“Build bridges, not walls” has become a rallying cry of the left since Donald Trump took to the campaign trail. It’s a particularly fitting catchphrase for Pittsburgh, and apparently Mayor Bill Peduto, on a personal level, as well.
“I’m not the mayor of the next Pittsburgh, I’m the bridge,” he told a crowd gathered at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation. A collection of students along with members of the media and public had come to hear him speak about the transition to a Trump presidency.
A lifelong Pittsburgher, Peduto relayed how he identifies with the old blue collar persona the city once embodied, and how he’s watched it morph into the Millennial boomtown it’s recently become. He sees himself as a link between old and new.
But as the city, along with many other cities in America, steels itself for potential conflict with a Trump administration, Peduto says he asks himself “how do we keep Pittsburgh Pittsburgh?” and “how do we make a Pittsburgh for all?”
A direct answer to those questions wasn’t forthcoming. In fact, the discussion, which was peppered with questions both from students as well as Tom Fontaine of the Tribune-Review, took a somewhat circuitous route. But woven throughout Peduto’s commentary on topics such as public schools, housing and policing were threads of a game plan for Pittsburgh:
1) Look beyond corporations to make big things happen.
Pittsburgh has always been a city strong in strategic partnerships, Peduto told the crowd, and we’ve “always done things by rolling up its sleeves and working hard.” While the Trump administration is counting on corporations to do the heavy lifting, Peduto says he’s looking to foundations, universities and nonprofits to bring ideas for the city to life. “We have to call on those partnerships,” he said.
2) Think globally but act locally when it comes to immigration.
Pittsburgh has long been an immigrant-friendly city, and Peduto promises it will stay that way. While Trump lauds “Stop and Frisk” and Arizona’s highly controversial SB 1070 immigration law, Peduto says Pittsburgh has taken the opposite approach, reminding the crowd that as of 2014, local law enforcement ceased asking for documentation. “The Pittsburgh Police have been doing what sanctuary cities have been doing for the last three years,” he said. And if Team Trump threatens to take away federal funds because of that? Peduto says he’ll join other cities and take it to court, “and we will win.”
3) Disprove Trump’s myth that American cities are garbage.
Trump’s view of American cities is bleak. He’s called them a “disaster” and has claimed, “You get shot walking to the store.” But Pittsburgh can be a shining example of this misrepresentation. “I want mixed-income neighborhoods, and so do the people in Homewood and people in the Hill,” Peduto said. But ultimately, to him, urban development “is not about building housing, it’s about building communities.” Amenities such as schools, parks, access to medical care, and access to nutritious food are what gives communities staying power, he says. Building with community in mind “may take a little more time,” Peduto cautioned, “but it will last so much longer.”