A Transition Team meeting to announce plans for the incoming administration of Mayor-Elect Ed Gainey was scheduled for Monday afternoon at the August Wilson Center. Just a few hours before the scheduled time, the meeting was moved to a Zoom call.
Thanking those in attendance for their ability to change plans, Gainey announced that, during a routine physical examination earlier that morning, a rapid Covid-19 test had returned a result that was “slightly positive.”
After being warned that he may have been exposed over the weekend, Gainey says, “we took a rapid test, because I wanted one.” The Mayor-Elect says the result will be confirmed through a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratory test within 24 to 48 hours, but the rapid test result prompted the move to the online session. Gainey emphasized that he is not experiencing any symptoms, and that this is not the first time he’s been tested after being notified of exposure.
“This is why we need to stay safe. This is why we need to protect one another,” says Gainey. “This is why we have to make sure to do everything possible for our neighbors. So, as of today, we are taking the precautionary steps necessary to ensure that we’re all safe, and I want to thank everybody for that. As we go forward, we will be transparent and we will let everybody know exactly where I’m at.”
Gainey also thanks the members of his transition staff.
“This is a robust group of people who have come together, of community leaders, to help us build the City that we want to see,” Gainey says. “To make this a City for all, to ensure that we’re the safest, most affordable and diverse city in America. We can do that. We’ve already started, and we can continue to build on what we’ve started.”
“A new seed has been planted, and it will grow to build the city that is inclusive of all of us,” Gainey says. “I’m glad that [the team] has come aboard to help us do this. Together, we can make this a City for All.”
Building an inclusive City is important, Gainey says, “One, to be competitive; two, to be more welcoming; and three, to build a City where our children want to stay. That will help our City to grow, and together, we can do that. You know my motto: ‘Let’s go get it.’”
Lisa Schroeder, representing the Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, expressed her organization’s confidence in the transition team.
“As foundation leaders, we thought it would be a very good thing to support a transition process thorough enough to ensure that the next Mayor would have the foundational knowledge necessary to effectively manage City affairs, from the routine to the complex, and as early in his term as possible,” Schroeder says, adding that the Foundations offered their support on a non-partisan basis, having made the offer to both Gainey and Republican challenger Tony Moreno.
The Foundations, says Schroeder, “have been working for a long time to increase citizen participation in civic dialogue, and the democratic process, directing support to programs and services that elevate civic participation and public policy.”
They facilitated the hiring of Thomas Consulting to perform research and interviewing to make progress possible.
“The Thomas Consulting Group, based in New Orleans, has unique experience that matched the need here in Pittsburgh,” Schroeder says. “Michelle Thomas and her team have amazing public-sector experience, and have specialized in assisting with mayoral transitions in many cities.” The organization was tasked with analyzing City departments, commissions, bureaus and authorities in order to provide an accurate assessment of where the City currently stands.
“We see the information developed for the first phase of the transition, which we are calling ‘the City Government Guidebook,’ as a valuable public resource, and I know Mayor-Elect Gainey agrees,” Schroeder says. “Our additional contribution to the effort will be to make publicly available the function descriptions of City departments, referencing challenges, opportunities that are in play, and provide an executive summary of the findings of the experienced consulting team.”
Schroeder says the final version of the information will be posted on the Pittsburgh Foundation’s website on January 24, 2022, and later transitioned to posting on the City’s website, “after design and technical issues are resolved.”
Gainey’s Transition Plan includes four main focus areas: Equitable Development, Education and Workforce Development, Infrastructure and Environment, and Community Health and Safety. Directed by Transition Co-Chairs Angel Gober, a local activist currently serving as the Western Pennsylvania Director of One Pennsylvania, and activist and SEIU Healthcare Vice President Silas Russell, each focus area has a committee working to develop recommendations in that area.
“Across all of our committees, we’re undertaking this work through an equity and empowerment lens,” Russell says. “[It] tasks us with centering the voices of people in communities that have traditionally left out of conversations like this one.”
Russell adds that all committee members are City residents, and all are fully-vaccinated against Covid. Committees will meet bi-weekly, holding town-hall meetings for public input, and produce a report to present to Gainey, and the general public, by mid-April.
Monica Ruiz, Executive Director of Casa San Jose, who co-chairs the Equitable Development Committee with Bob Damewood, a staff attorney at Regional Housing Legal Services, says she is honored to be asked to participate.
“It is a great responsibility that I do not take lightly,” Ruiz says, noting Gainey’s expressed intention to have everyone have a seat at the table. “But I know [Gainey] will go beyond that, because not everybody at the table always gets to eat. This is a great opportunity that you’ve given us, to put forth the work that we’ve already done, and continue to do more. I want Pittsburgh to continue to be a welcoming City, including for our newer residents, our immigrant residents. Our population is steadily declining, and the only population that’s growing is our immigrant population. So, if we don’t get in front of some of these things now, and have equitable development for everyone, we’re not doing justice to our communities.
Kathi Elliott, the CEO of Gwen’s Girls, co-chairs the Community Health and Safety Committee with Wasi Mohamed, a Senior Policy Officer at the Pittsburgh Foundation and formerly served as the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
Elliott says that “this is such an amazing time in the City of Pittsburgh, sort of like a Renaissance. I’ve publicly admitted I have a love/hate relationship with the City, but I’m so hopeful and excited about what is about to happen in our region: Community and government coming together, working together for the greater good of all.”
“There are some great initiatives that have been occurring in our region, but have been ‘siloed,’” Elliott says. “It is an opportunity for all of us to come together to create and demonstrate that collective impact that will lead to the change that Mayor-Elect Gainey has envisioned for years. It is going to take all of us, and I am hopeful, and I am committed, to helping to facilitate the necessary collaborative efforts in our communities to bring community and government together, working together for a better Pittsburgh for All.”
The Education and Workforce Development Committee is co-chaired by former Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Chair Regina Holley and Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council President Darrin Kelly. The goal of the committee is to enhance the relationships between the City and PPS, encouraging job training and educational opportunities both in and out of school, and developing a skilled work force.
UrbanKind Institute Founder and President Jamil Bey co-chairs the Infrastructure and Environment Committee with Architect and environmental activist Christine Mondor. The focus of the committee is to develop environmentally- and fiscally-sound strategies to improve and maintain city infrastructure, including mobility and transportation infrastructure.
Gainey says the number one goal for his transition team is to come up with a plan that can be put into action.
“I want something that we can build on, that we can grow on. I want something that can be executed,” Gainey says. “Number two, I want to make sure our neighborhoods and our Downtown is clean. We’ve got to clean up our City.”
“I don’t want a plan that says we can do a million things. I want a plan to get things done,” says Gainey. “Not so big that it can’t be fulfilled. That’s happened a lot in the past, but that is not the plan that I want.”
For more information on Mayor-Elect Ed Gainey’s transition plan, visit https://gaineytransition.com/
By Nancy Hart