Local & regional news

The state Education Department may want BTF President Phil Rumore's signature on a new teacher evaluation plan by the end of the day, but it is not likely to get it.

Rumore shared that with WBFO and AM 970's Mark Leitner yesterday.

Protesting parents met with the union leader last night to hear his rationale.

Rumore told the group that he could not sign the agreement without the approval of union membership.

Daniel Robison / WBFO

New solar panels at the University at Buffalo double as an art installation. 

The $7.5 million project, funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and SUNY, will power student apartments while sprucing up the landscape.

When viewed from the sky, the strand of solar panels resembles DNA - a tip of the hat to UB's strengths in research and science.

A crash in Batavia claimed two lives early Sunday morning.

It happened along Lewiston Road, Route 63.  Police say 25-year-old  Quayeshawn Smith of Medina crossed over into the southbound lane slamming into another car driven by 74-year-old Rosemary Calla of Oakfield.

Both drivers were trapped in their vehicles and had to be extricated.  They were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police closed Route 63 for about three hours Sunday as they conducted an investigation into the crash.

A local politician is urging a resolution to the teacher evaluation battle between the state and the local teacher's union.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples is calling for a possible state takeover of the city's public schools if an agreement isn't accepted by the Buffalo Teachers Federation. The evaluation plan will be a statewide mandate and millions of dollars in funding for Buffalo's  lowest-performing schools are at risk.

A protest against the BTF is being planned for Monday evening.

Parents, administrators and faculty joined together Saturday in support of a potentially doomed Charter School. 

The New York State Board of Regents will vote early this week on the future of the nine year old Pinnacle Charter School, and closure is the expected outcome. The school has shown low scores on mandated state tests, but many argue that new school leadership and increasing student performance should give the school a reprieve.

Pinnacle houses 560 students between kindergarten and eighth grade.

Investigations by federal prosecutors have uncovered a tangent in the case against one-time Councilman Brian Davis.

Davis is facing charges for diverting taxpayer funds for his personal use. Investigators have learned that the Lincoln Navigator that Davis drove for years was provided by to him by businessman Charles Barone. The vehicle was a benefit rewarding Davis for steering a lucrative contract Barone's way.

The News reports a judge has ruled that this evidence will not be entered into the case prosecutors are developing.

New York's Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, are poised to introduce legislation to name the new federal courthouse in Buffalo after a local Supreme Court Justice.

The House is prepared to pass a similar bill that would name the building after the late Robert H. Jackson.

Jackson was a noted jurist, hailing from Frewsburg in Chautauqua County.

A second local judge has committed to handing down jail time for convicted copper thieves.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas set the precedent, and now State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch, Sr. is following suit. Kloch announced his intentions during the arraignments of a pair of culprits in court on Thursday.

Farkas claims that the stiffer sentences led to a decrease in the crime in the past.

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.

NFTA photo

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is backing away from earlier plans to sell off its outer harbor property to a private developer. 

NFTA commissioners agreed at a committee meeting Thursday to stop talks with Bear Development group.  

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan said he believes this could open a new opportunity to rethink how to better develop the outer harbor.

Salim Virji / WBFO

Audio of “Complete Streets: How National Best Practices Can Influence the Buffalo" can be streamed here.

Daniel Robison / WBFO

The new Digital Music Ensemble debuted at Buffalo State earlier this week.

As one of the few of its kind in the country, the student led group played music on laptops, iPads and instruments that were only created in the past few years. In fact, the group is barely older than some of the instruments its members play.

Daniel Robison attended their concert and filed this report.

You can follow reporter Daniel Robison on Twitter @robisonrobison.

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.

Overnight accidents claim three lives

Apr 20, 2012

Two suburban police departments are investigating a pair of fatal accidents which claimed three lives last night.

Amherst police report 36-year-old Jason Murphy of Lockport was walking along Millersport Highway around 10:45 pm when he was struck and killed by a pickup truck.

On Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, two people were killed when their motorcycle collided with a passenger vehicle.

No names have been released but police say the victims, a man and a woman, were from Hamburg.

Both incidents remain under investigation.

Teachers vote down evaluation plan

Apr 20, 2012

Last night's vote by members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation may have widespread repercussions.

Union members rejected the state's demand that BTF President Phil Rumore sign a new agreement on a teacher evaluation system.

Without the plan, the state says it will not issue over $5 million in funds for the city's lowest-performing schools.

District officials say layoffs may be necessary without the funds.

