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Louisville Metro Leaders Offer Roadmap For Prioritizing Resilience

Eric Friedlander

Poverty. Under-performing schools. Budget issues. Louisville isn’t the only place that faces these problems, but local leaders want the city to address them through the lens of resilience.

City officials released the results of two years of resilience work Monday with a lengthy strategic plan that aims to guide local decision-making with compassion, equity and trust in mind. They said they hope the resilience strategy will help those who live here withstand a variety of adverse circumstances.

They even came up with an equation to define resilience: It’s what you get when you add up compassion, equity and trust.

Eric Friedlander is the chief resilience officer for Louisville. He oversaw the development over the past two years of the Resilient Louisville strategy, which was funded by a Rockefeller Foundation project called 100 Resilient Cities.

At the time, Friedlander said Louisville's resilience efforts would focus on education, racial equity, economic development and sustainability.

Today, those same subjects fit into the plans. According to Friedlander, they should be considered in all major decisions by public and private leaders moving forward.

"How do we make sure that we're not just thinking about what we're working on today, but what that means for tomorrow?" he said. "How do we make things more equitable? How do we make things more green?"

For example, the Resilient Louisville strategy — which is available online — refers to a 2018 United Nations report that said the world needs to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in order to go above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. The city currently calls for cutting emissions 80 percent by that date.

"The plan was wanting to call out that we needed to move more and more towards renewables," Friedlander said. "So hopefully, this can be an impetus for us to maybe up our game in terms of where our goals are."

Another key area Friedlander hopes local leaders will focus on is trauma. He said he would like to implement trauma-informed policing, which can include de-escalation tactics, for example.

"Trauma was a huge issue throughout the process — individual trauma, systemic trauma, historical trauma," he said. "These are things we need to work on and address in a resilient fashion, in a way that allows people to recover from trauma."

And, related to that, Friedlander said he aspires to have resilience-informed decisions keep the city's most vulnerable residents in mind as well.

Friedlander's two-year position as Chief Resilience Officer was created with funding from 100 Resilient Cities, which will be shut down by the Rockefeller Foundation at the end of July. He said he would return to the Office of Resilience and Community Services as its director, where he would continue working on this plan but without the title.

"Thousands" of community members participated in creating the resilience strategy, according to Friedlander, A representative for 100 Resilient Cities, Corinne LeTourneau, praised that effort. She is the managing director for the North America region.

"What Resilient Louisville really did is what we also see time and again across the globe, is that the best strategies and initiatives understand that building resilience is a process," she said.

That process is one that Friedlander said would be wrapped in accountability measures designed by the city’s Office of Performance Improvement. But he was not able to provide details about what those measures would be and when the public would see the results.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.