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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.


Buffalo

When it comes to turning around a poor, inner-city school, what’s more important: Money or leadership? The 25-year experiment at Westminster Community Charter School in the Kensington-Bailey area provides an answer: You need both. Westminster was struggling as part of the Buffalo Public Schools when M&T Bank adopted it in 1993-94, promising up to $800,000 a year to h…

Business

If it ticks you off that Albany seems about to offer driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, maybe you should ask yourself a fundamental question: How much more am I willing to pay to get native-born citizens to "do the jobs Americans won’t do"? It wouldn’t cost that much, for instance, to raise farm wages significantly. But even then, some experts say, it might not m…

Buffalo

The kids get it. Students from six schools put together catchy videos to alert their peers to good-paying jobs awaiting them in area plants that are nothing like your grandfather’s factory. Unions, community groups and workforce trainers get it. They trumpet the jobs opening up as baby boomers retire at the same time that joblessness is rampant in large parts of Buffalo…

Columns

"We just want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have them." That’s the mantra every time Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other politicians snooker the public with "reasonable" gun control measures like the SAFE Act or the plethora of bills Democrats have unleashed since taking full control of Albany. But the next time you hear that political popp…

Buffalo

News flash: The Gates Circle area of North Buffalo, once thought of as one of the city’s better neighborhoods, is now a "slum or blighted" area that "constitutes a serious and growing menace." In fact, the neighborhood "contributes increasingly to the spread of crime, juvenile delinquency and disease." At least that’s the criteria cited in a bailout program the city is in…

Columns

Critics like to say there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans. They exaggerate. Often, the difference is more like a nickel – or maybe even a penny. Case in point: State Democrats’ decision to stall on public funding of campaigns, which ostensibly was one of the party’s bedrock issues. At least it was at campaign time when they needed pr…

Columns

The recent weekender at the Erie County Holding Center held her hands about a foot apart. "There’s a rat this size," she said. But that’s not the only horror she said greets incoming inmates. "The toilets are filled with feces, urine" that newcomers often have to clean up themselves, she said. The water in some taps comes out yellow or doesn’t come out at all, and gett…

Buffalo

When Ahmed Saleh held the ceremonial grand opening of his bright, spacious Mandela Market and gas station on Broadway at Jefferson Avenue this month, most of it would have looked familiar to anyone who has ever set foot inside a mini-mart. There were the 12 Citgo gas pumps outside and 6,000 square feet of shelves and coolers stocked with milk, pop, chips, food and all of …

Columns

If young adults, typically the demographic with the lowest Election Day turnout, needed any more incentive to vote, the latest assault on their rights by the fuddy-duddy generations should do it. Not content with stopping 18-, 19-, or 20-year-olds about to ship off to war from having a beer, now they don’t even want them to have a smoke to calm their nerves. (I suppose th…

Columns

The eyesore still sits in the heart of the Fruit Belt – the same gaping holes in the roof and busted out windows and doors, a testament to the owners’ disregard for both the building and the community. The only difference now is that a lot more snow and rain have fallen inside since Alexander Wright tried to buy the building at 238 Carlton St. last fall. Meanwhile, Wright…

Buffalo

Workers of Buffalo Niagara, unite. You have nothing to lose but ... your slow internet speeds? OK, it’s not exactly as memorable as the original rallying cry. But talk – however fanciful – of the city or county creating a high-speed fiber optic network to fill a void internet providers won’t fill at a decent price is just one more example of the shortcomings of the vaunt…

Buffalo

At first, the chant might have been dismissed as merely aspirational: "Whose city? Our city!" But now the grassroots groups that made that a rallying cry want to make it a reality by taking steps to change not just the faces, but the focus of the Buffalo Common Council. The Our City coalition may be best known for its "subsidy tours," bus rides that highlight development…

Buffalo

The sense of dread when passing the South District Police Station is palpable. The source of that apprehension? The "blue lives matter" flag flying over the premises on South Park Avenue. That symbol outside a public building – particularly a police station – sends an unsettling message that should make anyone think twice about what might happen if they or a loved on…

Columns

Let’s face it: It’s time to rename the month that starts on Friday. With all due respect to Carter G. Woodson, the racial and political climate today is proof positive we’ve gotten all we can out of taking 28 days to point out the contributions of blacks who – as a group – still trail in every meaningful socioeconomic measure. What’s needed at this point is something muc…

Columns

The latest revelations from body cameras worn by county deputies when a Buffalo Bills fan was brutally assaulted by one of their colleagues – Deputy Kenneth Achtyl – are troubling for at least two reasons. When one deputy in the footage remarks that "Kenny turned into Kenny" and another says "Kenny always pushes people," it indicates that Achtyl’s penchant for abusing cit…