Using the urban regime framework to analyze flood hazard mitigation at the local scale

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The tally of injuries and property losses to extreme weather and flooding seems to be only growing in recent years. Global circulation changes and regional climate changes coupled with land use and land cover changes are creating more potentially hazardous spaces and places. The U.S. federal government sets guidelines for preparing for disasters and provides the bulk of disaster relief and recovery funding. In this country, however, the authority for instituting specific adaptation and hazard mitigation strategies lies with local governments. Local governments are responsible for guiding land-use decisions, for zoning and building codes, and for enforcing other strategies mandated by the federal government, such as the purchasing of flood insurance for homes with federal government-backed mortgages. Much of the research involves how and to what extent hazards policies can be best introduced and applied at local levels given competing economic, infrastructural, and social priorities. What has not been clearly established in the hazards research literature is a connection between established hazard mitigation objectives and urban policy-making in the years following a major disaster. The city of Tulsa, Oklahoma is a test case for deepening our understanding of the relationship between the two. This study uses an expanded version of the urban regime framework to ground data collection and analysis in the framework's three main focus areas: agenda, capacity, and relationships. The framework is expanded to include the environmental and natural resource dimensions of agenda setting, and pays special attention to spatial and locational dimensions of flood control. Planning documents, financial records and print media data sources are coded and analyzed for themes and patterns. Findings suggest that successful implementation of hazard mitigation goals and principles in Tulsa led to new questions about `balanced growth' development, land-use planning, and resource use that have implications for hazard mitigation sustainability. This study finds that some insights offered by the urban regime theory are helpful to this particular question and possibly other questions in the hazards/disaster research agenda.