Mike Desmond

Reporter

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. He also hosts “You and the Law,” a popular segment that involves interviews with local lawyers. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.

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WBFO News photos by Mike Desmond

A computerized animal abuse registry for Erie County is inching closer. Legislators held a public hearing into the matter Thursday night at County Hall in downtown Buffalo.

Legislator Terry McCracken is proposing the registry so data on people with criminal convictions for animal abuse would be online for five years and could be checked by pet stores or animal welfare groups to prevent them from obtaining more animals through purchase or adoption.

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

Governor Andrew Cuomo swept into town Wednesday for a few hours and left with hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign till, to add to the $14-million he already has in campaign contributions.  

Cuomo gathered with supporters at the Hotel Lafayette in downtown Buffalo, but refused to meet with reporters.   The Governor arrived quietly through a construction door and left equally quietly through another isolated door.

Google street view photo

Construction work is inching nearer for a replacement for the faded Central Park Plaza in North Buffalo, with the draft of a plan for environmental testing of a possible brownfield development.

The site off East Amherst Street is one of the largest prospective brownfield sites the local Environmental Conservation Department region has dealt with.

The 27-acre site was part of a vast nearby stone quarry for 71 years before being converted into the plaza in 1958.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Area law enforcers say they don't know much about why the New York Police Department had officers from its intelligence unit prowling locally and on the University at Buffalo campus.

The revelation created paranoia among Muslims at UB and questions among police officers here about what they were looking for and where they went.  A group of local officers appeared Tuesday night at a public meeting sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York at the university to talk about civil rights issues.

File photo

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says his $482.6 million budget, unveiled Tuesday afternoon, holds the line on residential taxes and cuts the taxes on commercial buildings. It also provides additional services and summer youth job hiring.

Brown says city residents will see better parks because of more age-appropriate facilities and cleaner sidewalks because City Hall will be buying special sweepers for neighborhood business districts.

WBFO News file photo

It's back to the drawing board for the Common Council in filling the vacant South District seat.

The seat has been vacant since Mickey Kearns was elected to the State Assembly.

It's been a difficult seat to fill since one applicant turned out not to live in the district and another had done time in prison and no one could come up with the necessary five votes.

Amherst author Alice Loweecey touches upon her experience as a nun in her second novel, "Back in the Habit."

Loweecey discussed the work at length with WBFO and AM970's Mike Desmond, telling him the work is less biographical and more a murder/mystery which touches upon some of the issues confronting the religious today.

Loweecey explains that nuns "come from all different backgrounds" and are not represented by the "Hollywood stereotypes" portrayed by Julie Andrews and Sally Fields.

Listen to Mike Desmond's interview with Alice Loweecey here.
 

The future of landmark Saint Ann's Church remains a mystery today after it was ordered closed by Bishop Edward Kmiec yesterday for safety reasons.

An engineering report found major problems in the building's limestone structure which has been damaged by years of air pollution.

Due to declining numbers, Saint Ann's is no longer an independent congregation, instead it's part of nearby Saint Columba and Brigid Parish.

On this week's edition of You and the Law, Lauren Breen from the Western New York Law Center and UB Law School discusses Buffalo's foreclosures process. 

WBFO & AM 970's Mike Desmond discuss how the city handles foreclosures and past-due bills for water or garbage collections.

Financial matters before a marriage and how it affects a divorce is the topic of WBFO & AM-970's You and the Law. 

Mike Desmond speaks with attorney Steven Wiseman. 

You and the Law is a weekly feature.  Tune in to 88.7 FM or AM-970 every Friday at 5:45 p.m. during our local segment of All Things Considered.

Riverside High School and Medaille College are increasing their partnership, from college faculty helping students perform better academically to providing scholarships.

Mary Ellen Mulvey is Medaille's senior director of instructional support and community partnerships.

Mulvey says Riverside and Medaille's student profiles match in being first-generation college, Buffalo residents and needing student financial aid.

"That was one of the reasons why we wanted to partner with Riverside High School, there a lot of similarities," said Mulvey said.

Residents should be aware of new guidelines and regulations regarding the disposal of some household items.

Oil-based paint, for example, needs to be brought to hazardous waste collection site.

Associate Engineer Paul Kranz of the County Environment and Planning Department says latex paint can be thrown into the garbage tote, as long as the owner dries it out.

Buffalo's bond rating has gone up and that showed up on Tuesday when interest rates on city loans went down.

In three different deals, the city borrowed $41 million and paid interest rates homeowners can only dream about.

City Comptroller Mark Schroeder says the deals reflect Wall Street's improving views of the city and its future prospects.

That shows up in the key borrowing, bonds for the city's annual capital projects totaling nearly $22 million.

mike desmond/wbfo news

With the rapid multi-cultural development on the West Side, PUSH Buffalo wants a plan to keep the flavor and improve the jobs picture.

Councilmember David Rivera has spent his entire 54 years on the West Side and has watched its ups and downs to its current up.

That's meant a shift from Italian or Puerto Rican-Spanish spoken on the streets to Burmese, Vietnamese or other dialects of Spanish and people from lots of different places winding up in his City Hall office looking for help to go through the bureaucracy.

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Three of Buffalo's most historic buildings are located near Broadway and Michigan.

The structures, the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House and the Colored Musicians Club, are considered cornerstones of an emerging vision for the neighborhood.

"Our mission is to lay out a master plan," said Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission Chair Karen Stanley Fleming.

The plan would present a framework for those seeking state assistance for developments along the corridor.  

With more than 400,000 state income tax returns still to be processed, auditors have blocked more than $16 million in dubious refund requests.

