- The Open Society Foundations on Saturday launched the Mayor Exchange, an initiative designed to connect mayors of U.S. mainland cities with mayors in Puerto Rico for guidance and support in rebuilding the island following Hurricane Maria.
- Earlier this week, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, chair of the Exchange, traveled to Puerto Rico with a number of other mainland mayors, where they were matched with Puerto Rican mayors in communities devastated by the storm.
Mainland US mayors matched with Puerto Rican mayors
|Mainland US||Puerto Rico|
|Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans||Maria Meléndez, Ponce|
|Stephen Hagerty, Evanston, IL||Carlos Delgado Altieri, Isabela|
|Jorge Elorza, Providence, RI||Nelson Torres Yordán, Guayanilla|
|Christopher Cabaldon, West Sacramento, CA||Jesús Márquez Rodríguez, Luquillo|
- An estimated 40 mayors are expected to participate in the Exchange in the coming weeks, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
When Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico in October — shortly after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Houston and Miami, respectively — one thing became extremely clear: cities and communities of all sizes need resiliency strategies. Though the hurricanes were dubbed as "500-year floods," that misnomer understated how frequent these disasters are likely to become, especially as the global climate continues to change.
Along with resiliency strategies, all cities could benefit from recovery strategies, as well. The Smart Cities Council recently announced it will help Puerto Rico develop a recovery roadmap through a series of workshops and with the assistance of a special humanitarian grant, based on an application from Puerto Rico focused on "building back better." And many of the mainland mayors traveling to Puerto Rico are no stranger to disaster recovery.
"In New Orleans, we know what it’s like to suffer through a disaster," said Mayor Landrieu in a statement, referring to Hurricane Katrina, which rocked the city in 2005 and landed a spot as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. "Sharing our path to recovery is an important step we can take to make every city more resilient in the face of disasters."
Learning from fellow mayors is certainly not exclusive to times of desperate need. To push a city toward a more smart and resilient future, networking and learning other cities' successes and failures is a valuable step toward thoroughly developing and implementing any type of city-related plan.