Retired pastor's remains found in Allegany State Park

Apr 19, 2012

New York State Park Police have confirmed that the human remains discovered in Allegany State Park on Tuesday are those of a 92 year old retired pastor who went missing nearly a year and a half ago.

The identity of Reverend Thomas Hamilton of Great Valley was determined by dental records.

Hamilton and his 66 year old daughter became lost while hiking through the park in November of 2010. The woman made it to safety the following day, but an eight day search for Hamilton at the time was fruitless. 

Pinnacle Airlines CEO resigns

Apr 19, 2012

The  embattled leader of Pinnacle Airlines has resigned.  The Buffalo News reports that Sean Menke resignation takes effect June 1st.  

The Pinnacle Airline C-E-O has been underfire for taking a six-figure pay hike just before the company filed for bankruptcy.  Pinnacle is the owner of Colgan Air -- the operator of Continental Connection Flight 3407 that crashed in Clarence in 2009 killing 50 people. 

WBFO News photo by Mark Leitner

Jewish community leaders gathered in the Rath Building offices of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Thursday for Holocaust Memorial Day.  

They were there to witness the County Executive and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issuing a joint proclamation designating this week,  "The Days of Remembrance of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust."

Gabriel Ferber is President of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.

"To honor the member of six million person of the Jewish faith who were murdered in the Holocaust," said Ferber.

The State Attorney has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Sprint Nextel.  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a more than $300-million suit against the company, claiming it under collected and underpaid 100-million in sales taxes to keep prices down.

"That there was a consistent pattern of withholding, something to the effect 25% of the taxes they were suppose to collect and remit to the state and to our local  governments," said Schneiderman.

The Attorney general says Sprint has underpaid the tax and submitted false records since 2005. 

WBFO News file photo

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its report on a fatal blast at a Tonawanda plant. 

The investigation found 'sparks or heat' from welding on top of a storage tank likely ignited flammable vapors inside the tank - a hazard which had been overlooked by DuPont engineers. 

The November 2010 blast at the River Road facility killed one contractor - and it came less than a year after three similar incidents - including one fatality - at another DuPont plant. 

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.

Romney may visit Buffalo in June

Apr 19, 2012

Western New York may get its only chance to hear directly from Mitt Romney when the Republican Presidential candidate comes to Buffalo on June 15th.

A GOP fundraiser will take place that night at the Burchfield Penney Art Center where Romney is expected to appear.

According to the Buffalo News, the event will be hosted by local businessmen Anthony Gioia and Mark Hamister.

With the New York State Republican Primary fast approaching, Romney has no plans to campaign in the region.

Approved evaluation plan requires Rumore signature

Apr 19, 2012

State education officials appear ready to approve a new teacher evaluation system for Buffalo schools, but only if it receives the signed approval of BTF President Phil Rumore.

In a written statement, Buffalo Schools Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon said Rumore's signature is needed on the agreement by next Tuesday.

Approval would release $5.6 million in state funding to help improve the city's low-achieving schools.

Mugshot courtesy of the BPD

An east side Buffalo man is in custody following a grim discovery at his home on Guilford Street near Broadway.  

Buffalo Police today formally announced the arrest of Ali-Mohamad Mohamud for the beating death of his 10-year-old stepson Abdifatah Mohamud in their home at 30 Guilford. 

Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards told reporters police went to the arrest shortly after 10 p.m. after receiving a report about a missing child.

Courtesy photo

A new music ensemble will make its debut at Buffalo State College tonight. But instead of using traditional instruments like violins or piano, they’ll play iPads, laptops, and use video game controllers. WBFO's Daniel Robison has more.

The performance begins at 7:30 PM Wednesday evening at Buffalo State.

You can follow WBFO reporter Daniel Robison on twitter @robisonrobison.

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.  

Mark Leitner/WBFO

Dozens of union representatives and citizen group members gathered in front of Buffalo's main post office at 1200 William Street today to mark the New York State Tax Day of Action.  

Those attending the noon-time rally represented a cross-section of community activists, all under the umbrella of the Fight for a Fair Economy Coalition.  

Brian Trzeciak, education organizer of Citizen Action of WNY, charged that corporations are not paying their fair share in taxes. 

A Jamestown city councilman has stepped down from his post as chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, following his arrest for an alleged incident at a bar this past weekend. 

Michael Taylor, a Democrat who represents the city's Third Ward, has been charged with felony criminal mischief.