Sharing resources and expertise. Jennifer Jurado, Chief Resilience Officer for Broward County, Florida, joined the podcast to talk about resiliency and climate response. She talked about resiliency and climate response plans as well as the County’s resilience and environmental dashboards. She also discussed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
This episode was recorded from the Florida City/County Managers Association (FCCMA) 2021 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Host: Ben Kittelson
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Ben Kittelson 00:41
Hey ya’ll, coming to you from Orlando, Florida, this is Gov Love, a podcast about local government brought to you by Engaging Local Government Leaders. I’m Ben Kittleson, consultant at Raftelis, and Gov Love co-host. We are on site at the Florida City County Managers Association Conference and we have a great episode for you today. We are talking resiliency in southern Florida. But first, the best way to support Gov Love is to become an ELGL member. ELGL is a professional association engaging the brightest minds in local government. Now let me introduce today’s guest. Jennifer Jurado is the Chief Resilience Officer and Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department for Broward County, Florida. She oversees countywide climate resiliency initiatives, water resource policy and planning, environmental monitoring, shoreline protection and marine resources programs. And she also has was a key figure in the advancement of a collaborative approach to climate mitigation and adoption in southern Florida. And we will, we’ll talk some about that. So welcome to Gov Love, Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us.
Jennifer Jurado 01:35
Thank you so much. I’m pleased to be here.
Ben Kittelson 01:38
Awesome. So we have a tradition on the podcast to start with a a lightning round to let our listeners get to know you a little better. So my first question for you, what was the first album that you bought?
Jennifer Jurado 01:48
Well, that’s a tough one. I can remember the first albums that I had, and they would include Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and Billy Joel.
Ben Kittelson 01:58
That’s a good collection. I think that’s a great start of like any record collection and tape collection like Yeah, yeah, that’s a good start.
Jennifer Jurado 02:04
I still enjoy them.
Ben Kittelson 02:07
Awesome. And then since you know, had to pick a something themed to like being in Orlando, so what’s your favorite Disney movie?
Jennifer Jurado 02:15
Oh, gosh. Maybe the Little Mermaid
Ben Kittelson 02:17
Jennifer Jurado 02:18
Perhaps ocean, that’s my background, marine biology and fisheries.
Ben Kittelson 02:22
There you go, and great soundtrack, so yeah, you can’t go wrong with the Little Mermaid. And then, is there a book that you give us a gift?
Jennifer Jurado 02:31
Yeah, I I actually have a book that I enjoy sharing or giving as a gift and it’s A Land Remembered. Wonderful story of kind of the natural history, it’s a fiction, fictional telling of the natural history and development but it’s historical fiction so, of South Florida, and it’s just wonderful and they’ve got a junior readers edition and so there’s one for older more mature people and and again, young leader, readers who are just starting out.
Ben Kittelson 02:59
That’s awesome. So A Land Remembered, okay, we’ll have to add that to the to the stack. And then the last lightning round question for you. Where do you go for inspiration?
Jennifer Jurado 03:10
Well, perhaps evening runs after work and apart from that of the Florida State Park system. Hiking, canoeing, camping, birdwatching, any of it, just a huge fan, and I’ve got my my Florida passport, Green Book, and I make a point of getting the stamp at every one of the parks I visit.
Ben Kittelson 03:30
I need to get the book. I have a little pass now for Florida State Parks. Do you have a favorite State Park?
Jennifer Jurado 03:37
I don’t know that I do. But I’m going to be going back to Lafayette State Park in a couple of weeks. And I can’t wait, so it’s wonderful.
Ben Kittelson 03:45
Awesome. Yeah, great park system in the state of Florida. So anyone visiting needs to check it out.
Jennifer Jurado 03:51
Ben Kittelson 03:53
Awesome. And then, I always like hearing from folks kind of their career path into local government and you have a very unique background. So well, how did you end up in government? How do you end up in your current role?
Jennifer Jurado 04:04
Well, you know, I was in graduate school, I was wrapping up my dissertation, there was a-
Ben Kittelson 04:10
In marine biology, right?
