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 by Mike Desmond

 Former Erie County Executive Chris Collins has clearly glided past  former Iraq War veteran David Bellavia in the Republican primary for the 27th Congressional District.

In Erie County with 94% of the votes counted,  Collins held a major lead with 74% to Bellavai's 26% of the vote. 

After losing a hard-fought race for a second term as Erie County executive, Collins earned vindication Tuesday night in the race for the GOP nod against Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Hochul in what is a heavily-Republican district.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Governor Cuomo is being urged by local state legislators from both parties to sign a bill allowing larger tax credits for fixing up older buildings.

What's at stake are historic preservation tax credits.

That's the up to $5 million used by local developers Rocco Termini for the Lafayette Hotel and Mark Croce for the Statler City project.

They are called Brownfield Opportunity Areas and the public is getting a chance this week to decide what to do with them.

In a series of public meetings, city officials are offering possible developments for each site and asking the public about each possibility. Then, they will be put together into a plan to be presented in September, with final decision toward the end of the year.

Two very different Republicans are on the ballot Tuesday, as the party seeks to push Representative Kathy Hochul out of Washington.

Chris Collins is well known in the most populated parts of the congressional district as former Erie County executive while David Bellavia is from the more rural parts of the district where he's best known as a combat soldier and writer.

Hochul slid into the seat after Representative Chris Lee resigned in a scandal over pictures of himself he put into social media.

Day and night, Thruway crews and private contractors are out on the superhighway getting it ready for another winter of wear.

Repair work started early this year because construction season started early and the workers were out there early. Projects ranged from washing salt off road and bridges to getting that hot black top in the trucks to put down on the pavement.

The big project is between Hamburg and Silver Creek, the third year of work on a $91 million re-paving of the road.

Tuesday is election day, one of several this year in New York State.

The primary election schedule for this year included presidential primaries April 24 with almost no one voting, Tuesday's Republican senatorial and congressional primaries, and local and state votes September 13.

That was supposed to be September 11 but the date was changed to a Thursday because Tuesday was the anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11.

And, or course there is a presidential election November 6.

The Poloncarz Administration is taking a long look at the future direction of ECC as an outgrowth of the fight over a new $30 million building.

Originally, that building was to be on the North Campus where its aging buildings are prompting  students to attend Niagara County Community College. An ensuing dispute emerged as downtown proponents argued the new building should go on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to train future health care workers.

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe says the new building is vital to the future of ECC.

WBFO News file photo

Two very different proposals for the future of the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital site were presented Wednesday night, one a mix of boutique hotel, apartments and retail, while the other proposes a new veterinary medicine school.

The hospital is now closed, leaving behind a century of building space and a parking ramp which is the only part of the facility still in use.

The finalists in a long process to find potential developers presented their plans to a packed house in the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Saying the hit-and-run accident which killed Alexandria Rice last summer showed a loophole in state law, the State Senate yesterday passed "Alix's Law" which makes drunken drivers responsible if they leave the scene.

Senator Patrick Gallivan says the trial showed Dr. James Corasanti had been drinking and told the jury he didn't realize he had knocked Rice off her skateboard and killed her and left the scene.

The senator, a former state trooper, says drunken drivers are more likely to leave the scene and less likely to realize they have hit someone.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Many voters don't know there is a political primary on Tuesday, but three Republican candidates will be running for the chance to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Representative Bob Turner was in Washington because the House was in session but Wendy Long and George Maragos were in Clarence for a debate.

The debate in the sweltering Town Park Clubhouse was sponsored by the Erie County Federation of Republican Women and drew a fairly large crowd.

Long will be on the ballot in November on the Conservative line whether or not she wins the GOP line.

mike desmond/wbfo

Erie County legislators were told on Monday ECC has to have more money to keep it an effective college.

Student tuition now provides around 52 percent of the proposed $111 million budget, which includes a $300 annual tuition increase. The county's share holds steady just over $17 million and 44 vacant positions are being abolished.

College President Jack Quinn says cuts in state aid and frozen county dollars made the fiscal situation worse. The budget has to go to legislators for a vote.

Dozens of college union members showed up to say the county has to do better.

Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer

The crowds have gone home, but tourism officials on both sides of the border are looking at ways to capitalize on the successful walk of Nik Wallenda.

With television viewers as far away as China watching Wallenda's performance live, there's a lot more awareness of the cataract and the views.

Now, the push is to take advantage of the event, with planners in New York and Ontario preparing the message spin.

Niagara Falls, New York Mayor Paul Dyster says people still come because of the Marilyn Monroe film "Niagara," and that was released in 1953.

Hot, humid weather didn't keep the crowds away from Martin Luther King Park on Sunday for the annual Juneteenth celebration.

In 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed months before but the news had traveled slowly in the chaos of the end of the Civil War.

When the word arrived that June, the newly-freed celebrated their Juneteenth and have continued the celebration to this day.

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

The Seneca Nation has a court system on its reservations. 

This week on You and the Law, WBFO & AM-970'S Mike Desmond spoke with attorney Patricia Maxwell about the issues of jurisdiction and the differences between the tribal court system and off-reservation courts.

WBFO News photos by Daniel Robison

This is a big business week in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Anthony Annunziata, Marketing Vice President, says his customers will have the best view of the walk  from the Marriott Gateway at the Falls and the Marriott Fallsview hotels.

That's more than 800 rooms looking out at the Falls and the walk.

Perhaps the biggest event on the hotel calendar in the Ontario Cataract City is New Year's Eve. Annunziata believes this will be as big and and the hotel room rates will be high.

