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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

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…

Buffalo

It’s always tempting this time of year to speculate about what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would say about some divisive contemporary issue. That guessing game evokes debate as each side cherry-picks his legacy to assert that he would voice support for their side of the argument. But I think it’s safe to say that there is one thing he would not say: I want a statue i…

Columns

The Buffalo Police Department is taking a big step toward increasing public confidence in its officers by proceeding with the adoption of body cameras – a step the Erie County Sheriff’s Office should emulate. But anyone who thinks this, in itself, will constrain rogue cops and end police abuse may well be disappointed if the results of one large study of body cameras in a…

Columns

I know Jan. 1 has barely passed, but it’s already time to circle another date on the calendar: Dec. 31, 2021. That will be the next opportunity residents have to reform the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. That’s when the five-year contract that raised deputies’ wages by 13 percent expires, meaning voters electing legislators this year will have the chance to start threaten…

Columns

Todos somos Mexicanos ahora! Translation, courtesy of yandex.translate.com: We are all Mexican now! At least we soon will be if Donald Trump gets his way and American taxpayers waste $5 billion on a wall with Mexico to keep out women and children seeking asylum. After all, we know what Trump promised us – and we also know he never, ever lies. Trump: "Who’s going to pay…

Columns

What we need is another Sputnik moment – especially in New York. The Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the first space satellite scared the United States into overhauling its education system. Apparently it will take something similarly cataclysmic to overcome New York teachers’ opposition to another overhaul that would have them evaluated in part on how their students fare …

Columns

Today’s chemistry lesson: How to create a conservative in three easy steps. Start with a heavy dose of wide-eyed idealism. Toss in a generous dollop of self-righteous certainty. Add a dash of we-know-best paternalism and half-baked social theory. Put in the kiln at high temperature for three hours. Remove fully-baked liberal. Now begin the conversion process by diluting …

Columns

After watching recent voter suppression efforts in other states, residents in "progressive" New York probably feel pretty smug. After all, Georgia had a purge of voting rolls and an "exact match" signature provision that drew national attention. In Florida, so did the disappearance of some 3,500 votes between the initial tally and the recount. And Alabama’s photo ID law…

Columns

Close to 5.9 million people voted for governor of New York three weeks ago. In a 2015 survey, the scholarly journal Injury Prevention put the rate of gun ownership in the state at 10.3 percent, while DemographicData.Org put it at 18 percent. Do the math and you can understand why Andrew Cuomo and most members of the State Legislate easily won re-election despite perpetrat…

Columns

After giving thanks on Thanksgiving for family and friends, I think I’m done. That truncated sense of gratitude is a far cry from when I grew up, grateful not only for the day off from school but also for everything else the occasion was supposed to commemorate – most notably an exceptional nation that evolved from a band of immigrants who celebrated a successful harvest …

Columns

"When our communities are under attack, what do we do?" "Stand up, fight back!" That call-and-response was a rallying cry for the two dozen people on the bus for last week’s Subsidy Tour of some of Buffalo’s most notorious taxpayer handouts. But it also could be a warning to city officials: Opposition to tax-exemption programs that benefit wealthy developers and upscale…

Columns

The big, red-brick fire-damaged building at 238 Carlton St., just off the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, represents both the best and worst of what the near East Side could become amid the city’s resurgence. At its best, it could be the home of the African Heritage Food Co-Op, a 2-year-old venture grounded in community commitment and control that has made its name throug…