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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.


Columns

It serves them right – both of them. I’m talking about the community coalition and the Cuomo administration, who conspired to collectively destroy the Scajaquada Expressway. The erstwhile allies now find themselves at odds over what to do next after using the death of a toddler in a traffic accident to turn a functional cross-town freeway into a useless piece of striped …

Columns

Does the phrase "Get a life!" mean anything around here? I could put up with it Sunday night. After all, the combination of the stunning end to the Bengals-Ravens game and the Bills’ "must win" win was a nice conversation starter. I wasn’t even averse to rehashing it on Monday, since it was New Year’s Day and nothing else much was happening. But all week long? I’m sick …

Columns

I can’t wait for Monday to get here. That’s how much I’m looking forward to 2018. As President Trump says about almost everything, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. Just for starters, this will be the year that: • The hysterical liberal fear that Republicans want to dismantle the federal government will be laid to rest once and for all, thanks in no small pa…

Buffalo

For almost as long as there have been schools, educators have pointed to a student’s socioeconomic background as the greatest determinant of – or excuse for – why some succeed and others don’t. It’s an explanation that makes last week’s report from The Education Trust-New York all the more puzzling – and damning. How could homeless kids in New York City – bouncing from s…

Buffalo

When "build it, and they will come" doesn’t apply, you try another approach: Grow your own by focusing on the folks already there. That means building around people like Jermaine Scott, who wants to open another car wash to complement the one his father operates at Jefferson Avenue and Broadway. Or like Angela Borden, who wants to expand the Angel Lights home decor busin…

Columns

So what do we teach young people about government now? What do we tell social studies and political science students after the U.S. Senate – AKA "the world’s greatest deliberative body" – followed the House’s lead in passing a massive tax bill with virtually no deliberation, or even time to read it? How do we pitch American democracy as a model when they see last-minute …

Columns

So much to be thankful for. So little thanks. You’d think that with a $4,000 – or more! – annual pay hike right around the corner, Western New Yorkers would be giddy with gratitude and already spending the money. The promised windfall will come from the GOP’s tax reform effort, which will lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, thereby spurring so mu…

Columns

When high school student Karl English showed up for his first Success Looks Like Me session, organizers recall a shy kid who spent most of the time looking down at his shoes. He left as a leader of the program  and is now a freshman on scholarship at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he’s exploring subjects like human-centered computing as he leans toward a career …

Columns

From Mississippi to South Carolina and across much of the South, the Confederate flag is being taken down and stashed out of sight. State flags were even taken from the tunnel at the U.S. Capitol last year as a means of getting rid of the controversial Mississippi flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem. Across the land, such symbols of the Confederacy are being…

Buffalo

If there’s one thing we should know by now, it is this: Fairness doesn’t happen by accident. In Buffalo, it may not even happen by design. As community organizations push for an "inclusionary zoning" policy to make sure working class residents aren’t priced out of the city’s resurgence, there’s a fear that anything the city does adopt will be a watered-down policy that p…

Columns

The people who know him – and other young African-American men like him – know the stereotypes aren’t true. Those who believe the stereotypes probably will never meet him. But that disconnect doesn’t faze 15-year-old Jeffrey McMillan. In fact, it’s not even on his mind. He just wants to help refugee kids adjust to life in Buffalo. That’s what drove the aspiring Eagle S…

Columns

One implication of the new Education Trust-New York report on teacher diversity should be obvious, though apparently it isn’t in most districts: Having teachers of color improves educational outcomes for students of color, who then have role models as well as motivators who know they can achieve and who affirm rather than disparage their culture. But there’s another compe…

Columns

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 any…

Columns

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 5…

Columns

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 Educa…