That $16 million is up from $13 million last year in shaky refund requests.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says his office releases these figures each year to encourage people who do it right and warn those who do it wrong.

He says the number isn't all that large, 5,900 returns so far, but it can indicate problems since around a quarter involved tax preparers submitting ineligible refund credits.

WBFO News file photo

Sheriff Tim Howard admits there are problems in county lockups, many of which he is powerless to do anything about.

He says there are severe staff shortages; staff discipline problems caused when punishments for bad behavior have been overturned in the courts; and, because there aren't enough supervisors.

The sheriff talked about the problems during a recent public meeting called by 100 Black Men of Buffalo.

He says the attitude under several county executives was to use overtime instead of hiring guards.

For many people, their first exposure to the legal system is when they are involved in a car crash.

This week on You & the Law, WBFO and AM970's Mike Desmond talks with attorney William Patrick Moore about the legal ramifications of serious automobile accidents.

 

Erie County's fiscal watchdog became official yesterday, as David Shenk was sworn in as county comptroller, filling a spot left vacant when Mark Poloncarz became county executive.

The new comptroller faces a grueling schedule of running the office and facing up to four primary and general elections between now and the end of next year.

The vote this year is for the final year of Poloncarz' term;  the vote next year is on a full four-year term.

Shenk says he has spent his life in public service.

mike desmond/wbfo news

It's a fight over a restaurant sign, a large and not turned-on electronic sign over the door of the Hard Rock Cafe just across the street from Niagara Falls State Park.

Some local state legislators say it's a victory for local control over Albany control.

"It's the local government, in this case Niagara Falls, that makes this type of determination," said State Senator George Maziarz.

That's the issue since state law gives Albany control over signs within 500 feet of a state park.

mike desmond/wbfo news

Suicides, strip searches, grievances and overworked staff were on the floor for debate Wednesday night as Sheriff Tim Howard appeared for a meeting of the group 100 Black Men of Buffalo in the Merriweather Library.

The event was often contentious, with pointed questions and occasionally pointed answers over the issues of the county's lock-ups which house around 1500 people on a daily basis.

That costs around $83 million of the sheriff's $101 million budget.

The sheriff says he expects Albany to force a major hiring for a staff he admits is too small.

Saint John Baptist Church is being named "designated developer" for 50 city-owned lots in the Fruit Belt as it moves forward on a multi-million dollar plan to build 49 rental town houses.

They will be scattered across the community on the now-vacant lots.

It's part of a continuing expansion of Saint John and its affiliates, including a charter school, a planned second charter and the leafy McCarley Gardens housing complex which it plans to sell to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

However, there are critics of the plan.

Mayor Brown says city residents are truly concerned about the new zoning code and that's why they packed the auditorium at ECC City last night.

The last time the zoning code was replaced, Buffalo was a booming city with an industrial base and booming suburbs.

That was 60 years ago and the code has only been tinkered with since.

Now, there is a new code in the works with a final version slated to be ready for public hearings late this year.

The new code is planned to help create mixed-use, walkable places for the 21st Century.

With the possibility of spending at least $100 million on repairing Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, city lawmakers are pushing for another look at instead building a new stadium in the City of Buffalo.

Erie County and the Bills are involved in talks about a new lease, although no details are being released. The current stadium needs significant repairs, with the estimate of $100 million being used frequently, although an in-depth study apparently hasn't been completed for the Bills.

Visitors to New York State's parks may soon be limited in where they can smoke, with restrictions going into effect now.

The new restrictions aren't quite visible because the signs are only now being installed.

They will go around playgrounds, pools, beaches and food and beverage concessions.

Western District Director Mark Thomas says the restrictions reflect fewer smokers and decisions about the health effects on those who smoke and those who are around tobacco users.

He says the signs going up will show symbols rather than words.

The children's museum Explore & More wants to move from East Aurora to a Waterfront location on the site of the old Memorial Auditorium.

In a location even Executive Director Barbara Leggett says is hard to find in East Aurora, 50,000 visitors still arrive each year.

With a Downtown Buffalo location on public transit lines, she says there could be 150,000 on the Aud site.

The museum has applied to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to be the cultural center for kids on the Waterfront.

Leggett says children's museums are different.

On this week's You & The Law, Mike Desmond talks with attorney Modesto Argenio about the need for financial planning, no matter what your age.

Argenio says financial planning covers not only a traditional will, but also health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney.

Click the play button above to hear's this week edition.

 

The Buffalo Teachers Federation may have had its office at Porter and Niagara closed yesterday but critics of the union and the school system were demonstrating outside pushing for changes in the union contract and in city schools.

The immediate push is for the union to agree to waive a provision in the contract which requires all coaches to be certified teachers, whether they know anything about the sport or not.

Sam Radford is president of the District Parent Coordinating Council and a vocal critic of the school system.

WBFO News file photo

The long process for speeding up traffic across the Peace Bridge is shifting to improving the plaza on the U.S. end.

That's going to be a relatively small improvement compared to the $300 million plan Washington was pushing but wouldn't pay for.

With plans shown at a public display yesterday in the Niagara Branch Library, the bridge authority wants to demolish a row of houses along Busti Avenue and eventually buy and demolish the adjacent Episcopal Church Home.

mike desmond/wbfo news

The key figure in building a downtown baseball stadium will soon be memorialized with a bronze statue outside Coca Cola Field.

The statue is a little taller than the real man and he has a hair line from a long time ago and he's smiling as he begins to fire the baseball.

It's Jimmy Griffin, father, grandfather, part-owner of a baseball team, the man behind the baseball stadium.

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