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Foundation Pulls the Plug on City’s Chief Resilience Officer

It turns out that you have to be pretty resilient yourself in order to go to work as the chief resilience officer (CRO) for the city of Minneapolis. The city’s first resilience officer, DFL-insider Kate Knuth, quit the cutting edge position after a mere seven months on the job without submitting any work product, according to media reports.

Knuth summed up her insights gained as CRO in an op-ed at the time.

I believe people feel we aren’t capable of taking on the big things because we don’t have the tools to do the work we need to do together. In other words, we live in a declining democracy and face challenges that can only be addressed in a thriving democracy. We can commit to building that right here in our city.

What does a CRO do? The Rockefeller Foundation, the outfit that dreamed up and funded the “100 Resilient Cities” project, puts it this way.

This thriving midwestern city seeks to improve opportunity for all citizens and prepare for potential threats from rail accidents and climate change.

It’s a big job by anyone’s standards, including responsibility to prepare for everything from climate change to lack of social cohesion to tornadoes and income inequality. But it also comes with a big paycheck, $114,000 plus benefits.

Yet following Knuth’s departure, the plum chief resilience officer job, dubbed “chief silliness officer” by one Star Tribune commenter, remained vacant for a year.

Then no sooner had city hall finally filled the mission critical post with a new hire than its Rockefeller benefactors abruptly pulled the rug out from under it. Weeks after Ron Harris became the city’s second CRO in January, the foundation announced the end of funding for the project–on social media.

The Rockefeller Foundation said this week it will discontinue its “100 Resilient Cities” project, which started in 2013 as a global strategy to defend against physical, social and economic challenges.

Ron Harris, the city’s new chief resilience officer, first saw the news on Twitter, which was disconcerting at first. But Harris said he’s now optimistic the move won’t derail his work. His $114,000 annual salary is funded through 2019 and part of 2020, he said, and the goal is to move the job to the city’s general fund.

As usual, Minneapolis politicians are counting on the resiliency of taxpayers to pick up the tab for an unsustainable bureaucracy, just as they already do for the same “job” over in St. Paul.

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