Gainey and Moreno debate housing, environment and more in lengthy Pittsburgh town hall debate
In an extensive debate that lasted nearly three hours, mayoral candidates Ed Gainey, a state representative, and Tony Moreno, a retired Pittsburgh police officer, discussed topics ranging from housing and from economics to the environment and voter identification.
If elected, Gainey would become the city’s first black mayor. Moreno would become the first Republican candidate elected for the post since the 1930s.
“I think Pittsburgh is ready for change,” Democratic candidate Gainey said in his opening remarks, adding that he wanted to make the city safer, cleaner and more affordable for everyone.
Moreno, a Republican candidate after losing the Democratic primary, described his opponent as part of the city’s existing problems rather than someone who could help solve them. Moreno said he was running because “my city is broken” after elected officials fail to represent the people and “the politics of the day are not working”.
Both agreed that the affordable housing shortage was one of the main issues to be addressed, although their views on how to deal with the housing crisis differ.
“Housing is currently very expensive,” Gainey said, adding that his administration would be “laser-focused” on creating more affordable housing.
“We’ve had explosive growth in this city that has gentrified neighborhoods, because we haven’t invested in affordability,” Gainey said.
He proposed to remedy the problem with inclusionary zoning, which would ensure that “all projects presented to us are affordable”.
Moreno accused Gainey of “intentionally going out and gentrifying” the city, citing a 2013 interview in which Gainey touted his involvement in an East Liberty project that is often cited as an example of gentrification in the city.
“He is campaigning and telling you to stop what he has already done,” Moreno said.
Instead, Moreno suggested finding people in the community, training them in the communities where they live and encouraging them to revitalize the homes and buildings already there. Then people who live in the community can move into affordable housing that has been revitalized there by local workers, he said.
The two were also divided over whether they would extend the moratorium on evictions, which was aimed at helping people stay at home throughout the covid-19 pandemic, when many were not able to work.
Moreno said he would eliminate the moratorium, instead focusing on helping people who have lost their jobs to find jobs so they can pay their bills. The moratorium, he said, hurt homeowners who relied on that income, as not all of them are “billionaire homeowners.”
Gainey, however, was in favor of maintaining the moratorium as part of the emphasis on ensuring that housing was available to everyone.
It also recommended using the land available through the city’s land bank for affordable housing, while designating part of this land for urban gardens and green spaces.
Moreno argued that, if affordable housing is the main problem, all of the land bank’s resources should be devoted to solving this problem.
Candidates also addressed the theme of the environment, a topic that was brought to the fore under the administration of Mayor Bill Peduto.
“The more we move towards green and clean jobs, the better our economy will be,” Gainey said.
He advocated for renewable energy sources, stressed the importance of clean water and air, and urged accelerating the process of removing lead water pipes, some of which have more 100 years old. Gainey also pledged not to privatize PWSA, saying other parts of the country have seen tariffs “rise dramatically” after the privatization of utility companies.
“We see climate action every day. Let’s make it personal. We see it in our homes, ”he said, using flooded basements as an example.
Regarding the environment, Moreno also highlighted the importance of clean water and air, with particular emphasis on using the city’s well-known rivers as a source of energy.
But he said people should focus on solving environmental issues within the city, rather than pointing fingers.
“Blaming the fracking in Beaver County for what’s going on here is the wrong thing to do,” he said, accusing traffic of being a major cause of pollution in the city.
Moreno said he would work to fill positions on the board of directors of PWSA and other city councils with people qualified to do the job, rather than politicizing the process by appointing political friends, which he has. suggested to current managers to do.
“We have professionals here who are expert at what they do in the city of Pittsburgh,” said Moreno, suggesting they shouldn’t continue to outsource to other cities to fill roles that could be. best run by residents who understand the community. “We’re not looking internally to find our best and brightest to develop Pittsburgh in every corner we can.”
Gainey said that completing such appointments is “a great opportunity to engage in the community” and solicit their recommendations.
Both said they believe everyone should have access to jobs to strengthen the local economy and get people back on their feet after the covid-19 pandemic.
They briefly discussed the police, an area in which the candidates have very different views.
“We have to change mentalities. We don’t need a military-style police force. Who are we at war with? We are not at war with our neighbors, ”Gainey said, calling for“ systematic changes ”and more social workers who could be called in to“ defuse situations ”.
But Moreno argued that “reimagining the police force,” as Gainey suggested, “is consistent with redefining funds or funding the police.”
He pointed out that Pittsburgh police officers receive mental health training and are equipped to handle all kinds of situations. The retired police officer blamed the city administration for any shortcomings in the police service, pointing out that the officers themselves believe in “justice and benevolence.”
They were also divided on the subject of voter identification, with Moreno supporting the measure as a way to protect the voting rights he fought for in the military. He suggested that the city government pay for IDs for everyone on their 18th birthday.
The idea that people of color and other minorities can be barred from voting because of voter identification laws is “just ridiculous” and “insulting,” he said.
Gainey, however, has spoken out against voter identification and said he is arguing instead for strengthening voter participation.
Moreno also opposed recent measures by the city council to strengthen his own power, calling them a “takeover”. He said he did not know which candidate council was “afraid of more”, but said he did not believe their efforts to strengthen their own authority would be successful.