Local drivers may be dodging more road projects than usual this year.

People who live around here are used to snow-plowing season and construction season.

After the winter we had, there are fewer nightmares about snow-plowing and road work started earlier than usual.

County Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo is familiar with all of the issues, since he's on his third stint in the job under various county executives.

The products of the mind is this week's topic of You & The Law.

WBFO & AM-970's Mike Desmond speak swith patent attorney and chemical engineer Rebecca Stadler  about intellectual property like patents and copyrights.

The power and influence of Governor Cuomo's regional economic development councils are drawing the interest of state politicians. 

Now, one Assembly candidate is turning the matter into a campaign issue. 

If you wade through Empire State Development's website, you can find a list of the members of the Western New York council. It's not quite accurate, since there is no mention of Senate Mike Ranzenhofer or Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, both powerful Albany figures who have been named to the Western New York board.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

Buffalo police are probing a double stabbing  that occurred late Thursday afternoon near the Erie Canal Harbor Metro Rail Station which has sent to two victims to the hospital.

The attack occurred just as crowds were assembling for the first big music concert of the summer on the downtown waterfront in the 100 block on of Main Street around 3:30 p.m. 

Police have detained one individual in connection with the stabbing.   

The victims were a male and female.  Both were taken to ECMC. It appears the injuries to the female are serious.

Across the border, officials are growing concerned over the reversal of the environmental health of the Great Lakes.

Ontario Provincial Environment Minister Jim Bradley says the problems are increasingly obvious, whether overseas migrant problems like the zebra mussel or the return of smelly algae which threatens the fish.

He says the province has made some progress from past actions like banning cosmetic pesticides which damaged water in streams flowing into the lakes.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The Buffalo school board says it's close to picking a new superintendent but making the choice isn't the only issue.

While the school system and the BTF have been locked in talks for months over how to evaluate teachers, board members are now trying to figure how to evaluate the new superintendent in an employment contract.

Executive Affairs Vice President Rosalyn Taylor says the evaluation criteria include district issues like the dismal high school graduation rate.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

It's been almost two-decades since the University at Buffalo shut down its research reactor on the South Campus and the last bill for its operation is on the way, the cost for demolishing the radioactive building. 

It may cost $20-million to demolish the building and cart away the debris.  While bids are supposed to be coming in June 19 for the demolition, final approval for the plan hasn't arrived yet from Washington.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

There is now a Democratic primary for the 144th State Assembly District seat held by Sean Ryan as activist Kevin Gaughan on Tuesday began circulating petitions for a race.

Gaughan and aides were on Lexington Avenue in Buffalo and on Coachman's Lane in Hamburg looking for some of the 500 signatures he needs to be on the ballot.

This was the district formerly held by Sam Hoyt. It has since been changed significantly to include Lackawanna and Hamburg after the 2010 Census.

State Senator Mark Grisanti says the state could save tens of millions of dollars under Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposals to change the law on first-offense simple possession of marijuana.

He says the governor's plan doesn't decriminalize marijuana nor does it change the rules on drug weight for more serious charges.

The Buffalo Republican says in his experience, when whites are arrested on small amount charges, they are charged with violations, while African-Americans and others are charged with misdemeanors.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

Another preservation battle continues along the Lake Erie waterfront.   The debate over the decaying former Bethlehem Steel administration office building features some familiar arguments.

On the outside, windows are often boarded-up or broken. The roof may or may not be falling apart and the ornamental trees out front are almost out of control. 

But some wonder, is the building shot?

With a year-round restaurant having just opened on Buffalo's Inner Harbor, a local restaurateur says he still wants to expand his Outer Harbor restaurant to year-round operation. 

Tucker Curtin owns Dug's Dive at the NFTA's Small Boat Harbor.  The property belongs to the authority now, although that may change soon.

Last year, Curtin talked to the NFTA about staying open all year. He wasn't allowed to, even though he has a year-round lease.  Now, Curtin is talking to the agency again about Dug's Dive being a winter and summer operation.

WBFO News by Mike Desmond

An Erie County Court  jury has found Dr. James Corasanti not guilty on all of the major charges against him in the death of 18-year-old Alexandria Rice.

Jurors returned to the courtroom just before 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to issue their verdict.

The jury acquitted the 56-year-old Corasanti on second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting death, and tampering with physical evidence.  

Angered by J.P. Morgan Chase's local mortgage issues and the bank’s recent revelation it lost billions of dollars in the money markets, Buffalo has shifted $45 million out of the bank.

City Comptroller Mark Schroeder says he is shifting the money to First Niagara Bank and receiving a slightly higher interest rate on the Buffalo Sewer Authority cash.

He says the money being moved represents around eight or nine-percent of the cash held by Chase for a wide array of City Hall agencies at a time when a lot of cash is held for authority capital projects.

As Nik Wallenda's walk across the Niagara Gorge gets closer, park authorities on both sides of the gorge are unveiling their plans for June 15.

Officials are expecting thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people to show up and see what is expected to be a 35-40 minute walk by the aerialist across the gorge. That means thousands of pedestrians and the need to find space for thousands of cars.

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

It was a scene out of another age Tuesday night, as guests in evening dress pulled up to the Washington Street door of the Lafayette Hotel, now known as Hotel @ the Lafayette.

Guests had their doors opened by uniformed valets and entered the marble lobby as the doors were opened by uniformed staff members. It wasn't quite like the days when the hotel opened more than a century ago, but it was symbolic.

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