Jennifer Jurado 04:11
In marine biology fisheries, which in this case, yeah, my focus was on phytoplankton ecology and I was studying principally algal bloom dynamics and diatoms affecting Florida Bay and the South West Florida inner shelf and so a lot of water quality, water management flow, ecology background, and there was a position announcement with Broward County so I’ve been with Broward County since I graduated, and I started as the water resources manager and that was really my introduction into water policy, planning, capital improvement programs. I had no idea at that time what a CIP was, and, and really got introduced to the utility arena. And I spent, oh, six or seven years In that position and learned an immense amount. I learned a lot from colleagues, peers, particularly about the importance of policy really affecting things. And, and I had a great team member who was a hydrogeologist. And I learned immensely from him. So you know, once you graduate from school, so much of your learning is shared experience and knowledge of others. And I’ve really benefited a great deal from that. And, and then I kind of grew up in the county, I became the director of the Water Resources Division, and then the natural resources planning and management division, and then the environmental planning and community resilience division, and just kind of expanded responsibilities with time. But I’ll say I had the benefit of being with the county from the beginning of the climate discussion and really got to help, you know, develop the county’s efforts, starting in early 2000. And I think it’s really been a great advantage to have been there for the duration. Yeah. So I mean, I’d imagine a lot of your folks in your graduate, marine biology program probably weren’t going into local government, is that a safe assumption? How did you be like, this is the role that I want to go into? I think that you’re right, I’m, I suspect that there may be some who ended up in local government, but they’re not coming to mind. But it’s funny, because as a very young person, I anticipated or saw myself kind of working at the EPA. So I don’t know that I would, you know, necessarily say the same thing today. But I, I knew I was interested in environmental protection and science and ecology. I used to love watching national, National Geographic and those types of things. So you know, I always had that interest. And then I, I had spent quite a bit of time, and I don’t know how much time in the end, but I had environmental exposures in Mexico and Colombia, where I did volunteer work and studies. And that was probably my most significant introduction to the marine environment, because I’m from Idaho. And And though I then I wrapped up my studies in at the University of Miami. So it was by virtue of a number of experiences that I had the exposure to the coast. And, and then I think the real great fortune of coming to work for the for Broward County, where it’s been a very fulfilling career. And I, I think, provided exposures that I never would have anticipated to have been the opportunities and working in local government. So I feel real privileged.
Ben Kittelson 07:37
Yeah. Was there something in that first job or like this, I chose, right, I’m gonna stick with this, like local government is where it’s at for, especially for the type of work you’re doing? As I mentioned, you probably have options to do this kind of research or whatever, at universities or other organizations, like was there something in that first job that kept you in local government?
Jennifer Jurado 07:53
I think I most enjoyed the ability to bring science to the kind of to the decision making process, not that I’m necessarily making the decisions, but helping to inform recommendations that do get advanced to our policymakers, and then having the benefit of living in the community where those benefits are being realized. So I, so I feel like I work at a really nice scale, and we have enough resources at the county level to be able to do the work that that you know, I’m interested in and, and then to see it executed. So it’s, it’s satisfying.
Ben Kittelson 08:33
Yeah, that’s very cool. So, maybe before we get into some of the specifics, can you give us an idea of the scope of like some of the resilience, the resilience work in Broward County, and maybe the team or like, like, how many people are kind of working on this, this area in the county?
Jennifer Jurado 08:49
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting, because we’re in the midst of a bit of transition. I was most recently the division director for environmental planning, and I oversaw maybe, you know, five different sections that, I think you spoke to some of them, the environmental monitoring, shoreline protection, I oversaw most, you know, manatee and sea turtle conservation, in addition to water resource policy planning, and so forth, and energy and sustainability. I, you know, those were programs that I worked to develop. But I was recently promoted, and I’ve had the chief resilience officer position joint with my my other job functions for some time. But coming into the department, what we’ve done is really elevate the resilience work. So previously, I was really pulling across my programs, which, you know, I think there’s any number of models that work and I don’t think that a you know, a local government needs to operate in a in a very, like a very specific structure, different structures work for different entities. But the benefit that I did have as the division director was really being able to pull across a team of individuals, even though nobody was specifically like the resilience team. But now that I’ve moved up to the department, I have the ability to dedicate a full team so no one has kind of a competing job function. And so I’m working to about 10 to 12 individuals who will be full time dedicated to resilience at the same time that we continue to address resilience across my former division. And also, though, working more holistically, in terms of ensuring that all of our department divisions are also advancing and integrating resilience at that and in a manner that’s needed. And also working much more closely with the other departments across our organization. So I’ve done that anyway. But usually, you know, there’s an advantage to being able to kind of work peer to peer across the departments. And I feel like it’s a really bold step by our administration to organize them that way.
Ben Kittelson 10:59
Yeah. And so and remind me what the what’s the, it’s the environmental protection and growth management department. Is that like, would that be equivalent of like a planning department in you know, a county somewhere else? Or is that a completely unique function in Broward County?
Jennifer Jurado 11:11
You know, it’s funny how things go, you go through reorganization. So we’ve got, we’ve got animal care in the department. At one point time, we had emergency management, we’ve gotten environmental engineering, consumer protection. So housing, but we’re also in the midst of going through some department reorganization, I expect we’ll have a name change, which will be resilience and environment department. So it’s really again, elevating the fact that the so much of our work today is organized with resilience in mind and being much more pronouncing in that.
Ben Kittelson 11:46
And like, yeah, highlighting that and elevating that. Okay. And is there something that guides kind of the work? I read that y’all have a climate change action plan, from 2015. Is that kind of what drives maybe the day to day work of resiliency here?
Jennifer Jurado 12:01
You know, there’s so much, I guess I would begin by noting that our commission, well, let’s see, in 2008, we had initiated our climate change task force. Prior to that, we had a, and we still have a water advisory board. So both of those entities are very involved in the types of policy recommendations that get advanced to the county commission, and then ideally memorialized through, you know, policy actions. So the, I need to go back to what the question was, I’m sorry.
