“We need a public health plan to deal with some of the violence and that needs to be seen as a public safety measure as well,” he says.
Gainey was personally affected by violence in 2016 when his younger sister, Janese Talton-Jackson, was killed outside of a bar in Homewood by a man whose advances she refused.
“That was a painful time and that was when my father really became my hero,” Gainey says.
The night of the shooting he was there and watched as his sister was put into a body bag.
After the shooting, he says, his father stepped in to care for his sister’s three young children.
“It’s difficult. That’s why I never really talked about it. It’s hard to put that level of emotion in words,” he says.
Gainey, who now has six living brothers and sisters, is married to Michelle Gainey and they are the parents of three children, Mariah Peeples, 25, Alexa, 13 and Darius, 11. Alexa and Darius are both students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Issues of fairness
Another issue that voters kept bringing up, and that the poll reflected, was local concern about the lack of affordable housing in the city.
In every neighborhood, Gainey says, residents were concerned about rising real estate prices keeping their children from living in the city.
He says he wants the city to adopt inclusionary zoning to make affordable housing part of every project. He also wants to work with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, of which he is currently vice chair, to increase the city’s spending on affordable housing.
The third big issue he heard about was UPMC, the state’s largest employer, paying its fair share. The hospital chain, which is also an insurance company, has non-profit status, which means it does not pay any property taxes.
“The number one thing with UPMC is people just want them to pay their fair share,” he says.
That “fair share” includes paying some sort of property tax to the city, paying its workers livable wages and reducing the health care disparities between black and white residents in the region.
For now, Gainey says, he will be campaigning through the summer and raising money for the fall election.
As for the city, he is optimistic about its future.
“There are so many opportunities, but there are also so many challenges, but without challenges, you can’t have opportunities,” he says. “You can’t be a better version of yourself without challenges.”