Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is not running a presidential campaign against Donald Trump, but you wouldn’t know that from his first ad of the 2017 mayoral race.
“Mr. President, you say you’ll make America great again,” the ad begins. “Well, Pittsburgh has defined greatness.”
The ad, which begins airing today, goes on to list Peduto’s purported accomplishments — some of them substantiated, some not, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — and then takes direct aim at the president’s locally unpopular policies.
“If you keep trying to cut healthcare and afterschool programs, even a Patriots fan like you should know that won’t play in Pittsburgh,” he says.
According to political consultant Matt Merriman-Preston, a longtime strategist for Peduto, the ad portrays the mayor “taking a leadership role” and “standing up to White House policies hostile to cities.” In a blue community like Pittsburgh, where only fellow democrats have filed to run against the mayor, it’s also a way to score some easy points early on in the race (the election will be held in November).
The Post-Gazette reports that the ad cost upwards of $100,000, which is likely more than the combined total of what his opponents, Reverend John Welch and City Council Member Darlene Harris, have raised so far — it’s difficult to say for sure, because Harris breached a city ordinance by not filing a campaign finance report this year.
As Next City previously reported, Peduto’s personal democratic style could be described as “pro-growth progressive,” a brand of urbanism that’s become ubiquitous in 2017 and easily mirrors Seattle’s Ed Murray, New York’s Bill de Blasio, D.C.’s Muriel Bowser and California’s mayor-like Governor Jerry Brown.
“Peduto urbanism attempts to square modern progressives’ goals for the environment, the economy and equity with a low-car urbanist agenda for land use and transportation, and a sober, even conservative approach to fiscal policy and public management,” Jonathan Geeting wrote in 2014.
The mayor has also taken a strong pro-immigration stance in the past and harshly criticized Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration. His ad banks on that pro-growth progressive image — he claims to have grown the city “for the first time in 50 years, with billions in new investment, more police and firefighters, job training for thousands of new jobs and affordable housing in every neighborhood.”
But the Post-Gazette points out that some of those statements are pretty blurry, if not directly untrue. Affordable housing, for example: Peduto has signed an executive order to improve access to affordable housing and established a trust fund, but it currently lacks a revenue stream. And some of the questions that Geeting raised in 2014 about the whole concept of pro-growth progressivism are coming back to haunt Peduto.
“The growth, of course, brings excruciating questions that none of Peduto’s peers has yet answered, like how to allow for growth but not displacement,” Geeting wrote.
A similar charge is now being leveled against the mayor by his opponents, according to the Post-Gazette.
“Mr. Peduto’s claim to have ‘affordable housing in every neighborhood’ may raise some eyebrows,” the paper reports. “Rev. Welch in particular has charged that Mr. Peduto has done too little to stop displacement in burgeoning areas like East Liberty.”
It’s easy to see affordable housing becoming a dominant player in this year’s election. Other cities with mayoral elections this year include Seattle (where former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn just announced a run against Murray) and New York.
See Peduto’s full ad here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.