While it’s impossible to predict the future, we can with certainty forecast a few things for 2019: Important court cases, self-driving car updates, and Pittsburgh’s continued redevelopment.
And, of course, what would a year in the 21st century be without some political drama? There will be no shortage of that in the coming year.
If all of that makes you feel overwhelmed, know this: Food will be there for us. Picklesburgh will be bigger and better than ever. And beautiful cheeseboards will feed your Instagram, your stomach, and perhaps even your soul.
There’s plenty of fun to be had, too, on Kennywood’s new coaster and in the theater for “Hamilton.”
Buckle up, because 2019 is going to be quite the ride.
Politics and power
5 of 9 council seats up for election
2019 is a municipal election year and, for the most part, all eyes will be on Pittsburgh City Council elections, specifically the May primary. Challengers have already declared candidacies.
In District 9, which includes eastern neighborhoods like East Liberty and Larimer, Leon Ford announced in October that he was running as a Democrat. The community advocate was shot and paralyzed by police six years ago. Currently, the seat is held by Rev. Ricky Burgess, also a Democrat. Burgess has yet to say either way if he’s running.
Four more city council seats are up in 2019. Newcomers have declared their candidacies in two more districts so far — District 1 held by Darlene Harris and Bruce Kraus’ District 3.
New state lawmakers take office
On Jan. 1, freshman lawmakers will ring in the New Year when they’re sworn in beside veteran colleagues. Eight of them will be from Allegheny County. On the Democratic side, Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee are bound for the House, while Lindsey Williams will likely be seated in the Senate. Republicans Bob Brooks, Valerie Gaydos, Natalie Mihalek, Lori Mizgorski, and Mike Puskaric will be sworn in as House members.
The newly elected women from the Pittsburgh area helped close the gender gap in both chambers. While Republicans will still control both chambers, Democrats narrowed both majorities.
One special election (probably)
Republican Guy Reschenthaler’s ascension from state senator to member of Congress means the residents of the 37th district will get to participate in one of their favorite pastimes: a special election. Once Reschenthaler resigns, the lieutenant governor will call a special election, which history tells us will probably coincide with the May primary. Party leaders, not voters, will decide which candidates go head-to-head. Republicans are lining up for the honor, and Democrats are hopeful they can pick up another Senate seat because of Lindsey Williams’ close win in the adjacent 38th.
Speaking of Williams, GOP leaders have essentially decided they will seat her after an exhaustive look into her residency qualifications. Still, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati left the door open to revisit the issue if any new information comes to light. That seems unlikely, as does a second special election, but we won’t know for sure until Jan. 1.
Gun control measures
With weeks left in 2018, Pittsburgh city officials unveiled a proposed set of new, local-level gun control restrictions they say were motivated by the mass shooting at Tree of Life and all forms of gun violence in the city. The proposals include a ban on assault weapons and officials say they hope to have them adopted in time for the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Regardless of when they’re passed, expect a lawsuit to be filed by gun groups who say the ordinances are a violation of state law. City officials have acknowledged as much but said they refused to let that stop them from taking steps to address the issue.
A gun show — and a call to cancel it
Amid calls for its cancellation, a gun show scheduled for the David L. Lawrence Convention center in May is going forward as planned, organizers say. The show has already prompted protests from City Councilmember Rev. Ricky Burgess who asked organizers and the convention center’s owners to cancel the 2019 Concealed Carry Expo in light of the mass shooting at Tree of Life and “ongoing violence in our communities.” Organizers of the event at the US Concealed Carry Association said they believe defensive firearms can prevent tragedies like that at Tree of Life on Oct. 27.
In the courtroom
Robert Bowers is accused of killing 11 and wounding six others in the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. He’s facing dozens of federal charges, including hate crime counts that carry the death penalty. Lawyers in the case have until April to file pre-trial motions. Federal authorities have yet to confirm if they’ll seek the death penalty. Bowers’ trial is expected to last three-to-four weeks or longer if federal prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty. Bowers pleaded not guilty.
Former East Pittsburgh Police officer Michael Rosfeld is charged in the June 19 shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II. Currently, a trial is scheduled in Allegheny County for Feb. 26, per court records. However, on Dec. 20, Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, argued in court that there is no way for Rosfeld to have a fair trial in Allegheny County given the amount of media coverage and protests, the Post-Gazette reported.
After Rose’s death, East Pittsburgh dissolved its police department, and borough leaders are expected to meet with nearby municipalities about creating a regional police force, TribLive reported. Allegheny County Council will also continue to discuss a bill to create a police review board in the new year, per 90.5 WESA.
Change and Growth
More details on self-driving cars
In late December, Uber announced its cars were going back to autonomous mode after being on hiatus since a March 2018 fatal crash in Arizona. Although the cars are operating in a small area right now — 31st to 34th streets in the Strip District — expect that to continue to expand in 2019. And while PennDOT has interim oversight of autonomous testing for now, regulating self-driving cars will likely be a topic as state lawmakers work on a bill to create testing laws.
The push-and-pull between city leaders and testers will also continue as local government, including Mayor Bill Peduto, work to find a way for self-driving vehicle testers to report incidents that don’t require a police report, per the Post-Gazette.
