Portland, Ore., to Hire a Chief Resilience Officer

The City Council is scheduled to greenlight a $1 million grant application to the Rockefeller Foundation to help pay for the proposed position.

by Brad Schmidt, McClatchy News Service / September 18, 2014

The city of Portland is a bureaucracy of chiefs: administrative officer, financial officer, procurement officer, technology officer, fire and police.

And now there could be a new one: Chief Resilience Officer.

Next Wednesday, the Portland City Council is scheduled to greenlight a $1 million grant application to The Rockefeller Foundation to help pay for the proposed emergency management position, among other things.

The Rockefeller Foundation has been promoting a municipal hiring spree to better prepare major American and international cities for natural disasters. In April, the foundation labeled a San Francisco bureaucrat as "the world's first chief resilience officer," with Oakland and Los Angeles following suit.

A Chief Resilience Officer is "a top-level advisor" who reports to a mayor and establishes "a compelling resilience vision for his or her city, working across departments and with the local community to maximize innovation and minimize the impact of unforeseen events," according to the foundation.

According to the city's new grant application, the position would be embedded in Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management, which reports to Commissioner Steve Novick.

But the city says the Chief Resilience Officer would report to Mayor Charlie Hales.

"We envision the role of the CRO as convener, communicator, coordinator, and catalyst on behalf of resilience work," the city's grant application reads.

"The CRO will work across bureaucratic silos to help implement the (Healthy Connected City) strategy, to marshal resources and integrate resilience into the work of creating healthy connected neighborhoods. The CRO will help build capacity for emergency preparedness at the household, block and neighborhood scale."

Applications were due Sept. 10 and the city has already applied.

A pending City Council vote amounts to an after-the-fact approval, although the Bureau of Emergency Management will withdraw its application if the City Council isn't supportive. The Council on Wednesday delayed its vote until next week because it lacked the four members necessary for immediate approval.

Grant results could be announced late this year or in early 2015.

©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)