January 7th and 8th the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council hosted the first Tampa Bay Resiliency Coalition Leadership Summit at the Hilton Carillon. As a sponsor of the event, representatives from the St. Pete Chamber joined hundreds of local and national resilience leaders to learn from other communities and share ideas on how to make our region more resilient to rising sea levels.
A Call to Action
The morning session was kicked off by the woman responsible for making the summit a reality, Pinellas County Commissioner, Janet Long. Commissioner Long, in referencing the wildfires in Australia, exclaimed “The world is on fire!” and somberly told the attendees that “Nothing that you do will make more difference for our kids and our grandchildren and future generations than the actions that you take here today, and after you leave here today.”
Congressman Charlie Crist gave a brief speech focused on keeping oil drilling off our coast and reiterating the need for the region to prepare for rising sea levels now.
Florida’s Chief Resiliency Officer
The morning was highlighted by Dr. Julia Nesheiwat, the state’s first Chief Resiliency Officer, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019.
Dr. Nesheiwat does not debate words like “climate change” or “if there is a problem” and instead is focused on solving the problems we face.
After spending the last 6 months touring the state, visiting local communities susceptible to rising water levels, and learning about resiliency projects in the works, Dr. Nesheiwat has determined we need to grow our clean energy industries and reexamine our zoning and planning.
The issue of zoning and planning is especially relevant to St. Pete as our city’s Development Review Commission just approved a plan to allow for redevelopment of property in the Coastal High Hazard Area (CHHA) so long as certain mitigating actions are taken such as elevated ground floors, raised utility equipment, and stronger storm-resistant building elements.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor crossed the bay to join St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos for a panel discussion on local resiliency. Mayor Castor’s remarks focused on criticizing state preemption of local action while Mayor Kriseman focused on the regions’ lack of public transit and our need for federal and state funding for resilience projects.
The biggest laugh of the day was earned by the Clearwater Mayor when he asked the audience, “How many of you are good about recycling your used pizza boxes?” and several dozen hands, including those of a few elected officials, went up just for him to quickly admonish them, reminding the audience it is bad to recycle soiled cardboard.
A Big Announcement
At the end of the panel, former US Senator and current Chairman of the Southeast and Latin America for JP Morgan Chase & Co., Mel Martinez, made a special announcement of a $500,000 grant award to the Regional Planning Council to study affordable housing and resilience for the next
Other session topics included: Resilience as an Economic Development Strategy, Innovative Green Infrastructure, Clean Energy, Affordable Housing, and Regional Collaboration.
Looking to revisit a session from the 2020 Leadership Summit? Click here to download presentations from each session.
Photo caption: From left, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos speak at a summit held by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Resiliency Coalition on Tuesday at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. [LANGSTON TAYLOR]