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The Sunshine Economy

The Sunshine Economy: A Conversation With Resiliency Leaders

Al Diaz
Miami Herald
A long-awaited report on Miami's plan to deal with sea level rise and other climate risks is expected out in late May.

After two and a half years of work, a comprehensive report on how to better prepare Miami for all kinds of threats -- economic, health and especially climate risks -- is expected to be released by the end of May.

The effort aims to better understand the risks to resiliency. That is the popular word used as a catchall for everything from dealing with housing affordability to recovering after a hurricane to protecting against and adapting to rising seas.

The report will be called Resilient 305. It is the result of 100 Resilient Cities, an international program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. It included Miami-Dade County and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. Those are the only South Florida areas included in the effort.

It will be "a series of action items that are the consensus of the three" chief resilience officers and elected officials, says Miami-Dade Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley. Hundreds of millions of public tax dollars have already been spent on dealing with higher seas and flooding. The money has been spent on pumps, higher roads, and stormwater drains. Hundreds of millions of dollars more will be spent in the years to come.

Credit Courtesy of Miami-Dade County
Jim Murley has served as the chief resilience officer of Miami-Dade since the position was created in 2015.

"We organized the action steps into three broad categories: place, people and pathways," says Murley. For some items in the report, that will include possible sources of money to help pay for projects. Property taxes and resilience bonds are just two of the potential funding sources. Resilience bonds can be used as insurance and to fund infrastructure projects to reduce the risks of climate change. But don't expect to see price tags as part of the Resilient 305 report. "There's proximate dollars, but some of the action items are written in a way that the outcome is to come up with a cost."

In Broward County, Chief Resilience Officer Jennifer Jurado eyes the county's new penny sales tax for transportation as an opportunity to build with climate risks in mind. "We don't want to lose opportunities where we have these financial resources that are now available to support this vision that we've had for some time."

Credit courtesy of Broward County
courtesy of Broward County
Broward County Chief Resilience Officer Dr. Jennifer Jurado was a driving force in the creation of the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact.

Since January, Broward County has been collecting an extra penny per dollar spent on all kinds of things. It is the result of the voter-approved penny sales tax increase, with the money going toward transportation projects. It is expected to raise about $200 million this year, and more than $15 billion in new money over the 30-year lifespan of the tax.

The county has a long wish list: bus routes, maybe light rail, synchronizing traffic lights, bike lanes, and others. "We need to think about how those investments are designed with resiliency in mind -- the types of drainage improvements that are going to be critical in order to ensure the functionality of these (transportation) corridors," Jurado says.

For instance, she says new projects will have to consider drainage requirements with two feet of sea level rise, and the impact that will have on the water table. "It's been bracketed about half a percent to one and a half percent of the total project costs just to ensure that the drainage component is correct."

In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.