Presented by the All for All Coalition, convened by The Global Switchboard Ivonne Smith-Tapia (host): Welcome to the Mayoral Forum by Pittsburgh’s Immigrant & International Communities hosted by the All for All Coalition. My name is Ivonne Smith Tapia, chair of the All for All Coalition and I’m going to be your host tonight. All […]

TRANSCRIPT: Mayoral Forum by Pittsburgh’s Immigrant & International Communities, May 6, 2021 | The Global Switchboard | Hub

TRANSCRIPT: Mayoral Forum by Pittsburgh’s Immigrant & International Communities, May 6, 2021

Presented by the All for All Coalition, convened by The Global Switchboard

Ivonne Smith-Tapia (host): Welcome to the Mayoral Forum by Pittsburgh’s Immigrant & International Communities hosted by the All for All Coalition. My name is Ivonne Smith Tapia, chair of the All for All Coalition and I’m going to be your host tonight. All for All is an action-oriented collaborative network, convened by The Global Switchboard, that aims to advance immigrant inclusion to create a welcoming region for all. 

For generations,  immigrants have made Pittsburgh their home. In the past and in the present, immigrants have contributed to the economy and our society as a whole making the city more prosperous and vibrant. Despite our significant contributions, immigrant issues are not always at the top of candidate’s agendas. That is why today’s forum is very relevant and it sets a precedent for future election cycles. 

Our goal for today  is to highlight the diversity that exists within the immigrant community. We are going to do that by asking questions that cover a variety of topics. Before we start, I want to share the format for tonight:  

This live event will be presented in English. However, following the forum, we will translate the candidates’ responses into different languages and formats and we will share them with the public. If you have a specific request, please reach out to the All for All team directly. 

The questions for this forum were submitted by All for All Coalition members, organizations working with immigrants and refugees, and Pittsburgh residents. We will have some of them asking the questions themselves today.  

In order to cover all the questions, and give candidates an equal opportunity to share their views, each candidate will have 1 minute to respond to each question. We will kindly mute their microphone when their time is up.   

And for you, the audience, watching from different platforms, please submit your questions in the comments section. At the end, We will have time to include a few of your questions. 

Thank you to the candidates for making the time to share your views with us tonight, and I’m very please to introduce them  to you: Representative Ed Gainey, Mr. Tony Moreno, Mr. nMayor Bill Peduto, and Mr. Mike Thompson. So, let’s start right away with the first question.

Question 1:

This campaign season has highlighted the many different versions of Pittsburgh that people experience based on their identity, and whether or not Pittsburgh is actually a livable city for ALL. What steps will you take to ensure that immigrant communities will not only move to Pittsburgh, but are able to STAY here? And we will start with Mr. Moreno.

Mr. Moreno:   I appreciate it. Thank you, thank you for having me, thank you for the question. It is very near to my heart as I am Mexican, Native American, and Scotish-Irish. I come Southern California, my father was from Hopeville and my grandfather owned a trucking business that worked the produce fields in El Centro, and I watched how he helped immigrants come over and he gave them housing on his property and he gave them a job so they could start working to become American citizens. He helped translate for them if they didn’t speak English. In Pittsburgh, I felt it immediately when I filled out my job application, it had White, Black, and Other. When I checked the Other box, and wrote in Hispanic, I was told that I had to change it, because I didn’t look Mexican. My question was, what does Mexican look like. So educating our city on what to expect from the different immigrants we have coming in here, providing them for the things that they need, to include interpreters, we have to be able to show them how to move into homes, move into these places, and how to start living a life, and how to transport around the city to get food and health care, it is very important that we welcome them that way.

Mayor Peduto: When I took office in 2014, The City of Pittsburgh didn’t have a program for new Pittsburghers, whether those new Pittsburghers were coming in as students, or they were immigrating to the United States, or they were refugees, we realized early on that we needed to create programming around making our city more welcoming. So we created Welcoming Pittsburgh in order to be able to recognize the challenges that people have as a new member of our community and what we’ve done is we have worked directly with each of the different communities throughout the city of Pittsburgh. Changing and adding new languages to the access of services, providing services directly, and creating a liaison directly with the Mayor’s office.

Representative Gainey: Yes, thank you for having me this evening. Pittsburgh is a city of immigrants, always has been a city of immigrants and I think that’s what makes Pittsburgh great. But what we have to do is make Pittsburgh more welcoming, we have to ensure that this city is welcoming for all. So we need to create a community where every ethnic group sees their own culture inside our city, that’s important. We want people to feel like Pittsburgh represents their culture, and that they see themselves in this city. And thirdly, we need to invest and work with help building business and homeownership in the community so that they feel welcome. All that leads to a great city. 

Ivonne: Thank you Representative Gainey. Now, Mr. Thompson

Mr. Thompson: Well, I think there is a lot more we can do to get the people who come here to go to school, to stay here, we have a large number of immigrants and people from other cities who come here, ok, you know, to study, and they don’t end up staying here. One of the reasons for that is jobs, others, you know the culture of the city, we need to change the culture of the city to be a more welcoming culture. Too often people only stay with their own groups, so if you’re Irish Italian, all your friends are Irish Italian or if you’re white, all your friends are white. And that’s just kind of an unfortunate way the city is. We are segregated in far too many ways, we need to be more welcoming, more open, we need to reach across the line and talk to others, whether they’re immigrants, whether they’re refugees or students that are here for school, we have to become a beacon of all sorts of diverse backgrounds.

Question 2:

There are a number of current, city-wide initiatives focused on immigrant and refugee inclusion. How will your administration support, expand, and institutionalize the City’s ongoing work to advance human and civil rights for immigrants, and, how will you maintain transparency and hold yourself accountable in advancing this work? And we will start with Mayor Peduto.

Mayor Peduto: Thank you, what we have done over these past years have been first, playing offense to be able to create new policies and new programs and new initiatives to be  a more welcoming city. But then, also playing defense with the Trump administration and the stripping of rights of immigrants and refugees, we had to take direct action, and sue the federal government when they took away the rights of our neighbors. So what we would continue to do is to be there to understand that we protect all of our citizens, all of our residents, whether those folks are documented, or undocumented. We refuse to work with ICE, and under my continued leadership, we will continue to refuse to work with ICE. We will provide the opportunities for everyone in our city to succeed. 

Representative Gainey: We want to work with the immigrant community. We want to sit down and talk to them and find out exactly what they need and how they feel we need to build,  in this city, to ensure they feel welcome. We want to protect their human and civil rights, that’s why you’ve heard me talk so much about police-community relations and why that’s important. You’ve also heard me talk about affordable housing, because all of those things are important in making people feel welcome and stabilizing everybody in this city to help have a more livable city. So for me, we want to protect their rights, we want to make sure they feel welcome here, and we want to work with them so we can create an agenda that they are at the table with us, telling us how we can help empower them. That’s how we build a city for all. And under my administration, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

Mr. Thompson: Well we definitely want to be more welcoming. One of the things I can say is, I had the privilege of attending a swearing in ceremony, you know we naturalize our citizens about once a month or so downtown, so I can tell you there’s always someone from ( Jewish Family and (childrens) Services, and always someone from the League of Women Voters there and time again you’ll find that there isn’t someone from the Mayor’s office. If you go to cities like LA, cities with a vibrant immigrant culture, they’ll swear in thousands of people and there’s always someone from the city council or the Mayor’s office, and here, like, it was a pretty small ceremony, it would be nice if the city welcomed the people in whether they’re being sworn in as new American citizens, I think it would be a very nice thing to do. Also, beyond that, I think, as a history person, I majored in American History, we need to talk more about our history of being immigrants, we’re called the Pittsburgh Pirates because we stole an immigrant from Philadelphia and they called us bastards, they called us pirates, we changed our name ok, because of an immigrant, and when he got to Pittsburgh, we called him a Pittsburgher. 