Ben Kittelson 12:40
Oh, just like kind of what guides your work? Is that that? Is that that climate change action plan, or is there something else?
Jennifer Jurado 12:44
Yeah, so we developed a climate change action plan in 2010. It was updated in 2015. We just now updated another climate that was just adopted this this week in fact. So now we have a 2020 Climate Action Plan. And yes, we have over 100 policy or actions that are detailed in that plan and across areas like environmental resources, community, community sustainability, transportation, energy, emergency preparedness, policy, recommendations, social equity, so a number of themes. And we do work as an organization to organize efforts that will allow us in the course of five years to have completed or have implemented, because some things are always ongoing, those actions and we did accomplish movement or completion of all the previous actions so that, it is strategic. We do have commitments from the county to achieve an 80% emissions reduction goal on a countywide basis. And we’re moving towards now a 2030, zero emission strategy. So there are many other initiatives that have to be undertaken that are going to be kind of the implementing pieces, of course, because yeah, the action plan is broader. There is support in the action plan for addressing risk and achieving, you know, adaptation to support the community. A lot of the efforts there are implemented through more complex hydrologic modeling efforts work relating to our design standards for infrastructure. So, I think it’s really fair, as you say, to acknowledge that we have this overarching action plan, but we also have a renewable energy action plan. We have a community energy strategic plan. We also are partners in the four counties southeast Florida, regional climate change compact and there we have a Regional Climate Action Plan. So we have a number of maybe nested planning efforts
Ben Kittelson 14:59
Jennifer Jurado 15:00
Yes. And, and work to advance all of those concurrently. And I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk about it, but we’re working on a county wide resilience plan that’s very specifically oriented to resilience, whereas the action plan is, you know, potentially inclusive of a lot more sustainability efforts. Whereas resilience might be a little bit more organized towards risk reduction, and kind of the, you know, that, that concept of the ability to bounce back and, and ensure kind of economic stability in times of these stressors, whereas I kind of consider the the Climate Action Plan itself a little bit broader in terms of green initiatives and sustainability. So I do draw a little bit of a distinction between what might be a resilience plan versus what might be a sustainability plan or a potentially Climate Action Plan depends on how people brand and define
Ben Kittelson 15:54
Yeah, okay, so can we get into that little bit? Let’s, let’s maybe, to like, I think I understand the theory of how they’re different. But maybe what are some examples of projects that might be different in a resiliency or some action items that might be different in a resiliency plan versus like your, your Climate Action Plan?
Jennifer Jurado 16:09
Well, and of course, they’re all related. But, we have an emphasis in the county on building to LEED standards, I think most would acknowledge that that’s a sustainability effort that goes back, you know, a decade and more about green practices, part of LEED certification, you know, addresses the, the types of materials that are used in production and whether they’re emitting fumes and they might relate to, you know, like air circulation, and there’s a whole other kind of element of, maybe I would say, health and and that’s part of that, whereas I guess I personally wouldn’t promote all aspects of LEED as being core to resilience, but they may be but but I think about resilience, I’m thinking more about the resilience of building as, how can it stand up to flood and, and, and wind stressors and and have like a hardened envelope, and maybe you’ve got solar built into that as part of your, your, your clean energy strategy and energy. Security, maybe you’ve been able to couple it with battery backup. And so all of that, for me, does constitute resilience. But there’s a lot of other features that might be internal water recycling, that I think more being kind of more about the sustainability, but if really one wanted, you can, you can make those connections. They’re all complementary.
Ben Kittelson 17:37
Yeah, they’re all, they all kind of work together. Right. Yeah. Interesting. That’s fascinating. So I’m curious that like, obviously, you guys been working on resilience and sustainability for, for years, and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. How did the county respond? How was your kind of group involved in that? Did that, that kind of the work y’all have done around resiliency helped prepare you for a pandemic, that maybe I don’t know, a community that hadn’t done that wouldn’t be, wouldn’t have been as good of a place? Or, I don’t know, if you have any perspective on that.
Jennifer Jurado 18:05
I think you know, that COVID influenced our thoughts in a number of ways. And maybe these aren’t all exactly responsive to the question. But, for example, we were in the process and we are in the process right now of, of developing a new governmental center. And so we had a lot of ideas about space planning, how many staff you would have and whether or not telecommuting would be part of that program, which, you know, the county had never provided for telecommuting previously. And, and we had ideas about, you know, shared spaces and all of, and so, in the midst of all of that, there was a kind of a pause and reflection about how much of the design concept did we want to give reconsideration to just in terms of thinking about how people work and where they work. In terms of community wide response, it’s, it is interesting, because I think that it, COVID demonstrated to us some of the very important aspects of community livability that had been difficult to promote previously. So yeah, for me, if we think about people, in my mind, took over the streets once more. So nobody was going to the gym. And I remember in my block, everyone was out walking. Kids were bicycling, parents were out strolling their kids, dogs were running.
Ben Kittelson 19:28
I saw more dogs in the first few weeks of pandemic than I knew lived in my neighborhood.
