In Support of Establishing a Permanent Office of Resilience in the DC Government

Good morning, members of the Government Operations Committee. My name is Kevin Clinton and I am here today on behalf of the Federal City Council, a nonprofit civic organization that works to make our city a better place.

On behalf of the Federal City Council, I’m testifying before you today to express my support for B23-0130, the District of Columbia Office of Resilience Establishment Act of 2019.

I also serve as the Chairman of the Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency, which has given me a unique perspective to understand the importance of this legislation. It has been a gratifying experience to serve in this role and come together across disciplines and across sectors to work on such an important charge.  I’m not testifying on behalf of the Commission because it has not taken positions on legislation before the Council and has not been discussed by the Commission at this point though I think it would be a good topic for a future meeting.

The Federal City Council was an early supporter of the city’s efforts to be part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program. The 100RC framework defined resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.” Its an appealing framework because it puts the stresses of dealing with crime, income inequality, poor access to health care and a clean environment on equal footing with the challenges of preparing for the type of acute natural and man-made disasters that tend to grab our attention. The stresses many of our residents face exacerbate the challenges overcoming the type of major environmental events that are become all the more frequent.

That said, the District of Columbia should be proud of its leadership role nationally in both climate adaptation and resilience planning. Its plans including Sustainable DC 2.0, Clean Energy DC, Climate Ready DC and Resilient DC reflect a seriousness and rigor that far exceeds what many other cities have done.

Here are the things we like about this bill: (1) it elevates and institutionalizes the resilience framework as a mechanism for managing the District of Columbia; (2) by positioning this office in the Office of the City Administrator, where it currently resides, it signals the importance of the function but also enables its effectiveness because resilience by its very nature transcends sectors; and (3) it places an emphasis on implementation of existing plans.

Why do we care about implementation? DC’s greatest challenge lies in how to implement our various plans such that we retain a vibrant economy; that we limit the negative impacts of climate change on all our residents but especially our most vulnerable; and that we use our spending power wisely, particularly when it comes to the capital budget, and align our government investments within the long term context of a changing environment.

My one caution and this is a recommendation to the staff of the Office of Resilience as much as it is to you, Chairman Todd. We need to make sure that the effort to develop data that feeds into an annual report for the Office of Resilience is aligned to other reporting that DC does, including its performance data, budget, and DOEE’s reporting in the plans I mentioned previously. It also needs to be clear and even simple so that the public can readily understand our goals, progress and where we need to do better.

Resilience has become a popular concept but it is important to think about what it means. The success of a city is not measured by whether it faces adversity, but whether it will get back up quickly and come back stronger than before. The District of Columbia has resilience in its DNA and we strongly support the efforts proposed by Councilmember Todd here today to adopt this framework at the highest level of this government.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.