh’s most disadvantaged.

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