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Rod Watson

Rod Watson has been a weekly columnist for The Buffalo News since 1992. In addition, as urban affairs editor, Watson oversees coverage of the city school system, City Hall reporting, the federal courts, transportation and politics.


Columns

"Going above and beyond the job description will make you stand out and demonstrate that you are a hard worker." – Oregon State University’s Career Development Center Blog Instead, Luis "Khalil" Nieves says it got him fired two weeks ago from Canisius College. The college agrees, saying he was warned about overstepping boundaries and taking on responsibilities that w…

Columns

Niagara Falls’ use of cameras to catch the dimwits who zoom past school buses while ignoring the flashing red lights is great. But it just scratches the surface of how we could employ this technology to unlock a whole new world of camera-inspired safe driving. And spare me the "Big Brother" laments. We prove every day – with tailgating, lane-hopping, not signaling – that…

Buffalo

So much for the "one bad apple" theory when cops go rogue. Judging by the support he got from both his union and his boss before resigning Wednesday, rather than being a rotten cop, convicted Deputy Kenneth Achtyl was a fine example of all the Erie County Sheriff’s Office stands for. Achtyl is the deputy who turned a Buffalo Bills fan’s face into a broken, bloody mess. T…

Columns

Forget the sporadic demonstrations with a few people pacing with placards outside the Erie County Holding Center. That obviously hasn’t accomplished much, as evidenced by one of the latest atrocities there: the Aug. 2 death of a diabetic inmate whose blood sugar levels crashed after he was given a large dose of insulin and fed a peanut butter sandwich, both steps that exp…

Buffalo

It will constitute the epitome of turning lemons into lemonade when the first annual GYC Reunion celebrates a neighborhood determined to stake its claim as a positive part of a resurging city. Saturday’s full day of festivities centered at a stage at Genesee and Moselle – and taking in streets with names like Ivy and Wasmuth, Koons and Goodyear – is a counterpoint to an i…

Buffalo

If you want to know the definition of white privilege, here it is: Jeffrey Calhoun is alive today. Calhoun is the white man accused by a black mother of pulling a gun on her after a minor traffic accident – to call it a fender bender would be an overstatement – a few weeks ago. Video from a bystander also shows him pulling it and waving it at the bystanders before holste…

Columns

Growing up in a violent, poverty-stricken part of south Florida, Marck Abraham made his way into a failing high school. Not that it seemed to matter, since he figured he would be dead before his 25th birthday, anyway. Instead – a bachelor’s, two master’s and a doctorate later – the Buffalo school administrator is tapping that experience to try to reach young people who fa…

Columns

It’s well-known that the drinking water in Flint, Mich., was contaminated with lead, which can cause brain damage. Has anyone checked the water in Albany? There must be a reason New York’s political class keeps following the same playbook despite repeatedly getting thrown for a loss when the unforeseen – because it never looked for them – consequences suddenly pop up for…

Buffalo

During the civil rights era, advocates for justice had to use the courts to circumvent local officials who disregarded the plain meaning of words on paper. Who knew that in Buffalo a half century later, citizens would still have to turn to the courts instead of their elected officials and that the fight for equal justice under the law would be just as arduous? Two court …

Columns

It’s been a month since New York’s leading expert on open government was fired for sexually inappropriate behavior toward a female reporter. But his ouster, rather than sending good-government types into crisis mode, actually provides an opportunity to do what was never done during his tenure: Put real teeth in the state’s laws to protect the public’s right to know. Whil…

Columns

More than 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act took aim at discrimination in the housing market, and four decades after the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act did the same by shining a light on lending practices, blacks are still twice as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage, according to a new national study. And Buffalo Niagara is no exception, according to the ana…

Buffalo

Just six months after a federal judge ended court oversight of the Buffalo Fire Department stemming from past discriminatory hiring practices, a black rookie firefighter was greeted with a stuffed monkey dressed in a firefighter’s uniform hanging at his South Buffalo firehouse. Apparently, four decades of legal wrangling wasn’t enough to wipe out all of the racism. In fa…

Columns

I admit it: I totally underestimated Donald Trump. I’m not talking here about failing to appreciate his political skills, just as so many others did, or my inability to see that someone so obviously unqualified could wipe out the entire Republican field of experienced politicians and then do the same to Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College. No, that was the least of …

Buffalo

What would you expect a kid to do with a sudden windfall of $150 or $200? If you said, "Buy a new pair of high-priced sneakers," then you don’t know Buffalo’s next class of budding black business owners. The winners of the inaugural Youth Entrepreneur Marketplace "pitch" competition are much more grounded than that. "Invest in more nail supplies" is how 14-year-old Ceya…

Columns

It turned out to be a win-win situation in the Fruit Belt. That’s both the good news and the bad news after an anonymous donor stepped in to save both a neglected, heavily damaged historic building as well as a dream of community empowerment and self sufficiency in the midst of land speculation and gentrification. The donor bought the fire-damaged building at 238 Carlton…