Cities, Climate Change, Government

City of Miami CRO Jane Gilbert at the Agenda Setting Workshop, Sept 29, 2016. Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade County

This is the fifth in a series of posts on AECOM’s work with cities participating in the 100 Resilient Cities program, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The program supports 100 cities globally in tackling issues of globalization, urbanization and climate change by developing a resilience strategy under the leadership of a chief resilience officer. AECOM has assisted 10 cities that have already published their resilience strategies and is currently working with another 20. Stay tuned for more reports from our team!

I’ve moved out of South Florida on three separate occasions, yet I continue to find myself back here, moving farther south each time, from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and finally to Miami. Why do I keep leaving? Like other growing metropolitan areas, South Florida is crowded and the traffic is terrible. Housing is expensive and incomes don’t compare to those in other metropolitan areas. The economy is dependent on tourists and foreign investments. Temperatures are increasing, flooding is becoming more frequent, and at least once a year we find ourselves locked inside awaiting the eye of the hurricane.

This time I have no intention of leaving because the truth is, like many metropolitan areas, the benefits far exceeds the challenges. Miami’s diverse population has allowed my closest girlfriends to be from Israel, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. I walk to work and ride my bike along Miami Beach’s coastline. South Florida is home to the Everglades, a World Heritage Site, and the busiest cruise ship port in the world, PortMiami. We host major events such as Art Basel, Ultra Music Festival, and the Miami Open. The uniqueness and opportunities of South Florida have allowed so many of us to become passionate about this place we call home. The governments of Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the City of Miami Beach also recognize this. The three have partnered to join the 100RC network as Resilient Greater Miami and the Beaches (Resilient GM&B). This is the only instance in the 100RC program in which multiple governments are partnered to develop a singular resilience strategy, and as I bear witness, it is no easy feat.

Early in this process, I sat in a room with three chief resilience officers (CROs) and their deputies. I quickly began to understand the established programs that came with each of the governments and the political pressures that accompanied such an endeavor.

Over the last seven months, we’ve spent many hours together learning about Resilient GM&B’s challenges. We’ve begun to understand one another’s passions and pressures, celebrating birthdays and sympathizing over hardships. Our Mondays are now spent together with various leaders throughout GM&B learning about subject-specific shocks and stresses affecting our communities. Our Thursdays are spent updating the 100RC project team on progress and strategy development.

Preliminary resilience assessment workshop. Left to right: Ajani Stewart, City of Miami; Corin, intern, City of Miami Beach; Susanne M. Torriente, CRO, City of Miami Beach; Stephanie Tashiro, Deputy CRO, City of Miami; Jane Gilbert, CRO, City of Miami; Peter Jenkins, 100RC; Amy Knowles, Deputy CRO, City of Miami Beach; Jim Murley, CRO, Miami Dade County; Eric Wilson, 100RC; Lauren Swan, AECOM. Behind the camera: Claire Bonham-Carter, AECOM.

Our Monday meetings have allowed us to recognize that the three governments share similar resilience issues: an inadequate and overtaxed transportation system, transient and refugee populations, sunny-day flooding, hurricanes, housing affordability, and income inequality. At the same time, the origin of challenges is different for each government. We learned that an economic crash for the City of Miami Beach means loss of tourism while to the City of Miami it’s a financial collapse and to Miami-Dade County it might be loss of agriculture.

This process of understanding the commonalities and differences of the issues affecting GM&B has allowed three separate governments and their respective departments to identify obstacles and build relationships toward solutions. As the CROs continue on their journey of development toward an inclusive Resilient GM&B strategy, we find that this engagement process has begun to create a platform for stakeholders to learn from one another, integrate ideas and actions, and build a collective voice.


Originally published Apr 27, 2017

Author: Lauren Swan