Mr. Moreno: We have to prioritize it, we have a lot of immigrants in our city right now and they’re hiding because they haven’t been given the opportunity to get green cards or visas in a way that they can do it, we have to streamline that. Now, the Federal government is responsible for most of these things, but if we can make it better in the city, we can move those folks into that process. I’m working with a gentleman right now that is an immigrantion attorney, and that’s rare because they don’t have a lot of immigration law here in the city of Pittsburgh, there’s only one credited immigration class at Pitt University and Duquesne doesn’t have any. So we need to make sure that we make these things available, we give them to these communities and we bring them in and make them feel welcome to trying to get citizenship so they can go to work. It’s not fair that we brought people in here, and now they’re hiding. We have a Somali community in Northview Heights that struggled because they don’t speak the language, and they don’t know how to keep a household, so mentoring them is another issue.

Question 3:

Good evening everyone. My name is Nadya Kessler and I’m the Russian speaking community representative and I have been working with the immigrant and refugee population here in Pittsburgh for the past decade. Language barriers present a clear and urgent crisis for service providers as well as immigrants and refugees in this city. Where interpretation and translation isn’t provided, many immigrants with limited English proficiency are deprived of access to everything from getting a driver’s license to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Given that provision of language assistance is required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and EO 13166, as well as The City of Pittsburgh’s own Code of Ordinances, how will your Administration act to advance language accessibility in Pittsburgh and in the City government itself?

Gainey: Thank you. That’s one of the issues that I’m talking about when I’m talking about working with the community. We know that working with the community we can provide translators, but we have to have somebody that’s leading us there, I think that one of the things you said that was critical there was COVID-19, not knowing where to go get a shot, not knowing where they even needed to go to get tested to see if they had COVID-19. This is where city leadership needs to work closely with all communities, every community, to find out what they need, and if they need translators to help them understand where to go to get tested, or where they have to go to get shots, we have to work with them. It’s all about building the relationships of respect with how we work with one another and I’m willing to work with them, I’m willing to work with them to ensure that they have the translators they need, and also creating an agenda that we can follow

Mr Thompson: Yes, language barriers are a huge issue. I have Jewish refugee, that’s my background, from Austria, my grandfather escaped Vienna, Austria right after Kristalnacht, so I qualify to go back to Austria if I want dual Austrian citizenship, but, I don’t speak German, ok, so if I was in Austria, I would basically be a janitor cause that’s all you can do if you don’t speak German, and I would have a lot of trouble getting around, if I were to live there, I don’t speak the language ok. And I have a college degree, but I don’t speak the language, this is true for many people who come to Pittsburgh. If you don’t speak the language, it’s a problem, ok. So what you really need to do is a program like others cities have, a call in service would be great, where you can call in and there’s an interpreter available, I don’t know if you need a full time interpreter for some of the more, less used languages, but certainly we could partner with, there’s a number of services where you call in and there’s an interpreter available, and that person helps you through the process. 

Mr. Moreno: No, that’s ok.  We have to prioritize, I know in law enforcement and in the police department, we struggle to have interpreters and it often takes several minutes, if not hours, to contact an interpreter when you’re on the street and a lot of times that becomes a huge problem because we’re not supposed to be keeping people in custody that way. Also when they move into these neighborhoods, we have to use the model of the Russian refugees after the cold war when they came to Squirrel Hill, they had people that were in place that spoke both English and Russian, they were able to move them into housing that they had set up, they had a plan for it, right now we don’t have those plans in place, or at least we’re not using them correctly because we see these folks suffer. I was in Northview Heights and there was one person who was interpreting for several people that were coming to an event that I had. So watching that happen and knowing that in Beechview they struggle to have interpretation, we could also set them up with technology, a lot of our modern cell phones and laptops have the ability to speak into them and speak back the language that they’re talking.

Ivonne: Thank you, Mr. Moreno, now we have another question from a community member and this is going to be about education.

Mayor Peduto: Can I answer the question?

Ivonne: No, Mr. Peduto, you can use your time for the next question if you want to address other candidates comments 

Mr. Moreno: He didn’t have a chance to answer 

Ivonne: Oh! You didn’t? I’m so sorry Mr. Peduto, I’m so so so so sorry, please go ahead! 

Mayor Peduto: That’s quite alright, I was a little bit confused, I thought maybe the questions were only going to be for certain candidates. Anyways, this is one of the important parts of Welcoming Pittsburgh, we were able to create a database of all the different service providers that are in the City of Pittsburgh, so when COVID started, we immediately were able to have the meetings with the providers. Secondly, and that was through the Quiet Care Campaign that we led. The second part of that was we were also able to create weekly meetings with, not only the providers, but with the refugee and immigrant communities so we could answer questions directly and specifically. And third, we created a new language transfer portal that has changed and created all of our key documents to numerous languages by hiring a third party and 311 is now able to take requests and need, based on pretty much any language on earth. 

Question 4:

Thank you for letting me know that. Namaste. Once again, good evening gentlemen. My name is Khara Timsina and I am with the Bhutanese community here in Pittsburgh, and my question to you all is: As a mayor, how will you work with state elected officials, the school board, and other regional leaders to ensure affordability and access to high-quality childcare and educational opportunities that are culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of immigrant and refugee children and families? Thank you.

Mr. Thompson: Well, certainly we have to work with the school board and with state leaders. I think one thing we can do is really, you know, talk up the diverse nature of Pittsburgh. Also, if you talk to people who’ve lived here forever, many of them came here as immigrants, and they came here from other places. And we have to talk up more where we came from years ago and see what we have in common, instead of our differences. Too often, people who are refugees or immigrants are treated differently, as if they are some sort of other, when they are really equal human beings, and America is a nation of immigrants. And we have to remember that that is the basis of who we are.

Mr. Moreno: We can’t even get childcare for the Black women in Pittsburgh right now so they can rise themselves out of the poverty they live in, so that has to be an absolute priority. We have to make sure we set these up, and now when you include immigrants who have a problem communicating, we have to bring in first in the early childhood development, have English-speaking tutors, because when I grew up, I asked my father why he didn’t teach me Spanish and he said it wasn’t cool in 1968 for kids to learn Spanish. And I realized it because most of my friends who were Mexican, they didn’t speak Spanish either, unless they had a Spanish-only speaking parent. So they would translate for them. So we got to go into these households and figure out how they’re communicating. Because most of the time the parent that’s not English speaking won’t learn English, and you have to teach the kids English so they can communicate with their parent back-and-forth. If we prioritize that and it’s going to become easier to live, and then you can get them the services they need early on in their education process. 

