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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

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…

Columns

Add one more crime to the list Chris Collins is accused of committing. Except when it comes to this one, the verdict already is in: He’s guilty of rampant hypocrisy. As he fights to keep an indictment-laden political career on life-support, the Clarence Republican insists – presumably with a straight face – that being kicked off of congressional committees because of his…

Columns

As he prepares to trek across the Canisius High School stage Thursday to receive his diploma, Jaurney Boyland’s first name is a homophone that doesn’t begin to describe how far he’s come. In fact, if you base predictions on stereotypes, he never should have gotten this far. With a father in prison and a mother he had to get away from when he was 11, he easily could have …

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…