Jennifer Jurado 19:31
And so who, who doesn’t value that and communities felt connected. And even though we were all social distancing, but you know, we valued the fact that you had that space in your community that was available for your passive recreation. And we also have had ideas about how to address emissions where we’ve really been challenged. It’s like, Well, you know, we’re all in our vehicles. And that’s just the way we get around. But it’s really revealed again, that there’s another way to do business that we’ve really struggled with, and how does that help to inform how we might move the rollout of technology to support education and meetings and so forth in a way that would have otherwise, not that the technology wasn’t there, but it wasn’t so broadly embraced or utilized, you know, that has helped to inform, I think, our ideas about what strategies can be effectuated, in order to support some of our resilience initiatives, whether it’s, you know, calming street patterns and types of development strategies that help to preserve those spaces, how we want to use real estate in our community, how we navigate. The other thing, though, in terms of, I guess, the whole of the community response, you know, I don’t think necessarily that our resilience planning initiatives, were all that core to how we responded as a committee, I would say more the emergency preparedness and response, like our emergency management departments and divisions, having that network for communication and deployment of resources and support, you know, we did have activation of our emergency operation center for the whole course of COVID. And, you know, that preceded what we would call our resilience initiatives. But what I have to say is really exciting about how we did work. And this has informed another brilliant effort in my mind, in our department, there were several teams that were pulled together to develop a COVID dashboard. They used a tool called Survey 123. And this was developed in joint implementation with the municipalities. So as we were working to say, track COVID cases, track infection rates, track testing, track non compliance with social distancing, and COVID safety measures. All of that was part of this live database, municipalities could immediately upload their information. It was this live, as I said, dashboard of all of the relevant statistics that we needed to see as a community to help gauge the overall, you know, stress of what was happening and our responsiveness and the trends. Subsequently, that exact same dashboard was the vision for our recent debut of a resilience dashboard, where we now have all of the resilience initiatives of Broward County housed in a single place. We put the same Survey 123 tool together as surveys to the municipalities who can now directly upload their showcase resilience projects, their energy, renewable energy, EV investment strategies, they’ve all got their own municipal page that highlights what’s happening at a very local level. It allows local governments as well as the business community as well, as well as residents to go in and have a single place where they can see the scope of what’s happening with respect to resilience, and, and also allow you to judge Well, how is my community doing relative to my neighbors? What is the threat of, you know, climate impacts look like? And what are some of the investments? Because it’s hard sometimes to communicate, you know, the need for infrastructure? And how does the community stand to benefit? So it’s very visual. And I would say that some of our communication strategies that came from COVID are now informing how we seek to share and communicate information on our broader resiliencies.
Ben Kittelson 23:36
That’s fascinating. Do you think the experience of like managing COVID or getting through the pandemic will inform like, any anything’s anything going forward with resilience?
Jennifer Jurado 23:47
Absolutely, I think that’s the case. I mean, we were already talking about issues of equity and diversity. You know, some people have been talking about it for, you know, actively as their, you know, their full time job and life mission. But in the area of sustainability and resilience, you can think about maybe the Resilient Cities Initiative, that that rock, the Rockefeller Foundation supported and, you know, social equity was really core to that. So there’s been a lot of that conversation being more integrated into various areas of planning. But I think that COVID really underscored what those exposures look like and who is vulnerable in the community. And I think that it is driven that connection that almost prevents your isolating your resilience initiatives from these larger social challenges. And so I think it was really informative, not in a, like an academic way, but in a life experience looking at that inequity within the community and that those issues of safety nets and and and contemplating what that could look like not on an even longer, you know, sustained basis as we think about some of the challenges that climate change is apt to present.
Ben Kittelson 25:10
That’s fascinating. Yeah. That’s, that’s really cool. So you mentioned a couple things that I wanted to ask about, in your in your last answer. What’s maybe the balance of Broward County doing direct sustainability resiliency work versus like working with the local governments within the cities within the county? And like, pushing them to do more like what’s, what’s that kind of balance I guess?
