100 Resilient Cities was created by the Rockefeller Foundation with the goal of helping cities build reliance to the threats that are increasingly part of the 21st century. In the case of Dallas, the goal is to build community partnerships and strengthen its resilience in the hope of addressing population growth, income inequality, and the effects of severe weather. Around the globe cities are facing threats of chronic food and water shortages, crime, pollution and insufficient public transportation systems.Each city is also eligible to receive grant funds to hire a Chief Resilience Officer to lead the analysis, planning and implementation of the city’s resilience strategy, working with different government agencies across society. Theresa O’Donnell is the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Dallas. Ms. O’Donnell has more than 25 years of experience as a professional planner and has served the City of Dallas since 2003 in a number of roles; most as Chief Planning Officer. Her prior positions with the City include Interim Assistant City Manager in which she oversaw the departments of Sustainable Development & Construction, Housing & Community Services, Aviation, and the Office of Fair Housing. She also served as the Director of Sustainable Development and Construction for more than 10 years. Ms. O’Donnell has been invited to the Joint Dallas and Fort Worth SAME Emergency Response + Infrastructure Resiliency Workshop, “Being Strong In a World Where Things Go Wrong”, on June 20th.
I had the opportunity to participate and represent the Dallas Post in a May workshop event sponsored by the Dallas Resiliency Office. The workshop provided an overview of the resiliency efforts of El Paso Texas, table exercises on risk analysis (i.e., ranking of major shocks to the city – tornados, hail storms, floods, earthquakes, public health outbreaks, infrastructure failure, civil disruption, and terrorism), identifying which assets within the City of Dallas are the most valuable, identification of risks in terms of severity and frequency, and finally the resilience gaps due to a lack of data or function. The workshop group of over 50 individuals represented a broad cross-section of Dallas in terms of social, demographic, economic, cultural, political, and physical infrastructure interests.
I had three points of takeaway from the workshop. The first is Dallas is in the discovery phase of resiliency thinking. Most global/mega cites are at the same stage. What are the key city specific resiliency questions that need to be addressed and what are the data/information gaps that appear to dominate in the early stages of the process. The second point is the holistic nature of resiliency thinking and application. Infrastructure planning, design, and operation is critical to long-term resiliency planning. What the Rockefeller process does is force communities and engineers to think beyond the physical aspects of resilience, but also think of strengthening a community in terms of social, economic, educational, and culture needs to help better manage when things go wrong. The last point is the paradox of resiliency and sustainability. The genre of sustainability has dominated the thinking of planning and engineering for many years, but a new wave of resiliency thinking is arriving. Sustainability and resiliency are two ways to think about the same problem, with the understanding that being more resilient may make you less sustainable and being more sustainable may make you less resilient in terms of the physical assets under the infrastructure umbrella. This century might be one of balancing both the goals of sustainability and resiliency.