Mustafa Santiago Ali with the Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization and the Hip Hop Caucus.

Seth Schultz admits he has a bit of a professional crush on Mayor Peduto.

He got to know him through the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate & Energy and appreciated his standing up to Trump on the Pittsburgh-not-Paris remark.

The good news? “City action can deliver 40% of the Paris goal,” said Schultz, who proceeded to show us how.

Veronica Coptis of the Center for Coalfield Justice spoke about our responsibilities: “It is wrong,” she said, “to force families to choose between their health and feeding their families.”

Mona Hanna-Attisha, a physician at MSU and Heinz Award winner, spoke movingly about what to tell Lilly, her young patient, who has been drinking lead toxic water her entire life.

What does Flint teach us about the deeper crises facing our nation? We saw a breakdown in democracy and environmental justice that affects poor and black people, she said. The abandonment of our civic responsibility to care and provide for each other reminds us how intimately connected our environment is with our public health.

“Flint is also a story of how we came together and how we fought back and how we resisted,” she said.


Illah Nourbakhsh shared jaw-dropping research in a way that really brought it home. If you’re not familiar with his work, we highly encourage you to get acquainted with it. Using satellite imagery, the Carnegie Mellon professor takes data and maps it to provide startling details about what’s going on — in our city and around the world. It could be comparing renting versus home ownership in the city by race, or fracking activity, or in one startling example, how the pattern of evictions in Pittsburgh matches the areas where there are populations of single parents with kids.

Nourbasch is also the creator of Smell PGH, the app and website that allow citizens to take control of data and make a difference. Every report of bad air made through the app must be investigated, he said.

Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland, Calif.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spoke about affordable housing in her city, where they charge an impact fee for every unit of housing built that goes into an affordable housing fund. Builders can also opt to include affording housing in their development.

But affordable housing isn’t only about providing housing: “It’s all about lifting up people in the city and allowing them to afford housing,” she pointed out. “I’m a huge advocate for raising the minimum wage.”

Her city “has partnered with Kiva and closed more than 530 microloans to homegrown entrepreneurs who would never qualify for a typical commercial loan.”

It’s the Bank of the Community, she said, and “ninety percent of the loans were to businesses owned by people of color.”

On the topic of gentrification, she noted that it is part of a regional dynamic. The Bay Area has been adding eight new jobs for every one new unit of housing. Cities welcome Apple without building any new housing.

“Uber asked for tax breaks, I said no. We’ve got to stop this race to the bottom where we’re prostituting ourselves.”

Case in point: The Raiders are leaving Oakland and moving to Las Vegas. “They called my bluff,” said Schaaf. “We didn’t want to subsidize billionaires.”

Marita Garrett, Mayor of Wilkinsburg, was on the panel with Schaaf, which was moderated by Peduto. She spoke about her mission to connect residents and make them understand they are social change agents.

“There’s a perception issue in Wilkinsburg,” she said. Media tends to cover homicides and negative news. While any homicide is too many, last year there were two homicides in Wilkinsburg, she noted.

Garrett started “Wilkinsburg Community Conversations” to find out what residents want to see in the community. “Let’s start block watches,” she offered. “Why not join a planning commission?”

Her comment about millennials not waiting to take their turn but stepping up now in leadership positions was met with applause and widely tweeted.

The three mayors: Peduto, Schaaf and Garrett.

More data worth noting: “Weak social connections have a health effect similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A key ingredient for public life is density,” said Damon Rich from Hector, who presented interesting facts about public life in Downtown Pittsburgh:

  1. Mellon Square has on average 22 people an hour compared to Market Square which has more than 100 people per hour.
  2. 54 percent of workers take public transit to Downtown, a high number we should be proud of, along with “nicely scaled, walkable blocks.”
  3. This surprising stat: 45% of the space Downtown is public space. It’s becoming more mixed-use with 300 restaurants now.
  4. Pittsburgh has the world’s best bus stop at Katz Plaza (and one of the worst on Liberty Avenue).


Red Whittaker, whose world-class robotics work has taken place in Hazelwood Green, said: “Hazelwood has become one of my very favorite places in town.”

Robotics is “an industry that will grow to $5 trillion,” he noted, “and Pittsburgh is number one in AI and robotics. And that’s determining much of the future.”

Jennifer Bradley, of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute, said, “Technology is an accelerator and it will get us there faster, but it will not tell us whether that’s a journey worth making.” Technology should support our humanity, she asserts.

More thoughts on our city:

“We do not have a capital problem. We have a connection problem,” declared Bruce Katz.

And finally, Henry Timms, the keynote speaker, suggested we think about how Harvey Weinstein exercised power compared to how the #MeToo movement used power.

What does the new power look like? Something like this:

How might you think about a Pittsburgh made by many? he asked. It was a thought-provoking question that ended the speakers portion of  p4 2018.

Check back with NEXTpittsburgh for the link to see all p4 presentations soon.

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people...