Jennifer Jurado 25:30
Oh, I think it’s really exciting. I think our work is very collaborative. And I hope that the cities would say the same thing. I have to say that any of the work that we’re doing in Broward County is never just Broward County. So we have a history, I’ll just give some examples and then move to some other a broader area of conversation. But our work on developing hydrologic models that support our our adaptation planning, we have a history of those being cost share projects, where the cities are participating financially to help us develop the large scale models that provide a countywide Foundation, but then can be telescoped and utilized by the cities at a local level. So we make sure that they’re compatible. But it isn’t Broward County, just doing the work and saying, here’s the model. We’re participating financially, all of us. And so it feels and is shared, you know, we’re mutually invested. And I think that that’s really important and it’s been an important strategy that’s built support for a lot of the work that we’ve undertaken is that it’s been collectively our shared investment. As it relates to the, I would say, first, the Regional Climate Action Plan that’s part of the four county initiative, we have 109 cities in our four county region and we have 31 cities in Broward County. So there’s a lot of engagement, and working to implement the Regional Climate Action Plan. We have engagement or implementation workshops across the you know, throughout the year. So if we’re talking about how do you use the regional sea level rise projection? Or how does Property Assessed Clean Energy, you know, potentially? What are procurement tools and challenges? Are there any shared procurement vehicles that we can use? let’s talk about energy resilience, and what some of those systems might look like. So those are workshops that are bringing in all the you know, all the planners, all the Public Works people, the engineers, the consultants, so that there is a very strong recognition that cities are the ones that are going to be making a lot of those investments. In Broward County, we said, you know, we have regional land use authority, we have, you know, regional authorities as it relates to, you know, water quality protections. And so there’s a lot that we can do in terms of setting standards. But oftentimes, it’s the infrastructure or the municipalities that are going to be overseeing the actual design and construction of the infrastructure. So that has to be, there has to be a lot of engagement. Where we’ve worked on advancing planning to design standards and infrastructure design standards in our community in Broward County, the cities have been part of that entire process. And I think what’s allowed us to be successful there is in large part, we have a water advisory board, that’s where we have more than half of the cities represented. It’s supported by a Technical Advisory Committee, where a lot of the technical people in the municipalities and engineers are represented. So they’re seeing all of this work as it’s taking place. They’re part of the process. And it’s not as if somebody is working in the back room, and then coming forward three years later and saying, here’s the product. So there’s a lot of engagement. And it’s reflective of the technical expertise that they have. I mean, they they they manage their systems. And so there’s a lot of detail and data that they provide us that helps to ensure that we have a quality work product that’s, you know, as accurate as it can be. So I think, in addition, I should note, we have a regional climate summit. And so you know, those are attended by seven to 800 participants each year, many of who are municipal leadership, municipal staff, and, and in Broward County, we also host a resilience roundtable annually that’s involving of city managers and elected officials and resilience officers countywide. And so that’s an annual platform for talking about resilience in Broward County. You know, what does it mean? What do we need? What can we anticipate? We’ve just worked to develop a resilient scorecard at the request of the municipalities in fact, who said, you know, we’d like to know how we fare relative to one another. We want to know who’s successful in this arena and how we might be able to learn from their model. So we’re just getting ready to roll that out as well. So I and that tool was not again developed by the Counties, but we had the cities participating to say, okay, you know, cities, large and small cities, coastal and inland, you know, what should this look like. And so it’s something that has utility for the whole community.
Ben Kittelson 30:11
That’s fascinating. And I know you’ve been at the county a while so so maybe you have some perspective on this. But how many of these vehicles of like collaboration and working together with cities ot how many of these platforms were maybe already there, it’s a group that was already meeting that you can kind of take advantage of to talk about resilience versus you had to like create it and like, be like, these are the, we need to start meeting about this, and we need to start doing these things together or it’s not going to happen.
Jennifer Jurado 30:35
In, in, so in Broward County, we had a water advisory board that was in place since the 1980s. So they were doing, you know, water resources, collaboration, maybe looking at, you know, welf- issues of wellfield. And kind of focusing on wastewater issues. And and but when we started as staff talking to the water advisory board about sea level rise and climate change, it was the water advisory board that recommended the establishment, the convening of a workgroup to advise on the creation of a climate change task force. so we had a water advisory board, ultimately, staffing that led to our creation of a climate change Task Force.
Ben Kittelson 31:18
When was this? How long ago was this?
Jennifer Jurado 31:19
That that was, that was in 2008, that the county’s climate change Task Force was established. Then we began hosting what we call sustainability stewards workshops that were focused more on sustainability issues, not just climate change, but our overall interest in being green. So So we created that effort, we have continued to support all of those activities, then we worked as a region to create the southeast Florida Regional Climate Change compact, so that’s new, then we and that was in 2009. So then, shortly after, not shortly after, nearly a decade later, we began talking about economic resilience. So now we have a new kind of convening group with the private sector and business leadership. And so we have standing dialogue with that sector, which includes our economic development interests, our Chambers of Commerce. So in the case of Broward County, we utilize some of, you know, our existing network and relationships to to get started, but you know, it requires a lot of cultivation. And I guess all I can say is, and we’ve had a lot of other regional collaborations, we’ve, we’ve created Water Resources task forces at one time, we were meeting jointly with Palm Beach County and their water resources Task Force. And in fact, we just now had this week, another joint meeting, we hadn’t had one in several years. So those are the types of relationships that require a lot of maintenance, but they’re so beneficial and powerful. And I have to say that our working with the palm beach Water Resources Task Force, that goes back to about 2009 also, and one of the major outcomes from that was a celebration just in February of this year, of the groundbreaking on the sea 51 reservoir, which is phase 1 $161 million project that will provide, at this time, 35 million gallons per day in additional water supply. And those are just projects you don’t get done on your own and you know, nobody can afford it on on on their own. And they also, you know, the delivery of Co benefits that are expanded when you’re working across the region. It’s not just for drainage. It’s not just for water supply. It’s not just environmental, but when you can lay claim to all of those benefits based upon everyone who’s participating, it, it facilitates, It enables projects of a scale that you can’t do on your own. So I can’t say enough about the importance of regional collaboration. Yeah, yeah, you can do projects at a scale and then you can have the impact. And obviously, like, that’s the ultimate goal, right? It’s to make a, is to be able to make an impact on kind of those resiliency and those climate change things. That’s absolutely right.
