To say I was proud when Jacksonville was named one of the world’s most resilient cities is an understatement. This was a huge accomplishment for Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration. Few residents knew about it but I was certain that would change. I was excited to think how I, and others in Jacksonville who are passionate on this issue, could be assets and resources to the incoming Resilience Officer. I knew that we had a lot of work to do to truly earn and maintain this distinction, but what an amazing opportunity not only to make Jacksonville a safe and resilient city but an opportunity to draw talent to our area through the process. Would the new administration see it the same way?
I became concerned when a separate position was not created and a job search wasn’t conducted. After all, this is a very big task that by definition prepares cities to be resilient through physical, social and economic challenges. That encompass preparation for and recovery from the effects of sea level rise, groundwater infiltration, salinity, ecology, severe weather events, air quality issues, health and well-being and economic downturns, just to name a few. This role would address the infrastructure and emergency management needed to do so. As a contractor, I can clearly see the public safety and public works aspects to the term ‘resilience’. Despite my skepticism of how slowly we were moving on the establishment of a resiliency offer and the process to appoint rather than hire one, I could never imagine the City would walk away from being a part of The 100 Resilient Cities. I personally sat at a recent US Green Building Council meeting where the new resiliency officer spoke to us about his new role and how important it is to our city.
On the bright side, there are many in our area who understand and contribute on these important issues. They will continue to work behind the scenes to make positive strides but not having our leadership behind this initiative is a huge setback.
An example is the Northeast Florida Regional Council who engaged on this issue early with the Committee on Sea Level Rise, on which I was proud to serve. This committee created a Regional Action Plan. Since that time and in response to this plan, the NEFRC has created the P2R2 Public/Private Regional Resiliency effort.
For more on this topic visit Florida Politics and Melissa Ross who will undoubtedly stay on top of this important issue. I am comforted to know many of us are.