The Unavoidable Politics of Disaster Recovery

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Publication Date

Fall 2007

Publication Title

The Public Manager





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In the two years following Hurricane Katrina, public bodies, journalists, professional associations, and university scholars have made numerous diagnoses of what went wrong before the storm made landfall and of the rescue and relief operations in its aftermath. Although there are many ways to think about how politics beyond the usual partisan actions of Democrats and Republicans shapes implementation, one can identify at least four other types that affect it. Agency politics begins with the choice of the public organization that will take the lead in carrying out a policy. The American federal arrangement of government complicates the task of assembling and directing program elements, thus creating intergovernmental politics. With the growing use of contracting to deliver public services, implementation is complicated by intersectoral politics encountered in networks of for-profit enterprises and nonprofit organizations. The most fundamental political dimension of implementation arises from legislative delegation of policymaking to administrative agencies.