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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

The shocking decision will only further embolden a public official whose flouting of both the rules and norms that govern a democratic society demands a public system of checks and balances that too often has been lacking. In fact, it further weakens that very system at a moment when he already has proven – time and again – that he will disregard the rules and pursue his …

Buffalo

At the Charter School of Inquiry just off the Kensington Expressway, a "founding fathers" artwork features prominent African Americans instead of Jefferson and Madison, a "periodic table" highlights the contributions of people of color, and a music teacher during a drumming session points out that drumlines originated at African American colleges and universities. And it’…

Buffalo

I wish I felt better about the reversal, under pressure, that allows Buffalo Public Schools football teams to keep competing against their suburban counterparts instead of being relegated to a separate but unequal league. But that Martin Luther King Jr. holiday decision brings only a muted sense of relief. Given the racial attitudes that still permeate parts of Western N…

Columns

"Society, as a whole, will gain no benefit from incarcerating" Chris Collins. At least that’s what his lawyers argue in court papers filed ahead of Friday’s sentencing. But they are as wrong about that as the congressman-turned-felon was in passing inside information to help those close to him avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock losses. Much of the debate ov…

Columns

With the state’s finest thinkers back in Albany for the start of another legislative session – and Democrats controlling all three centers of power – it’s a safe bet that more talk about guns can’t be far off. In fact, Gov. Andrew Cuomo already has started the assault on weapons with talk of efforts to prevent New Yorkers from having parts shipped directly to them to cons…

Buffalo

The business sector cliché is that what gets measured gets done, but it’s an equally useful axiom for assessing civic progress as Buffalo Niagara enters the 2020s. For all of the ribbon-cuttings and upbeat speeches heralding undeniable progress on the waterfront, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and elsewhere, looking at it in a vacuum can lead to self-delusion – which …

Buffalo

What would seem to be common sense often is missing in the place it could matter most in the life of a troubled young person: the courtroom. Hence the poster that James A.W. McLeod will leave up for whoever succeeds him as Buffalo City Court judge. The "Pull Up Your Pants" sign is just one example of how McLeod used his seat on the bench to dispense not just justice, but…

Business

Manufacturers turn to the Northland Workforce Training Center to find workers for the jobs they can’t fill in a tight labor market. Yet some 70% of its applicants last year couldn’t pass the 10th grade reading test required by employers who couldn’t take a chance on workers performing at anything less. The result is that many of the 3,000 jobs the Buffalo Niagara Manufac…

Columns

"The best is the enemy of the good" – 18th century French writer Voltaire "I won’t settle down, won’t settle for less, as long as there’s a chance that I can have it all" – 20th century American singer Sammy Davis Jr. Those conflicting sentiments underlie the debate over how to fix the mistake known as the Kensington Expressway and reunite the Hamlin Park community that …

Columns

It’s a measure of the disappointment with the handiwork of a commission appointed to reform campaign funding in New York State that some real reformers are begging state lawmakers to call a special session to fix the panel’s proposals. They make that call knowing full well that the State Legislature can always make things worse. Yet while the proposed reforms inarguably …

Columns

The Dow Jones Industrial Average cracked 28,000 for the first time this month, sending metaphorical confetti down on Thanksgiving Day parades or, around here, the Turkey Trot. But if you’re a working- or middle-class New Yorker, how much do you really have to be thankful for despite what a booming stock market is supposed to signify? And what could New York be doing to ma…

Buffalo

We know that food can bring people together, especially around the holidays. But can it bring together Buffalo organizations that want to use food to empower people and build a new economy that benefits working-class residents? Advocates from four organizations who spent a weekend on the West Coast this month learning how to collaborate, organize and mount effective camp…

Buffalo

Promise to help them build it, and they will come. In fact, about 30 of them came out, not for a fictional baseball field, but to create the business – and build the business district – of their dreams along one of Buffalo’s East Side commercial strips with help from the Buffalo Billion II program. While not dangling the millions in aid that some other programs offer big…

Buffalo

If water from the Niagara River contained as much lead as Michigan’s Flint River, this area would be in an uproar over the threat to residents here, especially to children. But the lead levels in Buffalo’s older rental housing, while also deserving of a skull and crossbones sticker, don't arouse nearly as much passion. A public campaign aims to change that. And while Mic…

Buffalo

When Linda’s Bean Pie Café opens this weekend, it will constitute one more building block in the reconstruction of Buffalo’s East Side. And just like Canalside took off when the city abandoned Silver Bullet pipedreams and focused on smaller ventures, this effort is being quietly fueled by small business owners grounded in the neighborhood. Instead of waiting for some big …