Mayor Peduto: Thank you. One of the key ways that we can work in order to be able to assure, especially our young Pittsburghers, an opportunity through education is by lobbying for and enhancing our English as a Second Language programs in Pittsburgh Public Schools and through the financing through the state of Pennsylvania. English as a Second Language program helps immigrant families to be able to allow the children to be able to be taught not only in English, but their home language as well. My uncle was a person who came to this country from Italy, not able to speak English – in his time that was never offered. 

Rep. Gainey:  Yes, thank you. One, we always need to work with our state officials to ensure that when we appropriate money to a childcare line item that it’s being increased, because we know how important it is. Secondly, we got to work with the school district. We have to work with the school district to ensure that we have a diverse group of teachers so that education is universal. Because we understand that the more teachers we have from different backgrounds, the more we learn. Thirdly, we got two million in city budget for childcare that hasn’t been spent yet. We have to spend that money on childcare so that we can continue to demonstrate to the city of Pittsburgh that we understand the benefit of having childcare. So those are the three areas that we can lead as a city.

Question 5:

I am Brent Rondon. I am from Peru, South America, and I’ve been living in Pittsburgh for over 25 years.  I work in the economic development area for the Small Business Development Center and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence for the University of Pittsburgh. In terms of business and economic development, according to the Keystone Research Center, immigrants in Pittsburgh represent a larger share of all small business owners than their proportional population in the city. According to the New American Economy, immigrants are 36% more likely to start a business than United States-born residents. Given the great economic potential of Pittsburgh’s immigrant entrepreneurs, how will your administration support aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs open up businesses in Pittsburgh? Thank you.

Mayor Peduto: We make it as easy as possible in order to be able to determine any type of program that is available to a small business. So, when working with different companies that have been started by immigrants in the past seven years, some of those barriers were really in just understanding what was available on a local level, a state level, or a federal level. Our Urban Redevelopment Authority has now created a one stop shop in order to be able to, basically, cut away the red tape and roll out the red carpet. This has allowed us to be able to see new companies being started by immigrants all over the city. Working hand and hand with the providers that work within the community, they have been able to direct us directly to those that are interested in starting their own business.

Mr. Moreno: This is why immigrants come to the United States of America, because this is where you can come and find the American Dream and start your own business. My grandfather started Moreno Trucking. He was highly successful and he gave back to his community. So when you look towards these immigrants that are coming here, these are us. This is our people. These are human beings that are coming. We need to make it easier for them to start these businesses so they’re not afraid because they can’t just walk into a store and get their jobs.  They know what they want to do. The strangling oversight in our Licensing and Permits Bureau is already hard for existing Pittsburghers. Imagine if you struggle with the language, and you’re trying to get those things done. It creates confusion. So if we can start there and make sure those things are available to them where they can understand and they can make it easier to start their business and be in compliance like everybody else, they’re going to come in droves and they’re going to be successful if we give them that opportunity. That’s what this is all about. 

Mr. Thompson: It’s very interesting. One of the things I’ve noticed over time is that America is a melting pot, and we always mint new Americans. Everyone in America should go to a ceremony, where we have naturalization and we make new citizens. So you have to ask, “Who formed Google?” If you asked the people who founded Google, they’re two Americans and they identify as Americans, but these are actually immigrants. And so it would be great to see something like a mentoring program. Because, a lot of our American citizens who came from other countries, have the experience, they’ve been through it. They’ve come from elsewhere, from outside of America, and have success here, and they really should be able to help mentor others in a formal program supported by the City of Pittsburgh. Ok, because an immigrant small business can be a little different from an American small business. You might not know all the rules. Things run a little bit differently in America than they do in some other countries. And it’d be really nice to have a more welcoming program, and a more formal program would be an excellent start.

Rep. Gainey: Yes, thank you. We know that small business is hurting in this city, it’s been hurting for decades. We need to diversify our economy. And how you diversify your economy is through investing in small businesses. We need to create access to opportunity and capital, because without opportunity and capital, small business can’t grow. The PLI, we have to change it, we have to improve it. Money is time and time is money. And we need a system that is moving much faster than what the PLI system is moving right now. Thirdly, we need to break down our procurement process so we can have more contracts out there for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to bid on. And lastly, we need to provide technical assistance. There’s a lot of terminology in these contracts, and understanding exactly how to bid on these projects that people don’t know. So, we need to make sure we’re providing technical assistance, and making sure again, that’s an area where we would have translators, to help us be able to break down these processes and help them understand. That’s how you drive small business in the City of Pittsburgh.

Question 6:

Hi, good evening. My name is Guillermo Perez. I am the President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and I am a labor educator with the United Steelworkers here in Pittsburgh, and here’s my question: Several years ago the National Municipal Policy Network and the Center for Popular Democracy came out with 21 recommendations for ways that cities can combat wage theft, meaning an employer who fails to pay the minimum wage and/or overtime, or fails to pay an employee anything at all for time worked. The recommendations included providing grants to nonprofits to investigate claims or suspending or revoking the business license of a business that engages in wage theft. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that wage theft costs low-wage workers in the U.S. more than $50 billion annually. Wage theft is extremely common among undocumented workers, particularly in the restaurant and construction industries. As mayor, what will you do to ensure that workers in the city of Pittsburgh, including undocumented workers, get paid what they’re owed for their work? Thank you.

Mr. Moreno: This is the area I talked about in the very beginning. First, we have to prioritize getting these people the documentation they need so they can start their path to citizenship and they can start going to work and not be afraid of this. These businesses out here use that as a weapon to keep these folks and pay them not what they should get, but underpay them and they suffer. They can’t afford to live and it’s abusive. It’s not right to make sure that we use our Licensing and Permits Bureau in this fashion, to go investigate those areas. These are crimes. Once they’re found out they need to turned over to the police department or the DA’s office and they have to be fined, they have to be prosecuted. And it has to be a priority. Because it’s happened. We can see it happening right now. You go anywhere in the city and you see immigrants working, and you know that they’re not being paid right. I know that it’s happening personally.

Mr. Thompson: Well, other cities and other states do a better job as far as getting the word out, putting out 1-800 numbers to call to report wage theft and investigating wage theft. You have to ask what laws are being broken. If you’re not paying wages, often that would be a state law, so prosecution might need to come from the state. But you could have units that investigate wage theft that go in and talk with the immigrant communities, and also non-immigrant communities, this happens to all Americans unfortunately, moreso in marginalized communities, like immigrant communities. But, you know, you could have real enforcement on this issue. I think we need to coordinate with the state officials, and make sure the laws that are broken are prosecuted, and we need more awareness of the issue.

Rep. Gainey: Yes, thank you. One is that we have a thing called the Equal Opportunity Review Commission, and this would be a great place for this. So that anybody doing business with the City that is engaging in wage theft from that moment on will be banned from doing work with the city. We will not tolerate that. Secondly, we will work with nonprofits – with immigrant nonprofits – to talk about how we target organizations and businesses that they feel are creating wage theft so that we will be involved from the beginning and understanding who they are. And thirdly, we’ll report it to the state, the DA, I mean the state Attorney General, to make sure those organizations or businesses are being held to the wage theft they are doing. So those are the three things. One, we will work with the Equal Opportunity Review Commission, because that’s a great way of weeding out those organizations or businesses doing wage theft. Secondly, again, we will work with nonprofits to be able to target organizations that are doing that, and those that are doing that we will report to the state Attorney General. That’s how we’ll deal with it under a Gainey Administration. 