Ben Kittelson 34:19
So you mentioned the engagement with the business community. What, what does that, what does that look like? How, why is it important to bring them in and what are kind of the things that the county is doing with the business community?
Jennifer Jurado 34:29
Yeah, well, it’s funny, we had it through the four county compact, and just for those who don’t know, involves Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade and Monroe.
Ben Kittelson 34:38
We’re gonna get into that. I have a lot of questions about this. It’s really cool. So I want to talk about it.
Jennifer Jurado 34:42
I feel like I’m jumping all over the place, but we had a 2012 Regional Climate Action Plan and as we were getting ready to undertake our five year update, which would have been in 2017, we were having occasional and I would say that’d be like a once a year invitation, to have a climate discussion with with a business group. And as we were getting ready to provide for this update, we had talked about really wanting to tackle the issue of economic resilience. So there had been a lot of you can maybe recall, oftentimes, there’s a lot of negative media and you can understand, you know, in some case, instances, why about the exposures of climate change, and we should understand that, but we should also be able to turn that around and talk about the advantages and benefits that got the communities derive from being proactive. And it isn’t just about avoiding losses. It’s about, you know, an opportunity to remake your community and address issues of social inequity, and to invest in infrastructure in ways that our communities have have not seen in decades, and, and to revitalize and beautify and new jobs and technology. And there’s this whole other conversation to be had. And, you know, will there be areas where we can’t keep up with climate impacts? Sure, you know, it under a situation of three and four feet of sea level rise and beyond, we won’t be on the same land footprint. However, we have, let’s just talk about the lifetime of a building or, you know, major, you know, 50 to 100 years, I think in large part, we will be here in 50 years certainly, in 100 you know, it’s going to start to look a little bit different in certain areas, for sure. But there, there is a lot that we can do proactively that serves our community and benefits us now and in the future. And so our interest was in having the conversation with the business community about that aspect of the dialogue. And they said, Absolutely, What took you so long?
Ben Kittelson 36:47
Jennifer Jurado 36:48
You know, I think that they needed a little bit of time to get to the point where they could say that, but but once that conversation started, it has been so rich. And I have to tell you, you know, they have an audience that local government does not and I remember that following some of the early conversation, we signed a joint commitment of collaboration on economic resilience with chambers and the Economic Development Councils, and so forth. And we agreed, you know, we’d be working on communication strategies, and we’d be working on quantifying risk. And we’d be working on, you know, a whole host of I can’t, you know, detail them all now, but, but we started getting regular invitations to forums that they held with their community. And one of those was attended by one of the editorial board members with the Sun Sentinel, and we ended up seeing them launch the invading seas media collaboration, which was first in the nation. It involved the Miami Herald and WLRN and the Palm Beach Post and the Sun Sentinel, that led to a broadened initiative years later involving media from across the state. Why did that happen? Because the business community opened the door to a conversation that they weren’t having previously, with an audience that we had never been able to reach. I mean, that’s just one example. But beyond that, we now have these standing meetings. One of the one of the the large things that has come from the collaboration is support for Broward County’s future conditions planning standards, because they understand that building that into the way that we build in our community provides risk reduction that benefits the financial market. You know, interest rates are tied to tied to bond ratings and bond ratings are influenced by the comprehensiveness of your resilient strategies. So it’s all interconnected. Insurance rates and how affordable those are. Are you going to be able to sell or rent you know, real estate if you can’t get access to insurance or it’s not affordable? So so those are, you know, some ideas, we undertook a business case for resilience investment in southeast Florida, which was cost shared with the business community that’s led to a similar study now involving the Tampa Bay region. It was the first model like that in the state, those numbers are referenced statewide. So and the business community was the primary advocate for Broward County’s moving forward with now what is the county wide resilience plan in which we’re looking to assign risk reduction benefits to every aspect of a community wide strategy so you can say, you don’t, you’re not just putting a pump in. But this pump with this system with this risk, redevelopment strategy, collectively produce x and that x is valued by the financial market.
Ben Kittelson 39:35
Jennifer Jurado 39:35
So it allows you to have a very different conversation than a piecemeal strategy where you can’t really quantify the benefits of any single benefit or, you know, investment, maybe, let alone how they work together.
Ben Kittelson 39:47
That’s fascinating. That’s so cool. Is there like something that we could share with the episode that like, where folks could learn more about that or I don’t know if there’s like a reporter website that we can steer folks to? Absolutely. They could just google the southeast Florida Regional Climate Change compact. And at that site, you’ll find the southeast Florida business case for resilience. In fact, that was the highlight of the session that we supported earlier today. There’s also the Regional Climate Action Plan, folks can also go to broward.org. And right on the front web page, there is a link to climate and resilience. And they can click on that and then explore the resilience dashboard that I mentioned earlier, as well as a whole host of other resilience initiatives where that you know, Broward County is individually undertaking so either the Broward county website or the southeast Florida climate change compact website. Very cool. So we’ll be sure to add links for that when for the write up for this episode. So you’ve mentioned the compact a few times now. So what can you tell us, what, what is it like and and I guess, why do you, why did why, why is the four counties going together? Why is that important in your in your view? And I know you’ve touched on this a little bit, but I just want to hear it kind of all altogether.
