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New Orleans faces significant challenges: climate change and rising sea levels, land subsidence and coastal erosion, and lack of equity and opportunity for all New Orleanians.
For our city, being resilient means more than levees holding back water and wetlands protecting us from storms. It means striking a balance between human needs and the environment that surrounds us while also combating the chronic stresses of violence, poverty, and inequality.
We will embrace our changing environment instead of resisting it
By adapting our city to our natural environment and the risks of climate change, we can create opportunities for all New Orleanians to thrive. We must align our infrastructure and urban environment to the realities of our delta soils and geography. Rather than resist water, we must embrace it.
We will adapt by protecting and restoring our coastline, partnering with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and leveraging financial resources available through the BP settlement, the National Disaster Resilience Competition, and the RESTORE Act. By making changes that are both structural (e.g., building levees) as well as non-structural (e.g., flood-proofing), we’ll provide flood protection, restore natural habitats, and create jobs, too.
We will implement a regional Urban Water Plan, augmenting our traditional drainage system of pipes and pumps with green infrastructure that delays and detains stormwater in landscaped spaces. The City is partnering with national and international experts to prioritize projects through a detailed analysis focused on hydrology, economy, and social equity.
We’re also exploring the use of innovative financial instruments to incentivize property owners to retrofit their homes to be more resilient to storms. Low-interest capital and a potential reduction in insurance premiums will allow New Orleanians to invest in improvements such as elevation, floodproofing, storm shutters, and stormwater management features. And the voluntary Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program will property owners to make energy efficiency improvements at little or no upfront cost, with loans repaid through property tax bills for up to 20 years.
To develop future generations of environmental stewards, we’ll promote a culture of environmental awareness by creating opportunities for students to learn about New Orleans’ relationship, in the classroom and around the city. We’ll also create a Center for Resilience to provide a space and programming to build awareness and expertise, to develop projects and partnerships, and to exchange ideas and practices both locally and globally.
We’ll also commit to mitigating our own contribution to climate change, setting aggressive targets for greenhouse gas reduction by 2050. These goals will be achieved through transit improvements, land use policy changes, investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency, and greening and conservation projects.
We will create equal opportunities for all New Orleanians
By investing in equity, we are investing in resilience. Equity will be the driving force behind our economy’s growth and innovation, our communities’ safety and stability, and our families’ health and prosperity.
A lack of access to savings poses a threat to many New Orleanians in times of crisis. To help New Orleanians prepare for unexpected costs, we’ll launch a savings-matching program for low- and moderate-income earners. The program will making citizens less susceptible to predatory lending and costly financial products. The emergency accounts will be complemented by education efforts to empower individuals and families to become more financially literate.
The City will investigate ways to lower barriers to workforce participation, including expanding digital access and literacy throughout New Orleans. With the help of a partner, we’ll define the problem, carry out market research to understand what solutions exist, and engage a wide range of experts and entrepreneurs who have developed successful strategies for increasing digital participation in order to enhance residents’ connection to educational and workforce opportunities, heighten awareness of emergencies, and make the city more economically competitive.
We will continue to support the New Orleans Health Department’s efforts to promote equitable public health outcomes. Ongoing programs include the City of New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, which strives to increase access to fresh foods in traditionally underserved neighborhoods by providing forgivable and/or low-interest loans to supermarkets, grocery stores, and other fresh food retailers.
New Orleans continues to build social cohesion by directly confronting the persistent challenges of violence and racism. By intervening at every level of society—from the individual to the institutional—we’ll seek ways to reduce gun violence and incarceration, develop opportunities for our young men, and open new forums for dialogue on racial reconciliation.
Finally, we’ll launch our Integrated Housing Policy to help the city expand access to a range of safe, affordable quality housing options with access to jobs, services, and neighborhood amenities. The policy will use financial subsidies and development incentives to create housing, while building the skills of residents and the capacity of small and disadvantaged business enterprises to take advantage of the growing number of quality, high-wage jobs in the metropolitan area.
We will strengthen our infrastructure to prepare for the future
In order to be a city that supports the health, safety, and prosperity of its people, we need systems that are reliable—both in times of crisis and in our daily lives.
The city will hire a Transportation Coordinator to redesign our regional transit system to connect people, employment, and services. We’ll encourage use of mass transit use by providing public employees with a pre-tax transit pass. At the same time, we’ll work with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to develop a vision for a multimodal regional transit network that integrates bicycle and pedestrian networks.
We’ll promote sustainability as a growth strategy, launching the Downtown Energy Efficiency Challenge, in which property owners, businesses, and employees compete to reduce overall energy consumption in the New Orleans CBD.
Reliable power is especially important for infrastructure and critical facilities that support and protect public health and safety. In order to reduce power outages, we’ll improve the redundancy and reliability of our energy infrastructure, using microgrids, small backup electrical generation and distribution systems that can disconnect from the traditional grid to operate autonomously. Microgrids also enable the integration of renewable energy sources and reduce energy loss in transmission and distribution, further increasing efficiency.
New Orleans will invest in pre-disaster planning for post-disaster recovery, incorporating critical infrastructure systems, land use, housing, economic development, and public health services. The plan will set forth a sustainable recovery management framework to increase predictability and stability in the use of resources, and ensure a resilience-driven decision-making process. The city will also work to identify the most advanced insurance coverage models to reduce citizens’ exposure in the face of risk.
Small- and medium-sized businesses on strategic corridors in New Orleans will be coached in the development of disaster preparedness strategies. Building off of the work of the City Planning Commission’s Main Street Resilience Program, we will measure resilience readiness and prioritize actions for short-, medium-, and long-term time frames, then conduct an awareness and training program for each of the corridors. The initiative will help business owners assess their preparedness, identify achievable improvements, and explore resources to support business continuity, increase energy and resource efficiency, and enhance economic stability.
And to make sure these measures become the norm, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, led by the chief resilience officer, will facilitate the adoption of best practices and capacity building throughout city government. The office will coordinate across the region and organize its work across the three pillars of the city’s resilience strategy.