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Rod Watson

Rod Watson has been a weekly columnist for The Buffalo News since 1992, writing most often about socioeconomic and political issues affecting minorities and/or the poor, as well as about local government. In addition, as urban affairs editor, Watson oversees coverage of the city school system, transportation and politics.


Columns

They are just three little words. But they spell out one Buffalo church’s commitment to an ideal we’d like to think all religions embrace. At the same time, those three words have been distorted to arouse the kind of backlash you wouldn’t expect in a country supposedly dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. But that potential blowback didn’t stop the U…

Columns

“The past is always present,” the narrator says in the opening of the harrowing play “The Auction Block.” The challenge is reaching those who’d prefer not to believe that pithy summation of history’s lingering impact. The conclusion was hard to escape for anyone attending last weekend’s performances of the short but affecting play in which a slave family having Sunda…

Columns

Call it the law of unintended consequences. Or maybe the balloon theory of traffic enforcement: Squeeze the speed limit on one road, and the traffic pops out someplace else. Whatever you call it, folks on the east side of Main Street just north of the Scajaquada Expressway say it’s happening in their neighborhood, and some say it has gotten a lot worse since the 30 mph s…

Columns

Dear Criminal: I’m sure that right about now you’re slapping yourself upside the head and thinking, "Oh my God, I forgot to recertify my pistol permit and list my handguns with New York State." You can relax. The State Police assure us they are not hunting down those who forgot to comply by last week’s deadline, a failure that – if strictly enforced – could result in yo…

Columns

The State of the Union described Tuesday night by President Trump was a lot different than the state of the union described last week by Western New Yorkers talking about what it’s like to be poor. With the stock market continuing an ascent begun during the Obama years and a tax cut skewed to make the wealthy even wealthier, putting poor people back on the public agenda w…

Buffalo

Memo to Interim Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood: Your constituents would like to see more of your officers, up close and personal – and more of you, too. Ask community leaders what they want from Buffalo’s new top cop, and one phrase comes up repeatedly: Officers walking the beat. The advice comes as Lockwood takes over from Daniel Derenda, who retired last week, in a…

Buffalo

The new facades in the Fillmore Avenue business district can’t help but catch your eye as the area gets a facelift. But what you may not see are some of the lives in the neighborhood that also have a chance for a makeover. They are young men like 32-year-old Tyshawn Garner, who got hired temporarily last year by contractor Eddie Egriu as part of the $300,000 effort to re…

Columns

It serves them right – both of them. I’m talking about the community coalition and the Cuomo administration, who conspired to collectively destroy the Scajaquada Expressway. The erstwhile allies now find themselves at odds over what to do next after using the death of a toddler in a traffic accident to turn a functional cross-town freeway into a useless piece of striped …

Columns

Does the phrase "Get a life!" mean anything around here? I could put up with it Sunday night. After all, the combination of the stunning end to the Bengals-Ravens game and the Bills’ "must win" win was a nice conversation starter. I wasn’t even averse to rehashing it on Monday, since it was New Year’s Day and nothing else much was happening. But all week long? I’m sick …

Columns

I can’t wait for Monday to get here. That’s how much I’m looking forward to 2018. As President Trump says about almost everything, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. Just for starters, this will be the year that: • The hysterical liberal fear that Republicans want to dismantle the federal government will be laid to rest once and for all, thanks in no small pa…

Buffalo

For almost as long as there have been schools, educators have pointed to a student’s socioeconomic background as the greatest determinant of – or excuse for – why some succeed and others don’t. It’s an explanation that makes last week’s report from The Education Trust-New York all the more puzzling – and damning. How could homeless kids in New York City – bouncing from s…

Buffalo

When "build it, and they will come" doesn’t apply, you try another approach: Grow your own by focusing on the folks already there. That means building around people like Jermaine Scott, who wants to open another car wash to complement the one his father operates at Jefferson Avenue and Broadway. Or like Angela Borden, who wants to expand the Angel Lights home decor busin…

Columns

So what do we teach young people about government now? What do we tell social studies and political science students after the U.S. Senate – AKA "the world’s greatest deliberative body" – followed the House’s lead in passing a massive tax bill with virtually no deliberation, or even time to read it? How do we pitch American democracy as a model when they see last-minute …

Columns

So much to be thankful for. So little thanks. You’d think that with a $4,000 – or more! – annual pay hike right around the corner, Western New Yorkers would be giddy with gratitude and already spending the money. The promised windfall will come from the GOP’s tax reform effort, which will lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, thereby spurring so mu…

Columns

When high school student Karl English showed up for his first Success Looks Like Me session, organizers recall a shy kid who spent most of the time looking down at his shoes. He left as a leader of the program  and is now a freshman on scholarship at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he’s exploring subjects like human-centered computing as he leans toward a career …