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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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.

Despite much discussion in Albany about dealing with bullying and cyber-bullying, there is still no bill going to the governor.

There is growing public concern about bullying, especially using social media on computers. Locally, the case which made it most obvious was the suicide last September of Williamsville North High School freshman Jamey Rodemeyer.

With rising costs and shrinking tax bases, education leaders in New York are trying to find solutions.

They are called "low-wealth, high-needs" districts and there may be 300 of them just in the state's rural areas.

That's around 40 percent of the state's school districts.

State regents are looking at ways to deal with some of the problems, perhaps more regional high schools to offer better programs while easing the fiscal pressure on individual districts.

There's also talk of easing restrictions on merging districts so there will be more mergers.

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The food and drink is finally flowing in a year-round restaurant on Buffalo's burgeoning Inner Harbor, with the opening of the Liberty Hound restaurant in the main building of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Liberty Hound is gradually ramping up operations over the holiday weekend and training staff for a full operation and a full menu on Tuesday.

An attempt to put a restaurant there last year turned into a struggle among the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, the Naval Park, and City Hall, which owns the building.

Organizers made official what many thought was inevitable: the Thursday downtown summer music series will now make its home on the emerging Buffalo waterfront.

Last year, there were some concerts in the old venue on Lafayette Square and some on the Waterfront.

This year, all of the concerts will be getting new names and a permanent location down on the Central Wharf on the Inner Harbor.

Buffalo Place President and Vice Chairman Anthony Colucci III says the schedule is being released now but there may be even more concerts beyond the five when there will be a charge.

The ECMC campus on Grider Street continues to change, with major construction projects and smaller changes to increase medical care possibilities like the newly-opened Grider Family Health Center.

The general idea is that a patient can go to the emergency room or go to the new family health center and get a family doctor.

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.

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