Mayor Peduto: Thank you. Guillermo, we are proud to participate on that task force along with councilman Corey O’Connor. On April 15th, Tax Day, I passed an Executive Order which goes after any contractor engaging in wage theft. It is a crime. It is a part of criminal code. When you’re paying someone under the table, those are tax dollars that never return back to build a school or pave a street, those are families that are never getting healthcare or others. And they bring the entire industry down. What we have to assure is that we never let workers be the reason that contracts come in low. That there is an even playing field that every contractor knows that they have to meet, whether it is salary or benefits, or just the entire package. And those that don’t agree and pay under the table will be arrested. 

Question 7:

Thank you for replying to these questions. Now let’s move to another topic about policing and discrimination. Per the “Unbiased Policing Policy” order, which went into effect in 2014 and is still in effect today, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police does not cooperate, share information, or coordinate with the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, unless there is a federally mandated court order. If elected, what will be your policy on collaboration with ICE? We will start with Mr. Thompson. 

Mr. Thompson: Yeah, I don’t think we should collaborate with ICE. I think the current policy is a good policy and the right policy. Basically, hats off to Bill Peduto, that’s the right policy, and we shouldn’t cooperate with ICE.

Rep. Gainey: We shouldn’t be dealing with ICE at all. We should be protecting our immigrant citizens, so we shouldn’t have no dealings with ICE. Our job is not to want to see people be injured by ICE, and the separation of families. That’s not what America is about, that’s not what we’re about. What we’re about is reunifying our families and bringing them together, and making sure that they have a safe life, and not a life where they have to live in fear. I think living in fear, that brings too much trauma. We don’t want to bring trauma on our citizens of Pittsburgh. What we wanna do is we wanna make sure we have a system where we’re helping. And ICE doesn’t have a system of helping, they have a system of punishment. And that’s not we want in our city. And so, we will not be working with ICE, what we will do is we will work with our immigrant populations and find out how we empower their lives.

Mayor Peduto: Well, I respectfully disagree with what Mr. Gainey said. He had that opportunity and he chose to join in with Donald Trump and to support e-verify. E-verify is a program that if a worker on a construction project or somewhere else does not show documentation, they are required to turn them over to ICE. When you vote that, you support working with ICE, and not only that, you support legislation in the state of Pennsylvania that mandates it. My administration banned interaction between our police department and ICE. There is a very big difference in our record. One went up against Donald Trump and faced the threat of being thrown in jail by the president. The other sided with him, and passed legislation, so that workers who are undocumented will be deported.

Mr. Moreno: It’s a law enforcement issue. So, if we make sure that we enforce the law, and if somebody commits a crime, and they’re an undocumented immigrant, ICE doesn’t even really matter because we should be protecting these communities. When you go into communities, they deserve to be protected like anybody else. If this person that committed a crime has now come under an immigration policy, a violation, then what are we to do with them? We need to make sure that it goes back to the Federal government immigration policy, and that it gets used there. Now I am for sure not saying we should have ICE come flowing through our immigration areas, I’m sorry, our areas that are housing immigrants, because that just puts them in fear. I watched that happen in the fields that my grandfather ran. What we need to do is make sure they’re safe and that if somebody is violating the law, and doing something they’re not supposed to, that it’s used appropriately. Immigration law is a law. 

Question 8:

Maryan Osman: Policing and police brutality disproportionately affect African Americans. The Wood Street incident in 2015 where 5 teenage Black refugees were arrested is just one example of the ways that racism impacts immigrant and refugee communities. In your commitment to addressing the impacts of policing on various communities, how will you ensure that immigrants and refugees, especially Black immigrants and refugees are included at the forefront of policy mandates in creating a safe Pittsburgh for all? 

Representative Gainey: We have to have real police-community relations if we’re going to build a city for all. There is no question about it, there’s statistics online. People when we talk about black Pittsburgh, 23% of Pittsburgh is black, 65% of the arrests are black. That’s just too much. When we’re talking about over policing that’s exactly what we are talking about. We are over policing in communities of color and what’s turning up is an alarming arrest rate that’s bringing a lot of trauma on the families. Secondly, 47% of people pulled over in traffic stops are black. That’s just too much. That’s over policing. We need to return back to community-oriented policing work. The cops are walking the beat and they know exactly who is in the community and what is going on and building those relationships and trust. And thirdly, we need to have social workers on call. But the reality is we have to stop over policing in our neighborhoods. We have to have someone, a mayor, a CEO that wants to see strong police -community relations. The statistics don’t lie. It’s too much, it’s too much trauma, it’s too much pain and we have to go in a new direction.

Mayor Peduto: Thank you, this is one of the areas that I learned directly from our immigrant community. In the Turkish community, when a person is pulled over in Turkey, the first thing that they’ll do is get out of the car and walk to the police officer. It is considered disrespectful to have the police officer walk to them. You start to begin to understand that different cultures have different customs. So as some people call for the defunding of police or the abolition of police, what we’ve done is invest in the police. We created a multicultural task force within our police and the Multicultural Liaison Unit is trained in learning the cultures of people who call Pittsburgh home, who came from another country. But we’ve extended that, we instituted a cultural competency curriculum for all our public safety officials. So anytime that you call 911 and you recognize that you are, or somebody is from a different country, our firefighters, our medics, or our police are now being trained under the creation of the Multicultural Treating Unit, which only happens by funding the police.

Mr. Moreno: The facts don’t lie. The numbers don’t lie, but the delivery is not always accurate. We have to make sure that we train our officers, in this specific area. I’m part of that. I was a police officer, who had to police communities that didn’t speak English that were from other countries, and there’s a huge disparity there. If you’re Somalian and you’re in a black community, that just doesn’t automatically mean that everybody gets along. These are cultural differences. The Cultural Competency course doesn’t necessarily target, immigration or immigrants living in the city. It doesn’t train the police officers how to deal with these immigrants because there’s a huge language barrier. We don’t have enough interpreters on hand. It takes too long to get there. We don’t have training on hand that targets these pockets, and we don’t have mentorship programs in these communities that tell them how to deal with the police officers at hand also. So, it’s an education issue and we need to prioritize.

Mr. Thompson: Well, you’ll find there’s a lack of trust between the police and the people across Pittsburgh. In the end that’s why I ran for office, if you tear gas enough people, someone will be pissed off enough to get me on the ballot. And you have to tear gas enough people, you know not just one or two, a lot of people for no reason. That’s our Police Department. OK. And so, you wanna start over. OK? And there is a Pittsburgh that does exist, that has all new police officers, and respects been restored. That’s East Pittsburgh, now Bill Peduto casts dispersion on it, but it’s a fine city, OK? And there they have the state police patrol and from there, once we get the state police in, OK, yeah and a mayoral term starts from four years and maybe goes to eight years, and after that we have to stop. Term limits is a thing we have, we might need to have you bring a charter police force. And when you create a charter police force, you include everyone in the community, including people who don’t currently like the police, such as you know, African American refugees and immigrant communities, and we create a new policing force. And we start over. That’s my plan.

