Pittsburgh will have an entirely new set of names on the ballot this November.
In May, State Rep. Ed Gainey defeated two-term Mayor Bill Peduto, a long-time tech cheerleader for the city who helped launch the recent advancement of autonomous vehicles and worked to bring a local presence of tech giants. Gainey’s win is the first time an incumbent mayor has lost a reelection campaign here in recent history.
Gainey, who would be Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor if he wins this November, is expected to focus on addressing many of the systemic inequities across the city’s economy, housing, public safety and more. Often labeled the “most livable city,” a 2019 report from Pittsburgh’s Gender and Equity Commission shared research that showed “Pittsburgh is arguably the most unlivable for Black women.” That question of livability was top of mind for both Gainey and voters, and remains a driving force behind his campaign platform.
As the tech industry continues to take a more prominent role in the local economy, ensuring equitable job and business growth will need to be a priority for the next mayor. In a survey, Technical.ly asked Gainey for his stance on some of the biggest challenges to that growth, and what his plans are to address them, should he take office in January. We plan to share the survey and publish responses from other candidates, including Gainey’s top competitor Republican, retired police officer Tony Moreno, ahead of the general election.
Gainey responded yes to all statements on the survey. They are outlined below, alongside additional comments from the candidate.
Question #1: I support launching city government programs to expand access to technology and internet across the City of Pittsburgh, including to the nearly 30,000 households who lack an internet connection (as of 2015).
- Comments: Equitable expansion of internet access is a fundamental necessity; every Pittsburgher, regardless of their race, income, or neighborhood, must have access to high-speed, reliable internet service.
Question #2: I believe Pittsburgh’s economic growth requires modern workforce development strategies. This includes increased city government-sponsored work training opportunities in the tech industry, with a focus on groups that are currently underrepresented in that workforce.
- Comments: Our region is home to robust workforce development infrastructure, but greater collaboration is needed to maximize its potential and magnify its impact. With greater coordination we can build stronger pipelines to employment and ensure that historically disadvantaged communities and those facing economic dislocation have viable pathways to meaningfully share in the economic growth our region is experiencing.
Question #3: I support growing a diverse tech workforce. This includes efforts to improve on statistics outlined by the Gender Equity Commission’s 2019 report, such as motivating local tech companies to enact more equitable hiring practices, as well as focused retention efforts.
- Comments: I support efforts within our region’s employers and growing sectors to recruit, train, and retain a more diverse workforce, and stand ready to partner with our businesses, unions, universities, and other civic institutions to grow and maintain a diverse regional workforce that provides robust opportunities to everyone in our city and region.
Question #4: I believe modern economic development includes working with stakeholders across government, business, anchor institutions, and communities to create spaces that spur technology and entrepreneurial ventures. This includes efforts to cluster large employers and researchers with new companies, and repurposing former industrial spaces for use by technology and entrepreneurial ventures growing in Pittsburgh. This means partnering with both developers and community members in ongoing and future projects, like those at Hazelwood Green and Rockwell Park.
- Comments: The tech industry is a vital engine of our local economy and I’m committed to working with regional stakeholders to continuing the growth of this sector in our region. At the same time, it’s vital that we work together to ensure that the benefits of that growth are equitably distributed and that the economic growth of our region doesn’t leave any Pittsburgher behind. I’m committed to a vision of sustainable growth and community-oriented development that ensures that new economic opportunities bring with them family-sustaining jobs and are balanced with protections against displacement to ensure that there is a place for everyone in our city’s future.
Question #5: I support the need for supplementary educational opportunities in STEM. This includes incorporating more digital literacy and technical skills education into Pittsburgh Public Schools curricula, and fostering more connections between local tech employers and high school students.
- Comments: I’m committed to partnering with PPS to ensure that every student has the opportunities and skills that they need to succeed in a 21st century economy and to fully benefit from the growth of the tech industry in our region, both in the classroom and through out-of-school-time programming through the City Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
Question #6: I support programs that aim to attract, retain and grow Pittsburgh entrepreneurs and its startup community, like local accelerators and incubators, as well as other related startup and funding initiatives.
- Comments: As mayor I’m committed to supporting efforts to foster and grow the early-stage ventures that are critical to our continued economic growth, while also taking steps to ensure that that growth translates into equitable opportunities across our community.
Question #7: I support the role private investment, like venture capital, must play in growing local communities through social entrepreneurship and other civic-minded business growth.
- Comments: Everyone has a role to play in, and an obligation to contribute to, the work of building a Pittsburgh for all. I’m committed to building partnerships across our region, including the public sector, private enterprise, organized labor, nonprofit organizations and philanthropy, around a shared vision for a future for our city where everyone can earn a living, afford a good home, and feel safe in our neighborhoods.
Question #8: I believe city government is a driver of citywide innovation to combat the effects of climate change. This includes the continuation and growth of city-sponsored initiatives to motivate local companies to meet the 2030 goals established by the Department of City Planning, including the widespread adoption of renewable energy and encouragement of fossil fuel divestment.
- Comments: We must continue and accelerate ongoing efforts reduce the carbon-footprint of our region to confront the urgent threat of climate change. As mayor I will continue the work of electrifying the City’s vehicle fleet, utilize the city’s purchasing power as a large energy consumer to spur the development of renewable energy sources in our region, and work with the private sector to drive adherence to to high standards for energy efficiency and grow the renewable energy sector as a job engine of our local economy.
Question #9: I believe open data is a dominant trend in transparent, responsive and effective government, and support maintaining, upgrading and improving the readability of data made available by the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.
- Comments: Open data is vital to government transparency and accountability, as well as a foundational element of civic partnerships between government and other community-serving institutions.
Question #10: I support an equitable post-pandemic economic recovery to ensure small businesses can get back on their feet. This includes relief resources for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as fostering reskilling initiatives for workers and advancing equitable employment in the area’s fastest-growing industries, such as robotics, software, life sciences and other sectors of tech.
- Comments: We have to do everything in our power to ensure that our workers and small businesses have the resources and support they need to bounce back from the disruption caused by COVID-19 and are primed not only to recover, but thrive in a post-pandemic economy.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-