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Climate Advocacy Group Commends And Criticizes Mayor Curry’s Handling Of CRO Bill

Mayor Lenny Curry adjusting his mask, someone to his left staring at him, signs in the background, courthouse also in the background.
Sky Lebron
/
WJCT News
Mayor Lenny Curry adjusting his mask, someone to his left staring at him, signs in the background, courthouse also in the background.

In a letter sent Thursday, Resilient Jax simultaneously thanked Mayor Lenny Curry for supporting the hiring of a chief resilience officer and criticized him for opposing the establishment of a resiliency division within the city’s Planning and Development Department.

The legislation (2020-0672) establishing a chief resiliency officer (CRO) position in Jacksonville was approved by the City Council in a 16-3 vote on Tuesday night — with council members Danny Becton, Rory Diamond and Al Ferraro voting against it — and now awaits the mayor’s signature.

Mayor Curry has already agreed to the codification of the CRO position and has publicly voiced support for the bill.

However, language that would have created a resiliency division was removed after the mayor’s administration came out in opposition to the move earlier this month, much to the surprise of members of the city's Special Committee on Resiliency, which has spent the past several months crafting the bill.

Related: City Council, Mayor’s Administration Clash Over chief resiliency officer Bill

“The Steering Committee of Resilient Jax thanks you for supporting the hiring of our city’s first Chief Resiliency Officer to lead Jacksonville’s response to the challenges we face from a warming climate,” the letter from Resilient Jax to Mayor Curry reads. “We are disappointed that you decided to oppose establishing the resiliency officer at the division chief level in the Planning Department. Resilient Jax will be working with the City Council and with your office to ensure this position is eventually elevated and properly funded to tackle the job at hand.”

In 2016, Mayor Curry backed out of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, which awarded participating cities with $1 million to help address climate change. Part of the grant went to the creation of a CRO position.

“I’m hoping that getting hit by back to back hurricanes maybe, potentially changed his mind about whether or not it’s responsible to have a person that is kind of accountable to our response,” said Shannon Blankinship, Chair of Resilient Jax. “There are no major cities in the state of Florida that don’t already have either a chief resiliency officer or an entire department around resiliency. So Jacksonville, at this point, has been totally left behind.”

While this is a major step in the right direction, Blankinship said, there is still a lot of work to do to prepare Jacksonville for the impacts of climate change.

“Hiring the chief resiliency officer isn’t the end all be all. The chief resiliency officer has a significant amount of work that they should begin to get done immediately — they have the recommendations from the Adaptation Action Area Working Group as well as the outcomes of the Special Committee on Resiliency,” she said. “We should expect to see a resiliency strategy as well as a city of Jacksonville vulnerability assessment.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.