Jennifer Jurado 41:02
So the southeast Florida regional climate change compact was, it was born out, really, conversations that were happening in Washington, DC. All four of our counties had elected officials and staff that were up in DC during the time which we were anticipating significant energy legislation. This is when Obama was in office. And we were there to support that initiative but also to advocate for adaptation, recognizing, yeah, we need to tackle emissions, but some of us are already flooding and so let’s not forget the other side of the infrastructure. And in those conversations, our elected leadership, and especially my Commissioner, who is now past, you, she recently passed away, Kristin Jacobs, she was phenomenal. And she said, You know, we’re spending a lot of time, you know, distinguishing between our maps and distinguishing between this and that, you know, we need to get our story together. You know, here we are, like next door neighbors. And, you know, we’re not telling a very good story. So she-
Ben Kittelson 42:14
Well it’s an arbitrary line, right, that county line? Like it’s a it’s a region, you need to, yeah.
Jennifer Jurado 42:18
Yeah, you can’t tell the difference when you’re driving. So she challenged our our team in Broward County to come back. And we got a show of hands up in DC who would be interested in coming back and organizing something like a regional conversation on climate. And that led three months later, to our hosting the first annual southeast Florida regional climate Leadership Summit, we had a deliverable from that summit, we knew that it would be important to have something that would kind of bind us together afterwards. And it was voluntary, but it was the compact document itself, which is a couple of pages in the end. But the compact is a voluntary statement, commitment of collaboration to work together as a region to address shared climate mitigation and adaptation needs. And it really focuses on the, you know, the tools that are needed to support planning, you know, dedicating staff to the development of an action plan, collaborating on policy, and then finally holding holding these annual summits so we can mark our progress and kind of figure out what we need to do next. And so 11 years later, we’re still doing that, we’ve adopted, you know, three different iterations to the sea level rise projection over the years, two regional climate action plans, we initially worked without any money. Today, each of our counties puts in $100,000 a year to support centralized staffing for our, our four county initiative. And we went from no money to having some grants to now having dedicated support. And when you look at what we’ve been able to achieve, it’s happened so quickly, you know, and, and we share a lot. So the attorneys work together, the planning departments work together, if if one entity is able to move forward with, say, Property Assessed Clean Energy, you know, the counties have enabled maybe all of us to do that in a year. If somebody adopts the climate change element as part of their comprehensive plan, why rework the whole thing, you know? How much can we reuse and recycle? And they all do it within the same year. So it’s a lot of sharing of resources and expertise to move so much more quickly, and more cost effectively, then if we were doing it on our own.
Ben Kittelson 44:33
Oh, that’s fascinating. So is there an effort then to like, I don’t know, like the infrastructure or planning or, you know, code is like aligned between the four counties around? To make sure kind of everybody’s building in the same way and we’re all trying to get rid of water in the same way or managing stormwater in the same way. Is that, is there part of that too?
Jennifer Jurado 44:51
Well, that’s a little bit more challenging because we do all kind of approach things slightly differently. So you know, and and so the the compact document also respects that that we are different jurisdictions and you know, somebody might have a priority in one area that’s not necessarily at the same level in another, but there is consistency. So we all have the sea level rise projection. It’s all been adopted by all the counties, we all require planning consistent with that. I mean, we as organizations have made those commitments. But Broward County has adopted a future conditions groundwater table map. Have the other counties? No. Will they? Probably, but you know, maybe we had started on modeling three years earlier, that allowed us to move more quickly. And, but maybe one of the other counties has done something in the area of energy strategy that, you know, we’ve not been able to move as quickly. And that’s all okay. Again, we’re learning from one another. And, and there’s advantage to doing that. I think, yeah, I did want to say one other thing, though, is that having the four counties work together has also elevates the voice. And that was one thing that was kind of championed early on is that we are a region of 1/3 the state’s population 1/3 the state’s GDP, you know, when we communicate, whether we fail or succeed, that’s going to have major implications for the rest of the state. Economically, we’re all tied together. So to be able to communicate with leadership about some of the priorities. And we’ve been able to serve as a model for other regions in our state that have been seeking to organize on climate and resilience. And we’ve seen that advance over the past several years, for sure. And, and we were just able to celebrate some significant milestones in terms of support for a major Resilience Project at a regional level that we’ve been working on for about 10 years. And and that’s a re-study of the central South Florida flood control project, because, you know, that’s the entire canal network from Lake Okeechobee and even a little bit further north, south. That’s the drainage and flood control system of the entire region. Well, local governments can do all that they like with regards to resilience planning, but if the major flood control system that serves the region isn’t being updated-
Ben Kittelson 47:18
That’s a problem.