Question 9:

Good evening, my name is Kheir Mugwaneza, I came to Pittsburgh 20 years ago from Rwanda. My question to you is the following: In the past year we have had an increase in racial discrimination targeted at immigrants in our community. What strategies will you employ to actively address the discrimination within our city and help support racial healing in our community?

Mr. Thompson: Well this is a great question. When I talked to other people I know who are Jewish, and they asked me what it’s like to live in, you know, Jew-killing-capital of America and it’s disturbing. OK. There’s a lot of hate here. I know I belong to a synagogue in Squirrel Hill. It’s a little disturbing, OK, and certainly we have to remember that we are the town of Mr. Rogers. OK, at heart we’re good people and the other people are fellow people. OK, it doesn’t matter if you’re an immigrant or the color of your skin or your religion. Fellow Pittsburghers are good people OK. And you know we have to learn to work together. We have to change the culture a little bit. We have to be a little bit nicer to each other. OK, there’s a lot of hate and it’s not just Pittsburgh, it’s across America. But certainly we were emblematic of some of the problems. I mean too often unless you are a white Christian man you’re looked down upon in American society. It’s unfortunate. We have to do a lot more to be more welcoming. We have to respect diversity and be much more inclusive. It’s a long-term cultural process change.

Representative Gainey: Racism and discrimination is real. And we can’t tolerate it. Racism cannot be tolerated. Hate has no place in our city at all. We can’t legislate hate out of anybody’s heart. People are who they are. But in my administration, whether it’s the police or anybody else, if there’s a situation where you are expressing hatred and racism in any way, in any way that hurts or violates any person in this city, you can’t work for the city of Pittsburgh, and you can’t be in law enforcement. You can’t build a city for all if you have people in your administration or people in the work… I mean, people in law enforcement that are making derogatory comments on Facebook, or have an open Facebook, private Facebook groups talking about how deplorable black lives are, LGBTQIA community is. We can’t afford that, that doesn’t build a city. That’s not a vision. That’s a vision of division. We can’t have division in our city. We have to build a city for all, and in doing so we cannot tolerate racism and hate on no level.

Mr. Moreno: Education is the answer to this question. The reason there’s these walls that are built up is because people are generally afraid of the unknown or the things that are different. And then they lash out because they don’t know or they’re trying to put up a protective fence around themselves, or they just cocoon up and they just stay away from it. If we can just look at who’s coming into the city and in the areas and target these areas with education about our new neighbors and start integrating these services (our athletics, our schools, everything that we do as a community), and start inviting our immigrant citizens in, it will not be so strange. It won’t be so scary. We’ll realize that these are just families like we are. That they want to raise their kids. They want to be successful. They want to be safe. They want to be a part of the community. That’s why they’re here. We shouldn’t make them feel shut out and we shouldn’t make them wonder how they’re going to get where they’re going or get what they need. Education; educate our neighbors.

Mayor Peduto: Well, on a very personal level I have been involved in over 20 years of experience in interfaith dialogue and peace. My work with the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities in promoting interfaith dialogue has been recognized by those communities long before I was ever the mayor. But as the mayor, I signed into law, a legislation that banned city employees from ever even asking about your citizenship or your immigration status. I’ve banned grants or any taxpayer monies to any company that has been convicted of wage theft. I provided protection against housing in public accommodation discrimination based on citizenship and immigration status. Because in Pittsburgh, there is no place for hate.

Question 10:

Hello everyone, this is Furkan, I am in immigrant physician from Turkey and, at the same time, chair of the Healthy Communities subcommittee at All for All and the Whitetulip Health Foundation. We work with immigrant and refugee healthcare professionals to help them with credentialing in the US. So the question for the candidates is: The marginalization of immigrants and refugees in accessing healthcare is compounded by cultural barriers, limited language access, and lack of resources and tools to navigate healthcare systems. With an understanding that a prosperous Pittsburgh necessitates a healthy Pittsburgh, how will your administration commit to working with various stakeholders and healthcare providers to deliver healthcare that is equitable, culturally informed, and linguistically appropriate?

Representative Gainey: Yeah, everybody deserves… Everybody, everybody deserves quality health care. There’s no question about that. As long as you are human you deserve quality health care. Health care in my eyes to be free to everybody. Everybody should be able to have health care. That’s the only way that we keep our families intact and we keep our families healthy, as well as we keep our community’s health. Healthcare creates for better public safety. So, I will work for all immigrant nonprofits to talk about what we can do to make sure that, as you stated, your credentials are there, or how we can make sure that we created infrastructure that we’re giving the right health care that they need, and then allow us to be able to do things to make sure that we have a healthy immigrant community. Whatever we can do to help create health care for everybody, everybody that’s what we need to do. That’s how you build a city for all, a strong health care system means that you have a strong city. 

Mr. Moreno: It’s important that we make sure that we know where our immigrants are, that are suffering. That’s an area that law enforcement can come in. Again, I’m going to say we’re not going to go find people and try to deport them. We’re not trying to find illegal immigrants. What we’re trying to do is serve a community that deserves it, with dignity and respect. We need to have health care clinics in neighborhoods. They have to be accessible by all, and if it’s somewhere like Beechview, in those clinics need to have Spanish speaking workers that can help them get the things that they need, that are available to them, right there when they walk in. They can be identified; they can be asked what’s going on. What you have right now, is no access at all, whatsoever. They don’t even know where to go to find a physician unless something really bad happens and then they go to the emergency room where they get taken care of anyway. So, prioritizing the availability and access to interpreters in these clinics in the health care facilities is A number one important. 

Mayor Peduto: Part of it comes when we realize that the disparity is by government action. So, when Washington decided that any of the families that were immigrants or refugees would not qualify for federal stimulus, we went out and we worked with the Open Society Foundation to secure $500,000, in order to be able to provide that for emergency funding for families in the City of Pittsburgh. The other part of it is partnering with organizations that are on the ground working directly with our immigrant and refugee community. The best example I can give you is just last month working with the Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in being able to get vaccines into the community by working through a partnership with one of our major health care providers, and being able to utilize city resources in city space in order to be able to provide that critical need.

Mr. Thompson: Let me give a shout out to Open Societies. George Soros is a nice Jewish man. We should talk more about what a nice person he is. OK, but beyond that I think really, we could partner with some of the healthcare, the Giants, around here and have them create a program you know as partners to help immigrants and refugees. OK, certainly we need more input and more resources from our health care providers, and we should really, you know coordinate so that there is a way to, you know, have an integrated refugee assistance program starting with the medical centers. I think too often climbed up in the ER instead of, you know, working through any sort of refugee programs with our large hospitals here.

Question 11:

Good evening, my name is Sebastian and I am a member of the Latinx community here in Pittsburgh, I’m also a staff member at Casa San Jose. Immigrants facing deportation are not awarded a government-funded attorney as they would be in a criminal court. As a result, immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer are at a higher risk of deportation than those who can. In response to this harsh reality, 39 municipalities nationwide, including Philadelphia, have created publicly-funded deportation defense programs. So my question to you is, do you believe that every person facing deportation is entitled to legal representation? If so, will you commit to dedicating city funds to pay for an initiative to ensure this in Pittsburgh? Thank you.

