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OH Expert: Katrina “Wake Up Call” Ignored, in Ohio and Nationwide

August 29, 2007

Columbus, OH – If Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call, America hit the snooze button, according to an Ohio expert on poverty and race. John Powell is the director of Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. He says people of color and low-income Americans often bear the brunt of disasters such as the hurricane that slammed New Orleans, two years ago this week.

Powell sees the failed New Orleans levies as a sample of America’s crumbling infrastructure, and he believes the situation especially affects low-income residents of older communities that don’t get the public investments they need.

"This is an example of the failure of government to do enough. You look at the schools, whether you look at Cleveland or Toledo, you drive through virtually any inner city in Ohio and it’s in disrepair. We’re not investing in it. You do not get the support and investment of public infrastructure without the public doing it."

Powell says Ohio has a lot to learn from Katrina, and also from the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota. He feels public investment used to be a bipartisan issue, but notes that he’s seen a long-term trend of neglect since the Reagan era.

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - OH