When Bill Smiley came to Miami in 2009 we were his first out-the-door-to-community assignment. In 2009 no one got the possibilities. Now he has experience and understands the power his position can offer.
The flood commission and the Miami City Council held a joint meeting with only Silver Jackets as the subject and Bill Smiley the only speaker.
When he took the podium he commanded the room and took us each with him as he elicited the power his office has to meet the needs this community knows will be needed. Not if but when. We know that next flood is coming. How do we get ready for it? We know where the water goes first. It inundates us by the same route each time.
He can help the city get ahead of the water. He has a machine that can produce 30,000 sandbags in a day. He can build temporary levees, he has pumps with the power to push water out of the subways flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
He had maps showing how the city becomes an island, shut off by most escapes. He knows the number of structures damaged first by Neosho and secondly by Tar Creek and how much damages cost.
Our needs muster around our water. When he describes the Neosho Reach and the Tar Creek Reach I visually could see that water moving, as it reaches the front yard, eases up to the porch, and climbs across the living room threshold to reach the beloved homes of our parents and their parents, our neighbors and those living across the street when we stand just out of reach this time.
All eyes and ears open and were listening. They paid attention and GOT the importance of the offerings this gives the city. They voted to approve and to move forward at the no-cost program known to us respectfully as Silver Jackets.
Before he left the podium, I asked permission from the mayor, Bless Parker if I would be allowed to ask a question. It was "with his understanding and expertise in MoU's, if he could work to pull one together for us, with Army Corps, FERC and EPA. and ... he said he could.
Re-licensing? One of the council members politely informed him of the 30-50 year license for the Pensacola Dam that would raise the level of the lake 2 more feet.
It was if Bill Smiley quit smiling. It gave him pause to know that fact. That the reach they had been figuring might be farther and faster and inundate yet more structures, that reach he was trying to figure to out run got a bit more challenging.
But he confirmed he could pull those agencies together for an MoU for us. And I began to imagine I felt hope for the community. I felt a sense of it rising from the floor reaching up to elevate spirits with a feeling who, tell me who had had in decades.
This City could be saved. The Army Corps was coming and bringing all that could mustered if the city does their part and defines the mission, gives the guidance and settles on filling out the forms that will lie dormant in a drawer somewhere, each box marked, every line completed, ready for the need, the trigger met and the date assigned to kick that work into action to save Miami OK.
But there are steps in the dance to make this happen, to get ready, the team must be built, the decisions made, the needs defined to bring his team to the table with all the resources the United States government has to offer. Those Silver Jackets. We are all going to want to wear one. We will plan the parades in their honor. Murals will go up and we will remember the day Bill Smiley came back to town and laid out the full force the US government can foster.
But one of the steps we have to do as a City is maintenance on Tar Creek, to clear the downed trees so they don't hamper or change the flow of the creek and take that water to reach areas not in the scope of work they know to form.
Which takes us back to the illegal dams on the creek that Army Corps is aware exist and already have a plan to remove. We have to work together to protect safety and property.
The rains will come and the reach of the water. We wait to see how the city picks up the tasks and does them. Your task will be to join the team if you are asked or if you know in your heart you must join it. And we wait to see if he can MoU us. (the MoU could bring EPA to the table with FERC )
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim