Rod Watson, The Buffalo News

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Rod Watson

Rod Watson has been a weekly columnist for The Buffalo News since 1992, writing most often about socioeconomic and political issues affecting minorities and/or the poor, as well as about local government. In addition, as urban affairs editor, Watson oversees coverage of the city school system, transportation and politics.


External efforts – including a federal court lawsuit and the formation of a new citizen advisory committee – may well prompt better policing in Buffalo and the exposure of officers who need to be retrained or ousted. But those initiatives also need to be accompanied by an internal effort among cops to tear down the "blue wall of silence" and put the citizenry ahead of…

How do you outlaw crazy? Or evil? How do you outlaw the internet? Those aren’t questions anti-gun forces want to confront as they use the Las Vegas massacre to push for more stringent gun laws, any more than gun-rights advocates want to talk about the fact that Nevada has some of the weakest laws in the nation. The fact that 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed at least…

Educators often point to a student’s socioeconomic status as the greatest predictor of school success. That explanation has the benefit of providing a built-in excuse for why urban districts serving low-income minority kids perform so poorly. But a new analysis of state English and math test results indicates something more than money is at play here. In fact, the Edu…

Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York Committee on Open Government, will explain the state's "open government" laws and answer questions in a public forum from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Buffalo History Museum on Nottingham Terrace, just east of Elmwood Avenue at Route 198. Freeman will discuss the legal requirements for obtaining information unde…

Given the focus on policing here and nationally, you’d think departments wanting to stay out of the cross hairs would fall all over themselves to respond when the New York Civil Liberties Union tried to find out how open and transparent they are. You’d be wrong. And if the NYCLU had to go to court to get basic information – as it did with the Buffalo Police Departm…

In the race to see who can shell out the most to lure an Amazon headquarters – with 50,000 new jobs being dangled – New York’s scolds wasted little time dredging up a perennial obstacle: the state’s high taxes. But no one ever raises a corollary point when lambasting New York’s tax rates: What are we getting for all of those taxpayer dollars? After all, you get …

Forget about tearing down the Skyway. Instead, let’s build some more. That might be the only way to bring sanity to the streets. The best thing to come out of the debate over whether to replace or rehab the Skyway is the promise to consider synchronizing the traffic lights on alternate routes while repair work is done. If that’s what it takes to get synchronization on…

Dahveed Muhammad, minister of Muhammad's Mosque #23, will be honored as UMOJA Inc.'s "Man of the Year" at a dinner at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Musician's Big 6 club at Fox and East North streets. The mosque is a regular participant in community activities such as the Boys to Men Youth Empowerment Conference, where Muhammad and other members put on a workshop teaching Africa…

Supporters of traditional public schools have long claimed that charter schools, as a whole, perform no better, having the same distribution of lousy, average and good schools as traditional districts. But last week’s state test results indicate that may not be the case. Local charter school scores, in fact, averaged 9 points better in English and 10 points better in m…

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Even if Western New York’s Republican congressmen had never heard 18th century statesman Edmund Burke’s quote, you’d think their own moral compasses would have spurred Chris Collins and Tom Reed into action when more courageous colleagues were denouncing President Trump. Instead, not …

The deadline for nominations for LISC Buffalo's Community Development Awards has been extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday. The Local Initiatives Support Corp. bestows three awards honoring individuals and organizations that drive change in the community. Nominations  are being accepted for its: • Neighborhood Development Project of the Year Award • Buffalo Comm…

When a 20-year-old man was shot to death July 29 in a dispute with his Carl Street neighbor, the mayor and police were quick to note that the victim had been in jail the night before. Their point: Why was he back on the streets the next day? As complaints about a courtroom "revolving door" escalate and police and judges trade barbs over the cause, the solution lies with t…

The cases read like a point by point description of what is wrong with the criminal justice system: • The 16-year-old had five separate armed robberies on his record, but instead of being in jail, he got another gun and killed a cab driver during one more armed robbery in 2013. • The 25-year-old was charged in one shooting when he saw the woman he thought had fingere…

Hypocrisy never sounded so good. But let’s not quibble now that Rep. Chris Collins has finally hit on something I can agree with: New York’s SAFE Act is a useless abomination. From the silly attempt to limit magazine size to seven rounds (firearms manufacturers laughed!) to the so-called "assault weapons" ban that is actually just a cosmetic features ban, the law…

"Thanks to Deputy Richard, the streets were safer that evening." – Erie County Sheriff’s Chief John Greenan ... Technically, Greenan was right. Since Deputy Lee Richard was in a parking lot – not on the streets – when he slammed 57-year-old Bobbie Mael to the pavement, leaving her face a bloody mess of cuts and bruises, the streets themselves were safer, at least…