Mr. Moreno: Absolutely this is the United States of America you deserve representation we don’t have immigration lawyers here in Pittsburgh there’s nobody that specializes there’s very few i’m sorry very few people that specializes in immigration laws there aren’t any judges that are specialist in immigration so they’re going before something that’s insurmountable if we just start yanking people out and deporting them it’s unfair because a lot of time they come here and they are told it is ok so if we can get them representation if they have committed a heinous crime we should be able to get them into the process of becoming American citizens with representation they’re already living, they are working, they are thriving, their families are here, we shouldn’t treat them differently than we do somebody that lives next door to them already they need representation we need to bring specialist in here like Joe Murphy who’s running for judge he does it right now out in Clairton gets people the things they need and he represents them and that’s the way we need to do this this is how we show love to our immigrants 

Mayor Peduto: absolutely you know we lost and went back during the Trump administration a generation a generation that fought for rights for immigrants those that are documented and those that are undocumented and working with Casa San Jose over the past year on individual cases as you know many times we were able to find attorneys who would work pro-bono but wether it was taking away the rights or the programs to immigrants or the children of the immigrants wether it was increasing the fees whether it was all of the other types of action that the Trump administration took we fought them every time we took them to court and we had joined amicus briefs in order to be able to protect rights these are rights that people fought for generations and I look forward to working with the Biden administration to restoring them and expanding them in the city of Pittsburgh 

Mr. Thompson: this is something very important that we need to do time and again people fall through the tracks you know the legal system isn’t just for the wealthy people who are poor immigrants refugees they all are also deserve legal representation if you look at other cities like New York City they actually hire like tenant lawyers to help with people facing homelessness deportation all sort of issues and our initiatives locally are underfunded or unfunded on this initiative you know you have the right to an attorney in criminal hearings right but not necessarily in other legal issues and it is huge hole on American society and one we definitely need to work on patching i mean ideally it would be at the federal level on down but locally we can do more and should 

Representative Gainey: Yes, absolutely that’s why i at the state i voted to protect sanctuary cities i thought that’s extremely important and then i like the model of what they are doing in Philadelphia and i believe that we can do it here in Pittsburgh we can work with immigrant nonprofits to make sure that what they’re doing in Philly because we are seeing it working we’re seeing it move forward we’re seeing it do great things so at the end of the day we need to take our model we need to bring it to Pittsburgh and we need to implement it in Pittsburgh so that we are ensuring that we are we’re being proactive and not reactive and part of that is working with nonprofits immigrant nonprofits  to make sure that we have the program here that we the raise money for i think Philly got like 100,000 if not mistaken but  we could do that right here in the city of Pittsburgh that will let people know that we are showing up protecting our immigrant population

Question 12:

House Bill 279 is a bill that was introduced in the PA General Assembly which would grant all Pennsylvanians the ability to obtain a driver’s license regardless of citizenship status. Advocates argue that the status quo, where undocumented immigrants cannot drive legally, is an unjust constraint on them meeting basic needs such as going to work, bringing children to school, and running errands. Would you support the proposed legislation as mayor?  If so, how would you use your position to advocate for this? If not, why?

Mayor Peduto: It’s something that I’ve already taken action on despite the state of Pennsylvania’s inaction so I have placed a ban on all city employees asking City residents or anyone what their immigration status is which means that when a Pittsburgh police officer pulls somebody over they are not asked immigration status is. I would Lobby the state to allow anyone to be able to acquire a Pennsylvania driver’s license as long as they can show that they are a Pennsylvania resident living at Pennsylvania address and by doing so they should not be asked what the immigration status is it’s very important that we understand this there are federal laws in there are state laws in the federal government or I’m sorry the state government and local government is not in the position to enforce federal laws 

Mr. Thompson: Definitely I mean you should be able to get a Pennsylvania driver’s license if you’re here I mean if you working you know you’re likely contributing to the Community you know you’re paying rent paying  taxes and you can prove that you’re from here and you live here you should definitely be able to get a driver’s license and we should do a lot more to promote this i think this state’s a little behind the times that’s as an excellent bill and I hope it passes. 

Representative Gainey:  Yes, I’m a co-sponsor on house bill 279 so I believe that right now we should move on we co-sponsored it and I will work with the Allegheny County delegation at the state level to continue to push for this bill to get pushed to the House of Representatives as well as the senate and get into the governor’s desk so it can be signed and in the city we won’t tolerate it  it’s that simple it’s time that we move forward and this is another way that we protect undocumented workers so I’m a proud sponsor of the bill I’m a proud co-sponsor of the bill and I will work with the Allegheny County delegation to do everything that I can a mayor to get it passed and in the city of Pittsburgh we just won’t tolerate. 

Mr. Moreno– we don’t even train our citizens here in Pittsburgh how to drive we don’t provide driver’s training right now I don’t understand why that is but when I’m the mayor I will start instituting that as soon as I can because it gives freedom of Mobility when we do this this bill should have intertwined with it moving forward to citizenship we need to get people into getting their visas getting their green cards taking those steps in the driver’s license should be part of that process that takes the fear of being an American away right now people are hiding because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them because they haven’t been included in this process to give them a driver’s license still has them being not inside of the ability to be an American that needs to happen they need to feel secure no matter where they go so I would support part of that I would need to read the whole thing to understand it and see if there’s a pathway or if there’s an addition we can make to getting American status in there.

Ivonne: We will now be turning to a few questions that have been coming in from the audience.

Question 13:

As mayor, you have the opportunity to lead by example when it comes to diverse representation in city jobs. How will you ensure that city of Pittsburgh employees, members of commissions, and your own staff, are representative of all Pittsburgh communities, including immigrant and international communities?

Representative Gainey: In order to build a city for all you have to have everybody that makes up the city on your part working for you at some level on the 5th floor we have to have a diverse group we have to have an immigrant population we have to have an African American population we need to talk to those people that have influence inside those communities in order to build a relationship and also order the help them and pass the right legislation that’s going to empower them as a community that’s what we do and as a Workforce we have to be diverse  we have to continue to build a diverse workforce to let the city know that we believe in them you know we want to work with immigrant population to ensure that they got jobs with the city but also let’s talk about the entrepreneurship let’s get back to making sure that we’re breaking down the procurement process to give them opportunities to be able to build on contracts providing the technical assistance to give them so that they can understand some of the terminology all of those things helped to build a better city when I say I want a city for all we haven’t been there we have another city but we have an opportunity because we have the right people in place right now to do the right thing and that’s why i’m running for mayor because I want to be for all. 

Mayor Peduto: We’ve been able to put together not only not only I would say the most professional staff and boards authorities and commissions in the city’s history but also the most diverse when I was a city council member I wrote the legislation that required our board’s Authorities and commissions  to represent the diversity of the city of Pittsburgh since that time we have created an administration and Leadership that has exceeded even that but we’ve also started to create ways to get younger people involved in looking at our Civic Leadership Academy sort of like a city government 101 we’ve started a Spanish speakers series we’ve been able to recruit new residents new immigrants and refugees to the city of Pittsburgh as a part of our ongoing classes and we will continue to expand upon that.  

