PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- To Ed Gainey, becoming Pittsburgh's first Black mayor is not a personal achievement, but the fulfillment of the dream of generations of Black leaders before him who fought for equality and paved his way to Grant Street.
"You talking about people I could never step in their shoes, you talking about people who made this city better," Gainey told KDKA-TV. "I can never live up to Byrd Brown or Harvey Adams or Alma Speed Fox, Connie Parks. I could never live up to them. Their shoes are too big for me to fill. The only shoes I can fill are Ed Gainey's."
Gainey said he's seen Pittsburgh rise from the collapse of the steel industry to become a high-tech Mecca, but it has not been a tide to lift all boats. In the mayor's office, he's set about the task of ending historic inequities in housing, education, employment and infant health -- erasing the divide between white and Black Pittsburgh.
"It's always been a tale of two Pittsburghs, and we know that," Gainey said. "I understand the segregation, I understand why our neighborhoods look the way they look. But do we have to stay that way? Do we? Or can we work together as people from this city who say that they love this city regardless of what neighborhood you come from?"
WEB EXTRA: Mayor Ed Gainey's Full Interview --
In just a few short weeks since becoming mayor, he's been hit with snowstorms and snowplow shortages, a fatal shooting outside a city high school and the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge. But he'll soon begin unveiling his agenda involving the development of affordable housing, police reform to reduce what he sees as the over-policing of Black neighborhoods, and dealing head-on with the problem of youth gun violence -- enlisting the hospital systems, the schools, corporations and the broader community to address the underlying causes.
"Violence is something in the city we must address, and it just can't be done with public safety," Gainey said. "Though public safety plays an important part, we need a public health plan to address violence so that we come up with solutions, like a pathway to progress. Something that begins to talk about putting our children in a different environment that gives them hope and opportunity."
And despite the focus on the Black community, Gainey said this is not to the exclusion of anyone. He said the goal is to make this a better city for everyone — even those who didn't vote for him.
"At the end of the day, I want them to know I'll still listen, I'll still represent you too, regardless of how you see me, your image of me, your stereotype of me," Gainey said. "I don't care. What I care about is how I serve this city, a city I love, and how we build a city that is for everybody."
"We're not going to transform this city in my time as mayor. It takes 20 years for something to grow. But what we can do is, we can plant the seed and allow that seed to begin to grow so people can see that there is a real, significant benefit in a diverse population and having a diverse workforce and having a city that is for all," he added.
But Gainey's vision for Pittsburgh goes beyond the mayor's office, beyond city hall. He said city government can initiate change, but it must be embraced by the entire community -- a community he hopes to bring together
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