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.

Ways to Connect

Mike Desmond/WBFO

With Governor Cuomo putting up millions of dollars to speed Peace Bridge expansion, community activists want to know if more traffic will translate into more air pollution.

Air pollution from bridge and Thruway traffic has been an issue on the West Side for years, as has the very high asthma rate turned up in local and national studies.

There has been very little air quality monitoring, although there was some in an earlier phase of planning for bridge and plaza expansion.

The school board made it official yesterday, Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon is one of three finalists for the post left vacant when James Williams retired in September.

The others named and listed with their credentials are Edward Newsome, an assistant superintendent for high schools in Baltimore County Public Schools, and Pamela Brown, former assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for Philadelphia.

With two apparent suicide attempts in two days at Niagara Falls, mental health experts say more may be forthcoming.

Every year, a large number of people use the waterfall to kill themselves, with the attempt by a 40-year-old man on Monday one of the few where the jumper survived. Police say there are many suicide attempts at the Falls each year, but not all are reported.

WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

There's an increasing problem of misuse of prescription drugs from an increasing oversupply.

Law enforcement officials say they need controls and new Albany legislation may provide those controls.

Police have busted an array of questionable sources of prescription drugs, from a Niagara County doctor to pharmacies.

The drugs then show up in the illegal market, legal pills for illegal purposes.

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan says it's hard to keep track because prescription records only have to be submitted within 45 days.

Niagara County's political wars aren't being suspended while Nik Wallenda readies for his walk above the Niagara Gorge.

State Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman John Ceretto were sponsors of legislation to allow the Wallenda walk to take place.

Both have criticized City Hall and Mayor Paul Dyster, saying they aren't properly supporting the event.

Dyster found a defender in City Council Member Kristen Grandinetti.

mike desmond/wbfo news

Some improvements still need to be put in place, but some Niagara Falls residents and public officials took time yesterday to celebrate the new LaSalle Waterfront Park.

Built on what was once the Century Club on Buffalo Avenue just south of the Grand Island Bridge, the park gives the public some rare access to the river.
 
"Finally, this park has come to fruition," said Niagara Falls Councilman Charles Walker.

A major study in a poverty-ridden section of Toronto found student grades rose, graduation rates rose, and attendance rose when students were fed breakfast.

The study by the The Toronto Foundation for Student Success spent three years giving breakfasts to 6,000 students in seven middle and high schools in the Jane-Finch neighborhood, one of the city's most troubled areas.

The study started with 61 percent of the students ready to graduate.  After three years of the breakfast program, 78 percent will graduate.

A North Buffalo landmark may soon be turned from a closed library to a small apartment building, depending on a decision from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

CSS Construction has a deal with the Office of Strategic Planning to buy the former Fairfield Branch Library if a zoning variance to allow building six parking spaces goes through.

CSS President David Pawlik says the project needs those parking spaces to allow the five apartments and office space project to work.

He says the building needs some major reconstruction, inside and out.

If you are involved in a dispute, you don't have to go to court and deal with a judge and jury. 

This week on You and the Law Mike Desmond talks with attorney Paul Pearson about the array of Alternative Dispute resolutions.

 

Mike Desmond/WBFO

A second Buffalo police officer who is listed as injured on duty has been arrested and charged with mail fraud and health care fraud.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul announced that 50-year-old Patrick O'Mara was put on the injured on duty list in February 2004. After two periods on light duty assignments, O'Mara was back on the IOD list from September 2005 until his retirement on March 31 of this year.

Independent medical examinations indicated O'Mara was not disabled, and he was seen walking without a limp when out of the office. 

mike desmond/wbfo news

In five weeks Shakespeare in Delaware Park will open with Richard III, the playwright's legendary look at power corruption and violence in medieval England.

In the lead role, Tim Newell will travel the stage at the bottom of Shakespeare Hill, at least once the stage is built.

Right now, it's a fenced-off area and the pieces of the stage are being readied for assembly.

mike desmond/wbfo news

The local cultural community and the school board told separate Common Council budget hearings last night they need more funding.

Led by Interim Schools Superintendent Amber Dixon, the Council was given a detailed look at deteriorating finances with cuts in state aid as costs like pensions, retiree health insurance, and teacher salaries go up.

Nonetheless, Dixon offered an optimistic tone.

Acting NFTA Chairman Henry Sloma agrees with Congressman Brian Higgins that it's time for the transportation authority to surrender its Outer Harbor property. 

Higgins is calling for the land to be sold to another agency, perhaps the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for one dollar.

That's okay by Sloma, with one qualifier.

