City loses disaster preparedness grant
City loses disaster preparedness grant
A New York-based foundation has rescinded a major grant it awarded to Alameda in December, marking a setback in the city’s disaster preparedness efforts.
The city announced Tuesday that the Rockefeller Foundation had withdrawn a promised “resilience” grant – a move so unexpected that some questioned whether the announcement could be an April Fool’s Day joke. But a representative for the foundation confirmed Wednesday that the award had been withdrawn.
At the time it was awarded, a city staffer said the grant award could total $1 million over two years; it was also to include technical assistance for implementation.
Alameda Fire Chief Michael D’Orazi learned Friday that the city had lost the grant from 100 Resilient Cities, a nonprofit created by Rockefeller, in an e-mail saying the city’s strategy for bouncing back from a disaster is “incompatible” with the nonprofit’s.
“After our many discussions over the past weeks … it is clear to us that Alameda’s strategy is incompatible with 100RC’s vision for our network of cities,” said the e-mail, from 100 Resilient Cities Managing Director Michael Berkowitz.
In a statement, the foundation said talks broke down over the role a new chief resilience officer to be funded by the grant would play in the wake of a disaster.
It said the program “is specifically designed to ensure cities take a broad definition of resilience, including the ability to respond to a wide array of shocks and stresses from violent crime to health pandemics to persistent poverty” and that the officer, who would coordinate across city departments as well as with the public and private sectors, is “crucial” for achieving that goal.
“The importance of such a silo-busting role is why 100RC committed to fund the (officer) for each member city for two years,” the statement, which was not attributed to a specific person, said.
It wasn’t clear what the city hoped a new resilience czar would do; a city official couldn’t immediately be reached for additional comment Wednesday.
In their announcement, city leaders expressed their disappointment at losing the grant – but said the city will be better prepared for the next disaster even without it. The announcement claimed the grant was designed primarily for large cities; in an earlier release, the city said it was open to cities with 50,000 or more residents.
“The application helped us focus on the need to create a resilience plan to go hand-in-hand with our disaster preparedness planning,” D’Orazi was quoted as saying in the release. “This setback will not deter our commitment to community resilience planning. We will collaboratively build a resilience strategy that makes sense for Alameda.”
Alameda’s city officials learned in December that the Island was one of the first 33 cities to be selected for the grant and assistance; other Bay Area cities that received it included Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. At the time, City Manager John Russo said the grant would fund, among other things, a new resilience czar who would create and execute a plan to get the city back on its feet after locals and public safety officials mopped up the initial after-effects of an earthquake or tsunami – both serious risks for the Island – or other disaster.
The city is preparing to construct a new, $3 million emergency operations center in the fall and is working on a financing plan for a $5 million mid-Island fire station; its recently approved legislative agenda will have the city’s lobbyists seeking state and federal funding for a new tsunami preparedness plan.
“At some point (a disaster) will happen, and the city was not ready for it. The city still isn’t honestly ready for it. These are the steps that are necessary to be ready for it,” Russo said in December, when the grant was awarded.