Jennifer Jurado 47:18
Yeah, we we’re all calibrated to that. So that’s been a real significant communication point for us. And and in particular, with the business leadership that’s understood that and we finally made headway on that after the 10 years of having that conversation. So it, had it been Broward County, or Miami Dade or Palm Beach alone would not have been the same, you know, outcome.
Ben Kittelson 47:42
Wow, that’s fascinating. So is there now a new flood control, like strategy or plan or is that it’s it’s on, it’s on the way?
Jennifer Jurado 47:50
It was, it was actually announced as and in President Biden’s budget, just on Friday, there is a new start included in his budget. And we learned just two days ago, that’s, you know, first time in 20 years that, that a new start is provided for in that way. So it’s huge. And it’s not all the money that’s needed, but it gets it started. And that serves not just southeast Florida, but it’s the entire, you know, 16 counties that are all are portions of the South Florida Water Management District that we all rely upon that same system. So again, it’s an example of where you make an investment and in one area, there’s a, you know, there’s a lot that can be the Co-benefits when you start to look at a larger geographic region.
Ben Kittelson 48:39
That is, that’s so cool. And you mentioned that there are some other regions that are like, Hey, we want to do what you guys did, where are those?
Jennifer Jurado 48:46
I hope I get their names, right. But we provided a lot of, you know, support in the way of dialogue as Tampa, the Tampa Bay region was looking to organize a compact and that was formalized a couple of years ago. The Southwest Florida area is just advancing a compact as well. And I think that they have maybe 15 municipalities, I can’t remember the scope but there’s that. There’s another compact that or coalition, you know, they have different names that formed north of us in the I think it’s the Central Florida Regional Planning Council. So just in our and then there was one that was forming at one point in time involving entities around the the Gainesville area, but I think that that was more or excuse me, that was Jacksonville and that was more of a business collaborative, but we’ve supported internationally South Africa, they formed a compound based upon our compact with I can’t even, Tanzania, and it was Durban and and some other communities there. So and then within the United States Others have looked at the model. So but in California, they’ve had regional collaborations of another kind for some time. So it’s not as if we’re the only entity. But I think we’re certainly the only entity that’s kind of organized the the way that we were the first to kind of organize the way that we had outside of, you know, maybe academic institutions.
Ben Kittelson 50:18
Wow. That’s, that’s, that’s awesome. That’s super cool. So, is there anything else you want to share about kind of the compact or, or any of the the resiliency work? I feel like we’ve covered a ton of ground, there’s so much you guys do it. It’s really fascinating.
Jennifer Jurado 50:33
Yeah, there is a lot of work, I would just say that, you know, it’s really important to communicate to those involved, that things are iterative, we never get to just put the pencil down and say, Well, here’s our curve, you know, we’ve completed that or, well, we’ve done the model. But you know, every time the curve is updated, then we have to update the models and it updates your planning strategy. And you’re able to be more integrated in your approach with time. Where we were 10 years ago was not where we are today. And so understanding that everything is going to be a constant evolution. And where we are in Broward County now is at a spot where just we have got one more step left in our process. And on June 15th, we expect the Broward County Commission will be able to adopt our future conditions flood map. So it is a update, we use a variety of tools for setting finished floor elevations in our county, the county’s own flood map, which is separate from FEMA, FEMA is used for insurance rates, our map has no implications for future insurance rates, except that if we set a higher standard, you’re very apt to derive discounts on your flood insurance by building higher, so we have built into our map, our model and the map, the two foot sea level rise scenario, rainfall intensification, you know, ultra wet ground level as we see happen. And we have new flood elevations coming from that. We’re preparing to update that with a three foot 3.3 foot sea level rise scenario, because this last year, we updated and adopted a new projection. And so as I said, it’s iterative, where we have to come back and redo some of that work. But we’re getting ready to undertake a community community wide resilience plan and Infrastructure Improvement Plan. And really excited to do that in terms of thinking about how that will provide a organized, long term plan that we can all invest in. I think it’s the type of you know, it’s an economic development opportunity. It’s a reworking of our landscape. And, and I just think that we need to be taking advantage, a lot of the momentum that we think there is out there right now for infrastructure investments, which we need anyway. So we should be planning for the future, building a higher level of risk reduction into all of our investments and really capitalizing on on the immediate opportunities while selling the long term benefits.
Ben Kittelson 53:08
Yeah, very cool. Awesome. So, listeners, if they want to find out more, we’ll, we’ll have links to everything that the Broward County and the region is doing. So we, now to the hardest question, and you had warned me that you had struggled over this. So if you can be the Gov Love DJ, and you got to pick the exit music for this episode. What song would you pick?
Jennifer Jurado 53:27
Yeah, as I said, I really had to think this one over. One, because I can never remember remember lyric song titles or authors. But I do have a good one. I would suggest Fight Song by Rachel Platten.
Ben Kittelson 53:40
There you go. Okay. That’s good. Yeah, I told you that. It’s, it’s always the hardest question, but awesome. So we’ll get that queued up. And, Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us that, that ends our episode for today. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing all of your work. This is, it’s been fascinating.
Jennifer Jurado 53:55
It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for the opportunity.
Ben Kittelson 53:57
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