Public transit updates and potential BRT news
Port Authority of Allegheny County expects to hear from the Federal Transit Administration on Small Starts funding for the authority’s BRT project in early 2019. A construction timeline will be determined after that. The $195 million project would connect the city’s two biggest jobs centers, Oakland and Downtown, with parts of the Mon Valley. Port Authority officials are seeking federal funding that would cover roughly half of the associated costs. But they’ve also vowed to move forward with or without it.
The historic Macy’s (formerly Kaufmann’s) building downtown is being renovated into Kaufmann’s Grand on Fifth Avenue, a multi-use building with luxury apartments, a restaurant, and a hotel. The project continues to be delayed, and though it was supposed to open in summer 2018, it still hasn’t. The company announced on Facebook that it’s now in the “final phase of our construction process.” The beloved building is an icon Downtown — and this timeline of 14 photos of Pittsburgh’s the building from 1886 to 2018 evokes nostalgia.
Strip District produce terminal developments
After several years of on-again, off-again discussions about the Strip District’s produce terminal, it could be redeveloped by this fall. Highlights of the proposed project include better pedestrian access to storefronts and the waterfront, murals, sidewalks, and decorative crosswalks, per NEXTpittsburgh. The development would combine retail and restaurants and a $50 million makeover for Smallman Street in the Strip, KDKA-TV reported.
Art honoring women of color
The city removed the controversial statue of Stephen Foster in Oakland in spring 2018 and announced plans to fill the space with a statue honoring women of color. In the first quarter of 2019, the city’s Task Force on Women in Public Art plans to go to the Pittsburgh Art Commission with a draft of the request for proposals for the new artwork, said Lindsay Powell, assistant chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto and a member of the task force. She said that draft will include the values that the city is looking for, including celebrating women of color and working with local artists, but it will be up to artists to interpret what the piece will look like. Once the RFP is approved, it will be released for artists to start submitting ideas, she said. Meanwhile, the fate of Foster statue has yet to be announced.
Things to do
A good winter to stay inside
If you love staying inside, curled up on the couch during the winter, you’re in luck for the start of 2019. From now until mid-January, the weather forecast expects colder than normal temperatures but dry with less-than-usual precipitation, Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service Pittsburgh told The Incline. And the rest of the winter into March will stay cold, but precipitation will be normal. It’ll be a cool start to 2019 and that will linger into spring, Hendricks said. After that, The Old Farmers Almanac predicts a warmer than normal April and May, but a cooler than usual summer and normal temperatures in the fall for the Ohio Valley Region.
“Hamilton” is coming to town
The hit show at the Benedum Center, Downtown, in January, and musical theater fans waited in lines (both online and in-person) to get tickets. But when the real Alexander Hamilton came to town 200 years ago during the height of the Whiskey Rebellion, well … let’s just say it didn’t go so well. Catch up on Pittsburgh’s history with Hamilton here.
An exhibit on the Vietnam War
A traveling exhibit titled The Vietnam War: 1945-1975 is coming to Heinz History Center this spring. The exhibit provides an account of the causes, progression, and impact of the war. It also explores themes of patriotism, duty, and citizenship through key artifacts. Expect to see a troopship berthing unit, vibrant anti-war posters, artwork by Vietnam vets, a Viet Cong bicycle, and historical film footage. The History Center will display artifacts that offer a local perspective on the war, including cots graffitied by Pennsylvanian soldiers aboard troopships obtained through the Vietnam Graffiti Project. The exhibit opens April 13 and runs through Sept. 22.
Picklesburgh, that mecca of all things pickled — and some things that shouldn’t be — returns this year. But it’s likely to expand beyond its iconic location atop the Clemente Bridge. Organizers say this owes to the growing popularity of the festival, headed into its fifth year, and means it’s likely to expand its footprint. The bridge is likely to remain the centerpiece, but organizers say the festival could benefit from some elbow room and expand to areas surrounding the bridge.
A new coaster at Kennywood
A Steelers-themed roller coaster is coming to Kennywood … because of course it is. The coaster, dubbed The Steel Curtain, will stretch 220 feet into the air with 4,000 feet of track. Riders will speed along for a two-minute adrenaline rush at 75 miles per hour while navigating nine inversions. The coaster will be a part of “Steelers Country,” described by Kennywood as “a one-of-a-kind themed land that celebrates the hard-hitting heroics of the players, but with a unique twist.” It’s expected to open during the 2019 season.
Honor young Pittsburghers in new fields
Our Who’s Next series, presented by S&T Bank, is The Incline’s way of highlighting the work of young leaders across the city. Readers nominate under-40 rising stars for each class of honorees, and in 2019, you’ll have an opportunity to nominate young leaders in new areas, including Animal Advocates, Environment & Energy and First Responders. So start thinking about the people you know that we should honor, and sign up here to get emails each time a nomination opens and a new class is announced.
New food and drink
It’s going to be a good year for good food. Dining experts predict avocado toast, fried chicken, mocktails, and spiked seltzers for Pittsburgh menus in 2019. Other flavors to look for: African spices, house-made syrups for drinks, matcha, and rose/rosewater. Here’s the full list of food trends you’ll see in Pittsburgh’s bar and restaurant scene this year.