Resiliency is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, being able to spring back into shape.
Judging by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we still have a lot of work cut out for us. Months later, the streetlights along Powerline Road here in Wilton Manors are still not working. Many of us still have property damage, still waiting for contractors, and are seeking out ways to pay for the work that needs to be done. Many residents had to wait to have power restored and some over three weeks before having internet service restored, causing a huge burden for residents and businesses throughout our city.
The good news is that regional leaders here in South Florida have the concept of resilience sharply in focus when it comes to how our region deals with the effects of climate change moving forward.
This past week Broward County hosted the 9th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit. The four counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are working together to lead the way in a regional response to climate change, while our Governor and national leaders bury their heads in the sand. The summit was a sold-out event and a huge success. I had the privilege of attending both days of the Summit, and walked away amazed at the work and planning going on as local governments, non-profits, communities and the business sector work together to bring about a solid regional response to the effects that we are already and will continue to experience due to climate change here in South Florida and around the world.
The good news is that the strict Florida Building Code put into place after Hurricane Andrew works and works very well. Unfortunately, it does not affect all the pre-existing buildings and homes throughout the area. As time and development move ahead, we will see a greater portion of low and moderate income families placed at greater and greater risk because of the effects of climate change. Residents with resources can make the needed adjustments and build resilience to the growing risks.
However, at-risk populations struggling to get by daily, those living below the poverty level, and those working at low wage jobs will suffer most from the intensifying heatwaves, the rising cost to run outdated AC units, fear of opening their windows at night due to concerns of robbery and theft, and will be the ones most likely to suffer displacement after a storm.
One step local cities can quickly move ahead on is the designation of Action Areas within our neighborhoods. Our park facilities and community centers can be equipped with generators, back-up fuel, and supplies. After a storm event, these facilities can become the focal point within each neighborhood, serving as cooling stations for our at-risk population, charging stations where residents can charge their phones, Wi-Fi zones, and gathering points for distribution of needed supplies. This is a vital step in building resiliency into Wilton Manors’ action plan, providing the basic tools for residents to begin with the task of getting life back to normal.
On a much grander and costlier scale, infrastructure projects will be the big-ticket items. Drainage projects, pumping stations, and solar power installations all come with a high price tag. Luckily for us here in Wilton Manors, our city has done a fantastic job of upgrading and investing in the city’s infrastructure wherever and whenever possible. Our city is not alone in its search for necessary funding for needed upgrades and projects. Residents also face a similar struggle. Seawalls will have to be raised, repaired, or replaced at the expense of property owners.
Hurricane impact windows, new roofs, solar panels, and other home improvements that build resiliency into our properties are very expensive. Speakers at the summit touted the P.A.C.E. program as a funding source and a great tool for homeowners to utilize for these upgrades. For more information on this very important program, residents can visit Broward County’s website, Broward.org.
As our city moves ahead with Land Use and Zoning changes along the Andrews Ave./Oakland Park Blvd. Corridor, we should not miss the opportunity to redevelop this vital corridor into a regional showpiece. Smart and Green Growth, with higher density sustainable housing, utilizing the latest advances in solar and eco-friendly development, along existing transit routes and within walking distance to our town center along Wilton Drive represents the future of our city.
As we leave hurricane season behind us, move ahead with holiday festivities, and ring in the New Year in a few short weeks, let us also look to the future and embrace the changes we need to make. As a community working together, we can create the roadmap necessary to guide us through our journey. The ability to plan, allocate funding, build resilience into our budgeting process and take action on climate change will make us stronger and will continue to make life just better here for many years to come.
Happy Holidays Wilton Manors, and Best Wishes for a wonderful new year ahead!