Meet The Trio Tasked With Making Metro Miami More Resilient

Feb 2, 2017

Five, 15 or 50 years from now, what’s the future of Miami and its metro area?

At times, it looks traffic-jammed, Zika-infected, unaffordable and drowning under rapidly rising seas.

But if the region's trio of chief resiliency officers have their way -- maybe not.

The resiliency officers from Miami, Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach are collaborating in an international program called 100 Resilient Cities. The program is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and its goal is to help 100 cities -- or, 99 cities and the quasi-city known as Greater Miami and the Beaches -- address threats to residents' future quality of life.  It offers access to experts on everything from climate change to homelessness, who then help the resiliency officers and their communities develop and implement strategies to cope.

"The thing that makes this program distinct is their commitment to implementation," said Jim Murley, chief resiliency officer for Miami-Dade County. "We’re really building this resilient greater Miami for the people that are coming behind us."

Murley and fellow resiliency officers Susanne Torriente (Miami Beach) and Jane Gilbert (City of Miami) were at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday to introduce the plan to regional business leaders. Keynote speaker Otis Rolley, 100 Resilient Cities' Regional Director for North America, said the greater Miami metro area's participation is "a bit of an experiment" since it includes a county and a second city.

"But Miami is known for being a vanguard, and that's exciting for us," he said, adding that he sees both challenges and opportunities in the municipalities' decision to participate as a group.

"If we can figure out the collaboration, coordination and communication, we can really help to make sure it becomes a real resilient community overall," Rolley said.

Susanne Torriente, Miami Beach's chief resiliency officer, said the opportunity for regional cooperation is what excites her most about the program.

"That's how things get done," she said. "We're different, we have different constituencies. But by uniting... we can create a transportation system, maybe, that makes sense for the whole region. Deal with the housing issues."

Right now, the three chief resiliency officers -- Murley, Torriente and City of Miami officer Jane Gilbert -- are collecting gathering input from residents, businesses and government leaders on the challenges the region faces. They say they plan to roll out an initial resiliency assessment for the region sometime this spring. After that, they'll begin creating a resiliency plan to cope with challenges from affordable housing to Zika.

It's a lot, Gilbert says, but "there are some great initiatives going on that we want to build on."