On the Road to a More Resilient America, Cities Will Lead

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“As mayors, we are all first responders. A smart resilience strategy can mitigate impacts and speed recovery time in the event that our buildings and infrastructure are compromised – making our cities safer for our residents and for long-term investment and growth.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico at dusk. Santa Fe is the capital of the state of New Mexico. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States and the oldest city in New Mexico. Santa Fe is known for world-renowned art galleries, southwestern food,music and fine dining and its scenic beauty
The 2016 Resilient Cities Summit included two days of discussion about the challenges facing American cities and their leaders to managing risk, harnessing opportunity, and identifying resources to enhance community and city resilience. (Getty Images)

The air was crisp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week with 20° temperatures. On behalf of Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzalez, Councilor Peter Ives welcomed a national group of city leaders and resilience experts to the capital city at 7,000 feet.

Co-hosted by Hoboken, New jersey, Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Little Rock, Arkansas, Mayor Mark Stodola, the 2016 Resilient Cities Summit included two days of discussion about the challenges facing American cities and their leaders to managing risk, harnessing opportunity, and identifying resources to enhance community and city resilience. Elected officials and staff from fifteen cities and more than 20 states made up the intimate group of approximately 50 attendees.

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The 2016 summit was designed to focus on a discrete challenge where the partners are particularly well positioned to help: the nexus of planning, financing and constructing more resilient and sustainable buildings and neighborhoods.

“As mayors, we are using all the tools in the toolbox to make our cities stronger, healthier, more vibrant places to live, work, play an invest,” said Mayor Stodola. “Resilience presents an opportunity for re-imagining our built infrastructure – but it’s also a risk-management lens that we can’t afford to ignore.”

NLC, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) convened the summit as part of an ongoing effort to support cities in navigating resilience risks and opportunities and facilitate best-practice sharing. 100 Resilient Cities’ VP of Knowledge & Impact, Amy Armstrong, served as summit facilitator, and offered insights on successful ideas and actions from the program’s global network of cities.

While the partners took special care to prioritize many hours of time for interactive ideation and discussion, a series of short “lightning talks” offered intermittent bursts of inspiration. In addition, three keynotes provided big-picture thinking and examples of resilience in action at scale. The keynote addresses were from: Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment (see video); Danielle Arigoni, Director, Office of Economic Development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Scot Horst, Chief Product Officer at USGBC and newly-named CEO of Arc.

“I was excited about the 2016 Resilient Cities Summit,” Mayor Zimmer said, “because, as mayors, we are all first responders. A smart resilience strategy can mitigate impacts and speed recovery time in the event that our buildings and infrastructure are compromised – making our cities safer for our residents and for long-term investment and growth.”

Last summer, the National League of Cities and partners hosted twenty mayors and city leaders and many industry experts at the Aspen Institute for a powerful introductory dialogue on the challenges pertaining to resilience facing U.S. cities today. A look back at the 2015 summit and its provocative discussions can be found here, and the full 2015 Resilient Cities Summit Report can be viewed here.

The 2016 summit was designed to focus on a discrete challenge where the partners are particularly well positioned to help: the nexus of planning, financing, and constructing more resilient and sustainable buildings and neighborhoods.

NLC, ULI, and USGBC have begun work to develop a follow-up report, and look forward to continuing to support our business and government members in the urgent discovery of actionable strategies for enhanced resilience and both the tools and the resources for effective execution.

NLC members who didn’t attend the summit but are interested in improving their roads and bridges, stormwater systems, public facilities, or pursuing other resilience projects should apply for the NLC & IBTS Small Cities Resiliency Competition for a chance to receive free consultative services and technical assistance. Apply here by January 31.

About the authors:

cooper_martin_125x150Cooper Martin is the program director of the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities.

 

jeremy-sigmon_125x150Jeremy Sigmon is the Director of Technical Policy at the U.S. Green Building Council.

 
katherine-burgess_125x150Katharine Burgess is the Director of Urban Resilience at the Urban Land Institute.