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Ed Gainey Makes History as Pittsburgh’s First Black Mayor

The city native was sworn in on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, and is Pittsburgh’s 61st mayor. Gainey won voters with his message that former Mayor Peduto hadn’t done enough to balance the city’s growth with inclusivity.

(TNS) — Ed Gainey, the Pennsylvania state lawmaker who pitched transformative change for a city that's experiencing the ripple effects of a 21st century economy, was officially sworn in Monday as Pittsburgh's first Black mayor.

Mr. Gainey, born and raised here, takes the reins of a city that was once famously deemed America's most livable, but where many residents — particularly in communities of color — face numerous systemic inequities and, according to the new mayor, feel left behind.

In the chambers of Pittsburgh's City Council, Mr. Gainey, 51, took the oath of office and delivered an inaugural address that outlined his desire to foster a city government that's "progressive, principled and always on the side of the people."

"Success does — and will — continue to live here and thrive here in our city of Pittsburgh, but not at the expense of those that have been left behind for far too long," Mr. Gainey said. "Let me be clear: We will be bold. We will aim high. And we will work tirelessly till get there."

The oath of office to swear in the 61st mayor in city history was administered by Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley-Clark shortly before 2 p.m. Looking on from the crowd were former Mayors Tom Murphy, Luke Ravenstahl and Bill Peduto, who packed his last box Friday to leave office after two terms.

Mr. Gainey, who beat Mr. Peduto in last May's primary with a persistent message that the incumbent hadn't done enough to balance the city's growth with inclusivity, promised to work to make Pittsburgh the city that voters voted for: one where economic opportunity is "abundant for everybody" and affordability isn't a luxury.

The city is a leader in health care, technology and higher education, Mr. Gainey said in his address, but it could also be a leader in police-community relations, economic inclusion, affordability and access to transportation.

"We have work to do, Pittsburgh," Mr. Gainey said. "But this is with immense optimism that I stand here — optimism that we can together meet the challenges that we face, to overcome what divides us and to make this a great city for all."

This isn't Mr. Gainey's first rodeo in city politics; he was a community development specialist in Mr. Ravenstahl's administration before becoming the 24th District's state legislator in 2012. He framed his worldview as wanting to set out to "build bridges across neighborhoods and throughout this city" — that real power isn't necessarily best used to change the world, but to "make a world of change in the people that we encounter every single day."

"We have a choice in every moment if we just look around us," Mr. Gainey said. "We have a choice to accept things as they are or to take responsibility for changing them."

Becoming the city's first Black mayor isn't a responsibility he takes lightly, he said — insisting that he stands "on the shoulders of greats" like Nate Smith, Harvey Adams and Alma Speed Fox. He said his victory "represents another step forward in advancing the vision of a country where all people have access to opportunities to succeed."

He'll take the lead at City Hall at a time when its role in cultivating a better city — particularly that of the police department — faces scrutiny. During his run for mayor, Mr. Gainey frequently alleged there's over-policing in neighborhoods of color and said there needs to be a greater focus on community-oriented policing.

In his first press conference held in the direct aftermath of the inauguration, Mr. Gainey faced numerous questions from reporters about the state of the police department, and said — multiple times — that he'd like to be briefed first on specific issues before commenting. He did indicate that Police Chief Scott Schubert is still in his position, noting that for now, the only personnel move he's made was replacing Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. Asked if he thinks the police force should be reduced in size, he said he doesn't.

Though City Hall was bustling on Monday, the inauguration wasn't as grandiose as ceremonies in the past — a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic pushing the festivities online. Only Mr. Gainey's family and most notable supporters attended in-person; the rest checked into live streams on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The inaugural program was a mix of pre-recorded videos and live aspects, culminating in Mr. Gainey's address. Virtual attendees were treated to performances by Vanessa German, Mt. Ararat Church Praise and Worship Ensemble, the Sankofa Village for the Arts and Pittsburgh CAPA student Francesca Rose.

Mr. Gainey spent most of the day flanked by his wife, Michelle, and shaking hands with various public officials. Gov. Tom Wolf spoke by live stream, calling Mr. Gainey a strong leader who "has time and time again demonstrated his immense strength of character and his determination to lift up people of his community."

"Mayor Gainey's focus on improving opportunities for everybody is going to put Pittsburgh and the people who call it home on a path to even greater things," Mr. Wolf said. "This is just what Pittsburgh needs."

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, speaking in-person, remarked that the city has turned a corner and come a long way — mostly because of the efforts of the three mayors in attendance — but said Mr. Gainey will continue to move it forward with a focus on equity.

"For all the great things that are happening in a big part of this city, not everybody has that hope not everybody has that ability and that connection to the opportunities that are happening," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Mr. Gainey started his speech by thanking God, the voters and his family — his daughters Mariah and Alexa, son Darius and wife Michelle, who moments earlier was at her husband's side for his swearing in.

"They say behind every great man is a great woman, but for me the greatest woman I could have ever been given stands beside me now every single day," Mr. Gainey said of his wife.

He also thanked all of Pittsburgh for putting faith in his leadership.

"I love this city. Without this city, I would not be who I am today and I want you to know that I will never take your support or vote for granted," Mr. Gainey said. "I understand that your trust and your confidence is not a permanent condition but something that must be earned and protected every single day."

(c)2022 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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