JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A team of experts from across the country could help Jackson’s poorest residents better deal with the effects of climate change.
On Tuesday, the Jackson City Council approved bringing on seven consultants/consulting firms to help draw up plans for its “Going Green for a Cool, Healthy Jackson” initiative.
The consultants are being paid for with proceeds from a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Recently, the city received a nearly $476,000 award from the group to implement a climate change program.
To help implement the initiative, the city brought on the local and national consultants to do everything from analyze data to go to conferences and build support for the program locally.
Combined, the contracts are expected to cost around $80,000 and are being paid for with proceeds from the RWJF grant.
“Jackson was one of four cities in the U.S. that was awarded this grant. It’s the largest climate change grant awarded in the country,” said Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine.
The grant is to be used to fund a 2.5-year program focused on mitigating the effects of climate change in low-income communities.
The city’s initiative will be to focus on “heat islands,” or areas with large amounts of concrete and few trees – something that Blaine said is characteristic of many low-income communities.
“It’s that increase in pavement and lack of trees that actually increases the heat,” he said.
That increased heat, in turn, has a negative impact on community health and can exacerbate problems like heart disease, he said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said residents in those communities have fewer resources to combat the heat, such as access to day shelters.
“This is something that is becoming universally recognized,” the mayor said, referring to climate change’s impact on local communities. “We have to be prepared for this here, too.”
Contractors hired include Vivek Shandas, director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab at Portland State University; Kurt Shickman, executive director of Global Cool Cities Alliance; Anna Marandi, co-project director and senior specialist of climate and sustainability for the National League of Cities; Dr. Berneese Herbert, chair of the urban and regional planning department at Jackson State University; Dominika Parry, founder and CEO of 20C Mississippi; and Alan Penman, a physician and professor with the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s department of preventative medicine.
Each of those individuals will receive between $3,100 and $19,800 over the next two-to-three years. The largest consulting contract went to John Cooper, a consultant under the CHJ contract, who will receive $30,000 over the next three years.
Several of those hired helped the city in crafting its RWJF grant application, Blaine said.
Among duties, Shandas will serve as a project collaborator and advisor to “advise the development of curriculum, activities and/or learning modules to use in community engagement activities; and ... provide assessments of specific heat mitigation measures that aim to support human health and well-being,” city documents state.
Marandi will serve as “coordinator and thought partner and will ensure that Jackson’s lessons learned and successes are captured on the NLC platform through blogs, workshops, webinars, and other events.” She also will ensure that “connections are established and maintained between the model international cities, as well as others that have implemented similar heat-mitigation interventions.”
Jackson will be basing its program on heat-mitigation strategies put in place in cities in Spain, Cuba and Japan, Blaine said.
Herbert will provide “technical assistance and guidance on design.” Parry will work on community involvement, data collection and analysis, and site selection for the program. Penman will work in the area of community engagement as well, and will also “work on developing a citywide surveillance system for heat-related illness and death.” And Shickman will provide guidance on the implementation of a program.
Cooper will “coordinate community engagement events between outside consultants and the city of Jackson’s administration” and help organize community events, according to city documents.
RWJF is a philanthropy group focused on health-related initiatives.