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Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey; Unfiltered and Unafraid

Two years down, and at least two more to go.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey sat down with members of the New Pitts­burgh Courier editorial board on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The meeting inside the Mayor’s Office lasted for roughly 75 minutes. Mayor Gainey sat down the entire time during the interview.

It might have been the first time he’s sat down that long since becoming mayor of a city that’s got 300,000 residents, and about as many issues.

Over the next few weeks, the Courier will delve into the numerous topics dis­cussed with Mayor Gain­ey, in this series, “Mayor Gainey, Unfiltered.” This is part one.


Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor, Ed Gainey, similar to the States’ first Black president, Barack Obama, knew that there would be people who wouldn’t like him just because he was Black. But that didn’t stop Mayor Gainey from an­nouncing his bid to run for mayor in January 2021.

“I’m running for mayor because I know that the working people of Pitts­burgh need opportunities for good union jobs with a living wage and bene­fits, affordable housing, genuine public safety, and a city where we can all belong and contribute,” Gainey said at the time. “We can uplift the city of Pittsburgh for everyone if we start with those who have been left behind.”

The Courier was there when Gainey won the Democratic nomination for mayor in May 2021, a vibrant, vivacious celebra­tion held outside, on the North Side. The Courier was there when Gainey won the general election for mayor at a stylish gala inside the Benedum Cen­ter, Nov. 2, 2021.

And the Courier was there when he was sworn-in as mayor, Jan. 3, 2022.

As he settled into his new digs at 414 Grant Street, Downtown, he told the Courier exclusively, “the first thing coming into this office is we want­ed to make sure that we had a safe city.”

The mayor told the Courier that oftentimes City of Pittsburgh work­ers, particularly those in the Department of Public Works, didn’t feel safe on the job. DPW encompass­es everything from snow and ice removal, collect­ing refuse and recyclables, maintaining streets and park maintenance.

Representatives for the mayor said during the interview that there had been a sizable reduction in work-related injuries in the Department of Pub­lic Works since August 2022. “Workers now have a sense of safety,” voiced Olga George, a spokesper­son for the mayor. “They have a sense of, if they see a problem, they feel psychologically safe to say, ‘there is a problem,’” and managers are saying, ‘what can we do to fix this problem.”

George said in the past, some DPW members were driving snow plows that were “too large for the streets that they were driving on. They did not feel the sense, or they did elevate the issue, and nothing was done and they just had to figure out workarounds. When you try to figure out work­arounds, what happens is, workers get hurt.”

Mayor Gainey said he wasn’t having that.

“When I came on as may­or, we went to every De­partment of Public Works division, visited them, got on the snow plow, found out what they need,” May­or Gainey told the Couri­er. “..We put that money in the budget so that they would have the trucks they need, the personnel they need, and that was the first time in a long time that they had seen that level of investment.”

In the movie, “How did the City of Pittsburgh handle the snowstorm?” the city had not so good reviews in a Jan. 16 squall fest. But then, on Jan. 19, three days later, when forecasters thought the biggest snow was coming yet to the area, the snow wasn’t as bad, and the Gainey administration re­ceived praise for its snow removal process.

Mayor Gainey told the Courier that overall, his message from Day 1 has been to change the culture of the city’s operations in­ternally first.

“We went to every po­lice station in the city, all zones, we talked to them about what they need,” Mayor Gainey said. “What happened? First time in 20-some years that they got pay raises without (having to go through ar­bitration). This is the first time we were able to do it without collectively bar­gaining.”

Mayor Gainey said he went to the fire depart­ments, too, and got them a new contract without having to go through ar­bitration. “So we’ve been able to move some of our public safety departments in a way that has trans­formed this city,” he told the Courier.

“I’ll be quite honest with you,” Mayor Gainey told the Courier exclusively, “morale was down in Po­lice, DPW, down in DOMI (Department of Mobility and Infrastructure), Parks and Rec, and that’s not my style of management. My style of management is to put people in positions that they can feel safe and feel like they have the ability to thrive.”

The mayor, as members of his team watched, told the Courier that it’s a new feeling in the Mayor’s Of­fice these days. He said he comes to work every day ready to tackle the next problem, while celebrat­ing the latest victory. He said he’s human, he sees what is said about him on the news, or on the radio, or in the newspapers, or on the Internet. But two years in, and at least two more to go, Mayor Gainey continues on, seemingly unfazed and set on the task at hand.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Before the outside can change, the inside has to change,” Mayor Gain­ey told the Courier. “You have to change self before you can change anything else. We’ve been able to do that. I’m not here to be a dictator, I’m here to be a collaborator.[/perfectpullquote]