Mr. Thompson: We have to make sure that our government looks like our city it is important to include people from all communities in our city including minorities immigrant communities certainly we need to do more outreach with our disabled Community to make sure that they’re in the planning process from the very beginning it seems like sometimes right now we consult with communities at the end and not necessarily at the beginning especially those with disabilities and some other issues from those I’ve talked to it’s definitely something we have to always bear in mind you know we do have to lead by example and we should make sure that our city government and all the boards look like the city we serve.

Mr. Moreno– Well I’m Mexican so I understand the need for diversity here we need education in Pittsburgh most people don’t understand the difference between Puerto Ricans and Mexicans so they just don’t know and they don’t know how to act so if we start educating our city and making it a priority there’ll  more inclusion and people won’t be afraid of things that are different we need to recruit from these communities from our city and put them to work and make them apart a of what’s going on if we prioritize it and we educate things will start to get better we’ll start to look at each other as equal as neighbors as community members as Pittsburghers and Americans if we just make sure that everybody feels welcome that they’re not afraid of each other and we could share our likenesses instead of  life being afraid of the things that make us different everything will start to get better and we’ll see a better running government.

Question 14

People of color are disproportionately pulled over in traffic stops. These stops can be dangerous. Do you believe police should have a role in traffic stops?

Mayor Peduto: I know that I disagree with some of the others, but I do agree that police officers should be involved in traffic stops. The rules that are in place in traffic citations are made to create roads that are safe for all. Uh, Not just those that are in automobiles, but those that are walking, those that are on bikes, those with special needs, and those that use public transportation. A police officer has the ability to make sure the peace is being continued on the streets by being able to enforce the code in regards to traffic. Now, what happens when the officer pulls someone over, I think that we can look at reforms and better practices. But in order to keep our streets safe for everyone, I do believe that police have a role to play, uh,  in making sure that people obey the laws. 

Mr. Thompson: I certainly want to see traffic enforcement and I think traffic stops are a good thing if they’re done the right way. However, ideally I would like to do what other cities in the world have, and have a traffic enforcement department. You don’t need armed police for traffic stops. I mean, if you have someone with the authority to issue citations and tickets, and without lethal weapons, i think a lot of people will be more reassured when it comes to traffic stops. And if there is an issue that comes up and someone’s life is threatened surely you can call the armed police. But for a traffic stop, to give you a ticket, I mean, we currently don’t have armed police officers giving out parking tickets. Okay, we have parking officers for that. And we could easily have traffic officers who are not armed to enforce traffic laws. I think that would do a lot to make most people in Pittsburgh feel a lot safer. Because that makes it a lot less violent. You’re not going to be shot, if the people [who] pull you over for a traffic incident aren’t armed. 

Mr. Moreno: Yeah we’re law enforcement officers and we’re enforcing traffic laws. So it’s necessary, we just have to make sure that the training is correct. These are dangerous situations. They can be dangerous situations. But generally, what we’ve known by the numbers is most of the interactions that happen with the police officers that are negative is because of how the officer spoke to the person or treated them. We’re ignoring that fact. You know, according to the Civilian Review Board, out of 290 complaints, only 7 were investigated, on average per year in the last four years. And of that, 93 of those complaints, 93 percent of them, were for bad manners, how the officer treated them. Only 7 percent were for use of force. So for traffic stops, if we could teach our police officers to at least be more professional, we’ll be better off. It’ll be a better, more safe environment.

Representative Gainey: This is something that should have been worked on. Racial profiling is real. We know the statistics. 75 percent of the people arrested are a result of the traffic stop is black – thats racial profiling. That’s over policing in neighborhoods. That is also thematic. And it also leads to a distrust between police and communities. The B-PEP proposal, the B-PEP proposal is worth considering. Is that the end all? No, we need to look into it. But we need to do some things that’s a little bit different in communities. And that’s why you heard me talk about we need to stop over policing. Those statistics are staggering, we can also adopt self, self enforcing street designs that reduce violations without even involving police. There are things, there are other things that we can do but we have to come together and talk about what is the best solution. That should have been done. The fact that it isn’t is why the numbers are so high. We got an opportunity to reduce these numbers by working together. And as mayor, that is something that I’m going to do. Police community relations, we know we must improve. And that is something I’m focused on. 

Question 15

Could you please share what your most transformative global experience has been? Also, as a follow-up, what tangible policies or practices will you implement to make global learning opportunities for youth a priority? Please be specific.

Mr. Thompson: For me, uh, New Zealand. I went to, my sister, my sister lived abroad in New Zealand for a number of years and I went to visit her on two occasions. I can say that New Zealand is an example of a society where it is peaceful, they’re welcoming to immigrants, um, it is a society without gun violence, with uh safe schools, and a strong sense of community and equality. I would say, uh, some of the disparities you see here are less severe there as far as inequality, as far as a number of issues. It’s a society that is run differently. Um if you look right now they have no Covid cases. They come together in a crisis well and I think we can learn a lot from other societies, uhm, such as New Zealand and, uh, we really sometimes have to look for global examples of how to solve problems. And implement them here. I mean, there are many good models for how to run societies and we have to always keep an open mind.

Mr. Moreno: Well, as a, as a young man, a young boy growing up, we used to go to Mexico and volunteer our time in building shelters for people that didn’t have any. Uh, this was before Mexico and the (unclear) area had become a tourist attraction and it just – abject poverty was there and we just went and we took clothes and food and medicine and building supplies and built shelters. Also, when I was in the military, we freed a country of a dictator – in Panama. I was part of that invasion. And after that, we stayed and we rebuilt their police department because they were brutal, they carried around long sticks and just brutalized people. They didn’t know how to be professional law enforcement officers and we were there to do that. Also, when I was in Germany, I saw how a more western country still struggled in policing because they didn’t give the citizens the same respect. Trying to bring some of this back to the police departments here and realizing that we’re the freest country in the world that we can do this appropriately and showing our youth that America is the way to go. 

Representative Gainey: I believe that exposing our youth to greater opportunities, great exposures of different things in America and in the world, is one of the ways that you break the chains of poverty. I believe that the more that you expose a child to, the more you give them the dream. And so, for me, I’ve always brought children up to the state capital. Eleventh and twelfth graders, and sent my high school districts to the state capital to meet the Governor, meet the Lieutenant Governor, meet the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, to meet the LGBTQIA Caucus, to meet the Law Caucus. Because I wanted them to understand that if I can get you to see out of the neighborhood in which you live in, then you can dream to be more. A lot of times, these children don’t get to get out of their neighborhood, so all they see every day is what happens inside of that neighborhood. To get a child to dream, to want them to be more, we have to expose them to more. We have to be able to show them that there is a better way, so the more that we can expose them to things on a global level, tell them about what’s going on, want them to see the world, the more they’ll want to grow, the more knowledge and education becomes important. We have to build that confidence in them by giving them exposure to different opportunities throughout this world so that they can see a better way.

Mayor Peduto: I would say that one of the programs we’ve been working on is expanding our sister city program. To be able to do exchanges between our schools and the schools, uh, around the world of our sister cities. As far as personally, um, creating the first sister city with a predominantly muslim country, Turkey. Traveling to Gaziantep, where just two weeks prior terrorists had killed several people at a bus stop, and getting down and praying for peace together with christians and muslims, um, being able to travel to Israel. To be able to visit the Pittsburgh memorial and the families that we lost, and being able to visit to India to Dharamshala to visit His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, would be personal encounters have meant a lot but on the local basis of that um, being able to release two Pittsburgers, well one Pittsburger, from a forced labor prison in outside of Beijing. And another person, uh, in the Sudan, who was being um tortured in prison. Both women, uh, were freed after my office got involved. 

