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Mayor Turner Appoints Aho as new Chief Resilience Officer for City of Houston

The Houston Chronicle reported at noon today that Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed a new Chief Resilience Officer, a job formerly held by Stephen Costello. The story makes only a brief reference to Costello in the last paragraph. It says, “Stephen Costello, Houston’s former chief resilience officer, began overseeing the city’s Harvey recovery efforts in November 2018. He took over as “recovery czar” from Marvin Odum, the former president of Shell.”

Definition of Resilience Broadened to Include Economic Equity

The press release issued by City Hall mentions nothing of Costello and mentions flooding only once. It appears to broaden the scope of resilience and places major emphasis on “social and economic equity” in resilience planning.

Marissa Aho, City of Houston’s new Chief Resilience Officer. Photo Courtesy of Mayor’s office.

It says, “Mayor Sylvester Turner has appointed Marissa Aho, AICP, as chief resilience officer for the City of Houston… The position will play an essential role in leading city-wide resilience-building efforts to help Houston prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the ‘’shocks’’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, floods, and cyberattacks – and “stresses” – slow-moving disasters like aging infrastructure, homelessness, and economic inequality, which are increasingly part of 21st century life.”

As chief resilience officer, Aho will report directly to Mayor Turner. She will oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive Resilience Strategy for the city. Aho comes to Houston from the City of Los Angeles. There she served as Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) for the past four years. 

“The CRO,” says the press release, “…will address the resilience vulnerabilities of all city residents, with a particular focus on low-income and vulnerable populations.”

Bringing LA Experience to Houston

“While serving as CRO in Los Angeles, Aho paved the way for Los Angeles to embed resilience as a value that guides municipal planning, culminating in the appointment of more than 30 departmental chief resilience officers (DCROs) who form an in-city network in each branch of city government. 

“Other innovative initiatives in Resilient Los Angeles,” says the press release, “include developing an urban heat vulnerability index and mitigation plan, placing an equity lens over the city’s response to increasing extreme heat.” 

According to the City, Houston remains vulnerable to less-familiar shocks and stresses, such as environmental degradation and access to economic opportunity.

It’s not clear from either the news release or the Chronicle story what role Costello will play vis-a-vis Aho, if any.

About New Houston CRO Marissa Aho, AICP 

Prior to serving as the Los Angeles CRO, she held senior staff positions at two Los Angeles planning and land use consulting firms. Aho has 15 years of policy, planning, and project management experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors where she has worked with interdisciplinary teams to find creative solutions to complex problems. She has a BA in political science from American University and a master of planning from the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy. She is the Region VI commissioner for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), section director of the Los Angeles Section of the American Planning Association (APA LA), and is a member of the USC Price Alumni Association board of directors. 

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 26, 2019

546 Days after Hurricane Harvey