"The public has to weigh-in, too. This is their land."
 
The NFTA has owned Waterfront land since the middle of the last century when it took over the old port authority.

Buffalo police are hoping someone will come forward and identify the man who walked up to a birthday party Saturday night in Martin Luther King Park and fired multiple rounds into people leaving the party.

"One individual gunman is who we're looking for," Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards told WBFO and AM970 News.

Mayor Brown spent part of Sunday at the park, trying to reassure the public that the case will be solved swiftly.

"It certainly is a cowardly act," Richards said, noting the incident occurred the day before Mother's Day.

 WBFO & AM-970's Mike Desmond presents this week's edition of You and The Law.  

Often, the major dispute in the breakup of a marriage or a relationship is child support. 

Mike Desmond speaks with attorney Brian Welsh about the issues of child support.

WBFO News file photo

Some state officials are hoping the surge of Medicaid costs can be eased by cutting fraud within the system.

They're carefully following new procedures employed locally by Health Transaction Network which is using a computer fingerprint identification system.

State Senator Mark Grisanti, for one, thinks Medicaid can use the system statewide.

Critics have raised privacy concerns, but Grisanti castes those aside
        
"All this card does is break your fingerprints down to a zeroes and ones," Grisanti said.

Bill amendment should save jobs at Falls base

May 10, 2012

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul is claiming victory in the battle to keep the 107th Airlift Wing active at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.  In an early morning communication, Hochul's office reported that an amendment added to the Defense Authorization Act should prevent proposed Pentagon cuts to the Air National Guard.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

A former Common Council member who is also employed as a Buffalo Police officer is facing federal charges for allegedly abusing sick leave at his job. 

Police say Robert Quintana, 50, was arrested this morning and charged with mail fraud and healthcare fraud. Quintana has been listed as 'injured on duty' since 2005 and has been receiving full pay and benefits. He had told the Police Department he had severe back injuries from a fall on duty.

After four years of dust gathering on the stage of the Studio Arena Theatre, promoters say the arts center will be open in time for Curtain Up! in September.

While the building has been purchased out of foreclosure by 710 Main Street, that company has hired Shea's to run the place and find the array of productions to fill the stage.

The announcement Studio Arena will re-open brought a cheer from Bea Militello. The Bijou Grille president says her restaurant lost one-third of its business when Studio Arena closed.

"It's vital to our business," said Militello.

Playwright A.R. Gurney admits his Buffalo roots have played a key role in his successful career.

"It took me a long time to start writing about my origins in Buffalo," Gurney told WBFO and AM970's Mike Desmond.

Once he did, Gurney wrote his way to success and accolades.

The Buffalo native has also devoted many plays to images of his own WASP family, including the current production of "Ancestral Voices: A Family Story" in the Road Less Traveled Theatre.

Gurney shared many of his thoughts with Mike Desmond in a conversation that can be heard here.
 

Members of the Buffalo Control Board and the Common Council say they want to get together to talk about a major shift in the way the board operates, from how much money is spent to how well it's spent.

The comments were made during the annually-required public meeting of the board.

By law, the Control Board must approve budgets of the city, the school board and an array of other city agencies.

Board Member George Arthur says his panel has only so much control over school finances.

With so much attention on the rash of recent hit-and-run accidents in the area, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda released surveillance footage today of a vicious hit-and-run in the city. 

It continues to be a dangerous year for motorcyclists in our region. Saturday, there was a fatal motorcycle crash in Chautauqua County linked to high speed.

Motorcycle groups try to teach safety, especially to less experienced bikers, but not all listen.

Andrew Barr is president of the Cattaraugus County Chapter of the motorcycle group ABATE, which stresses education. Barr said a big safety problem is automobile drivers who don't pay enough attention to bikers.  Barr knows first hand because his only accident resulted from being cut off by a car.

WBFO & AM-970 present our weekly You & The Law, a conversation with the legal community on a variety of topics.

Mike Desmond speaks with attorney Rachel Kranitz McPee about the  facts of divorce and some of the misconceptions as these cases go into the legal system.

You can hear You & the Law every Friday on WBFO & AM-970 at 5:45 p.m.

File photo

Around 2 a.m. on Sunday in Fort Erie, the lights will go out as some maintenance takes place on the power system serving the entire town.

Canadian Niagara Power says the town's electric grid may be off until ten in the morning Sunday as a major project forces a shut off of the only electric line into Fort Erie from Niagara Falls.

Mayor Doug Martin says every precaution is being taken and he hopes neighbors will make sure someone who needs electricity for a medical device is taken care of.

Martin says emergency services are prepared.

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.

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