Question 16:

If immigrant and refugee families, especially larger ones, cannot afford housing, how can Pittsburgh be considered a welcoming city? What would you do to ensure immigrants and refugees could become homeowners or find affordable units?

Mr. Moreno:  It’s something that we struggle with right now and I think we missed the boat when we’re providing housing for these families, because there’s just not enough room. They’re coming over here and they’re desiring to become parts of the community, that’s why they’re here, so we have to make it available for them. We have to target some of this housing, and with the jobs training program that I have, they can be included in that to refurbish some of these homes and put some of these people that have issues in getting housing in them. If we target it, then we can cure it. We have to make sure that we see who’s coming, that they’re not afraid of us, that they know that they’re going to be treated with dignity and respect, that we’re going to be able to communicate with them, listen to them, and find out what they need. And a lot of times, they don’t even know how to communicate that they have a large family and they don’t have the ability to live because they don’t know who to tell. So if we could just have that mentorship program and have that ability to put people in homes that they can sustain in, it’s going to improve everything. 

Representative Gainey: Yes, this is something that I’ve been talking about on the campaign trail because it’s important. We have to make the city more affordable again, there is no question about it. And if we’re going to have anything, to build anything, the city has to be more affordable. That’s why you hear me talk about inclusionary zoning when it comes to rental units. We also have a land bank and we know that we have to put that, those parcels in the land back back to use, back on the tax roll. And so when we talk about the community land trust we gotta talk about these (tail?) units as well, we can do these things. We have the opportunity. We have the tools in place, it’s just about working together to ensure that we are creating a city that is more affordable. We can do it. We don’t wanna push nobody out no more. We wanna bring people back in. We want people to have opportunities to live in these cities, help to build our neighborhood, help to have an inclusion city that brings a more welcoming feeling to this city, and also helps to develop it in a way where people are happy, they feel good, they know their neighbors, and that’s what affordability will do. It will embed that into the project so that we’re ensuring that we’re doing the right thing.

Mayor Peduto: When my family came from Italy in the 1920s, um, the church was there. And the church would help to be able to provide the critical services. Uh today we see over the past five years we’ve lost two critical agencies of bringing refugees to Pittsburgh, including Catholic Charities. Working with groups like Hello Neighbor, working with groups like the Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, uh, Casa San Jose, and others that are directly involved with the community and with the immigrant families themselves. We have an opportunity as we see new people coming in, not only to be able to provide housing, but to be able  to provide jobs, to be able to find where that furniture will come from to be able to start that home, to be able to help with learning English, and being able to assimilate into Pittsburgh much easier. I think government’s role in that is being able to empower those to do more. 

Mr. Thompson: Yes, this is a great question. We definitely need more affordable housing. It is essential to our success as a city. I’d like to see, you know, inclusionary zoning is excellent. I mean, all of our, uh, expensive neighborhoods,  if you’re building luxury housing, an apartment costs twelve hundred dollars, fifteen hundred dollars or more for a studio or one bedroom, you have to mandate that developers include twenty five percent of that as affordable housing for everyone. Ok, this includes people who live in the cities, as well as long term residents, as well as refugees and immigrants. These people are essential to our city, you know, we’re half, Pittsburgh’s half the size we used to be. We need more people and we need more immigrants and refugees. Very much so, and we can do a lot more on this, and we should. 

Closing Statements

Mayor Peduto: Thank you, and thank you for putting together this forum tonight. Back in 2015, after the Paris attacks, I made public statements about calling for Syrian refugees to come to Pittsburgh, It was met with hate and death threats. But it was the right thing to do. People ask why, why are you even getting involved in this issue? And its very simple, when my grandfather came to Pittsburgh in 1921, he was met with hate, he was told to go back home, he was told he was not welcome here and the Klu Klux Klan marched through Carnegie. And then congress, in 1924 changed the law so Italians, Southern Europeans, and Eastern Europeans were not even able to come to this country, and it took almost 5 years for my grandmother to come to be with my grandfather. We’ve made the mistakes in the past and, as your mayor, I will make sure we don’t make those same mistakes twice. 

Mr. Moreno: Making sure we all feel like we’re a part of this community is very important, when we have immigrants that come in here, we have to make sure that they also stay amongst themselves and we don’t split them out. We have a record of taking communities and breaking them up and throwing them to the wind and wherever they land, they land, and its important to keep them together and show them that we’re going to love them. But accountability here in the city is very important, we have an assistant chief of police who was convicted, found guilty of racial discrimination against an Indian of India decent who was a United Stated Army combat veteren, here to serve this country, that’s his ethnicity and to racially disparage him, openly, and for this person to still have their job shows that there is a problem in our leadership, it’s there right now, it happened, it cost the city $650,000, this needs to stop, it’s there. 

Mr. Thompson: Well my grandfather was born in Vienna, Austria, ok, and he escaped, he was born in 1933. Now he’s still alive, he’s doing well, every month he gets a reparations payment from Austria, sorry we did such a poor job, you’re an American now, ok. And Pittsburgh is a city of immigrants and refugees, it’s who we are, it’s essential to who we are, ok. We should literally rename the Pittsburgh Pirates the Pittsburgh Immigrants, cause we stole enough immigrants from other baseball teams that they renamed the baseball team from the Pittsburgh Alleghenies to the Pittsburgh Pirates, because we stole the best immigrant baseball players, and to this day, many of the best playing baseball players are immigrants, and when they come here they become Americans, it’s essential to who we are as a country, as a city, you know, as a nation as a whole and immigrants are the essential piece of America, it’s what makes us great, ok, and you know, you can ask my grandfather anytime, he’ll tell you America is the best place to be. 

Representative Gainey: We can build a city for all. We can build a city where everybody feels welcome, when people come here they feel like this is the place that they want to stay, they see themselves reflected in the culture of the city, but we can’t build a city on broken promises. We know that we have to improve our police community relations, because that makes the city more welcoming, where nobody lives in fear. We know we have to build more affordable housing because if we’re going to create housing where everybody has a safe and respectable house, it has to be affordable. We really have to work, we really have to show that our nonprofits are paying their fair share, there’s no question about it. They have to pay their fair share. We have to work with public works to make sure our workforce is diversified and that they have the right technology to be able to do the work that is necessary to remove snow and also clean up our lots. We also have to deal with the Pittsburgh public school system, you heard me talk about it before, from immigration to everything else to making sure a quality education, a world class city has the resources that it needs, because it has a diversified teacher pool. And lastly, the gender equity report, we’ve got to continue to work on the gender equity report, we just can’t just put out a report, we gotta show how we’re gonna empower everybody. I’m asking for your vote on May 18th because I want to build a city for all, we need a mayor for everybody and that’s a vote for Ed Gainey. Thank you. 

Ivonne: Thank you, Representative Gainey. And thank you, all of you for joining us today and on behalf of the All for All Coalition and The Global Switchboard, I would like to thank you all for joining us tonight, and for watching from our different social media platforms. And Remember to vote on May 18 and good night to everyone.