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.


Ten years after the oft-quoted "A Nation at Risk" raised red flags about a failing American school system, two other respected educators are again warning that public education is in trouble.Yet in Buffalo, a recent poll found the public schools near the bottom of the list when it comes to things city residents are worried about.It's no shock that crime and drugs topped …

So, we won't have Jimmy Griffin to kick people around anymore. Buffalo will hardly know how to conduct a mayoral race without pugilism's gift to politics. In fact, he's missed already. Sizing up the field at this point shows only a political schizophrenic and the other guy -- the one who evokes no image at all. It's hardly a field of dream candidates.But there's a ca…

"Street academy." The name says it all.It's the place where education leaves the formality of the classroom -- with its physical and pedagogical boundaries -- and reaches students on the streets where they live. Or, more precisely, where they play.The sites could be parks, playgrounds, gyms or any other places young people will hang out this summer. Roving teams of teacher…

Bosnian war victims. Haitian refugees. U.S. drug policy.They all are areas in which candidate Bill Clinton drew sharp distinctions between himself and former President George Bush -- and then took office and adopted much the same policy.And that doesn't even count his other abandoned vows, such as not to tax the middle class or to make sure people using federal resources p…

If one of the defense lawyers in the Los Angeles police-beating trial is to be believed, violence pays.The attorney representing Stacey Koon, the sergeant in charge of the uniformed hit team, called his convicted client a "sacrificial animal" offered up to keep the peace.The implication in that bit of self-serving hyperbole is that last year's riots following the first tri…

So far, all of the talk about the $16 billion plan to stimulate the economy has predictably focused on numbers -- those both in the package and in the Senate.After all, numbers are easy to count and always provide fodder for conflict.Thus the shrill fiscal debate over whether the package is really needed, whether it's large enough to have any real impact, or whether minori…

All of those who want to skip the victory party are excused.It's the bash that every American president periodically holds to trumpet the free market's crushing victory over the forces of evil and state control.Following presidents before him, Bill Clinton commenced his version with last weekend's Vancouver summit. The need for U.S. aid to help beleaguered Russian leader B…

Thank Ralph Wilson for the cold slap. His ungracious remarks about Erie County's stadium study, and the possibility he may blackmail the area by stalling lease-renewal talks, are a wake-up call. They put an end to hype-induced slumber about the importance of sports teams.Wilson's slap could even have a spillover effect on the Buffalo Sabres, who are pressing the county to…

It's somewhat disillusioning to find out that the Republican Party is run by hypocrites.No, I'm not talking about the racist and homophobic jokes told by party luminaries at a big shindig last week. There's no hypocrisy there: Some have made their feelings about gays and minorities clear repeatedly over the years.Rather, what was never suspected is the deep doubt underlyin…

Members of the nation's supreme legislature are up in arms, frightened of moving too fast -- or maybe at all -- toward an inevitable future. In fact, some link arms with comrades with whom they'd normally be warring in a rarely-seen show of solidarity.Scared to death of the upheaval that might result from massive economic changes if the popular president gets his way, t…

"What do you think about Waco?"It was the kind of inquiry that leaves one mentally scrambling -- mostly in vain -- to come up with a fresh observation. How to appear insightful as the Texas drama played out?But it quickly became clear the friend had more in mind than the standard ruminations about gun control or the dangers of religious fanaticism.Nor was he alone. While n…

The idea of a curfew that targets well-behaved teens along with the more rambunctious ones -- or their first cousins, the outright thugs -- strikes one as repugnant.The only thing more repugnant is the prospect that many others, both adults and teens, already face an unofficial curfew because they are scared to leave home at night. They're leery either of what might happ…

The first thought that comes to mind in the wake of the Buffalo Financial Plan Commission report is elemental: Why didn't residents just elect those guys in the first place?The tough proposals to increase fees and get more for less out of city workers who have it cushy are steps that, if pressed earlier, would have prevented Buffalo from tottering on the precipice and sta…

So what did we learn from this year's predictable but still highly entertaining Erie County sales-tax debacle?Well, we learned that the 1995 race for county executive is already on. We also learned that Republicans don't care what they have to do to try to win.But most importantly, we learned that Democrats are slow learners and that "compromise" is not always the highest …

Look around your office, or your home, and see if you can find anything that was invented by a black. If you do find anything, list it in your column.The message, whether an earnest plea or a snide comment based on unfounded assumptions, still was lamentable.It prompts one to simply stare out the window for awhile, mesmerized by the orderly flow of traffic made possible …