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Public Policy and Administration


Donald McLellan


For many regions and local governments, budgetary restraints limit funds appropriated for emergency management activities to inadequate levels, and little guidance exists related to decision factors used by elected officials in identifying budget and ordinance priorities. Using Kwon, Choi, and Bae's conceptualization of punctuated equilibrium theory, the purpose of this case study was to examine how decision factors influenced Hampton Roads, Virginia, elected official disaster recovery policy between 2003 and 2012. Data were collected through review of 1,310 city documents and 10 semistructured interviews with elected officials. Data were inductively coded and analyzed using a thematic analysis procedure. Data analysis resulted in the identification of 3 decision factor themes that guided post disaster recovery in Hampton Roads: (a) establishing a sense of normalcy in terms of budget appropriations and ordinances for security, safety and quality of services short-term recovery policy, (b) budgetary resiliency to encourage the restoration of infrastructure related to long-term recovery policy, and (c) the development of self-sufficient processes that lead to an anticipatory mindset with issuance of mitigation ordinances and capital improvement appropriations policy. The findings confirmed punctuated equilibrium theory, as man-made disasters triggered short-term recovery policy decisions. Results of the study may affect positive social change by providing local elected representatives with a 'tool kit' of decision factors to consistently address post disaster recovery policy for public safety, security, and stability via the governance mechanisms of strategic planning, appropriation decisions, and assessment.

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