Brian Shields

Senior News Anchor

WAMC Senior Correspondent Brian Shields has been with WAMC for 23 years as senior news anchor, host and reporter.

Ways to Connect

Albany County

There is a vacant space at the Albany County Nursing Home in the town of Colonie, but under a plan outlined last night by the county executive, that space could be used by the Albany Medical Center. The plan was detailed in the State of the County speech by County Executive Dan McCoy.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Like most other cities, Troy, New York is dealing with tight finances. In his recent State of the City Address, Mayor Lou Rosamilia detailed budget cuts in city departments, along with several other measures, including a parking ticket amnesty to raise revenue. But luckily for Troy, this cold and snowy winter has not yet depleted the snow removal budget, according to Rosamilia.

As a member of the nation’s most prominent political family, Patrick Kennedy has enjoyed the privileges that come with wealth and recognition. But Patrick Kennedy is also familiar with the pain and stigma felt by families across the nation dealing with mental illness. Patrick Kennedy is bipolar, and a recovering alcoholic, a condition that came to national attention after an early morning accident in Washington, D.C. in May of 2006 when he served in Congress. Now out of politics, Patrick Kennedy is devoting his attention to mental health, and has formed the Kennedy Center for Mental Health Policy and Research in Washington, in partnership with former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher and Morehouse College. Kennedy says one of the goals is to end the stigma of mental health.

Tiffany Van Alstyne
Albany County Sheriff

A grand jury has returned charges in a child murder case in the Capital District that shocked the public and the police. 

A murder indictment has been handed up in a case that began with a multi-state Amber Alert but ended with the discovery of a young boy's body.

The Albany County District Attorney's office says 20-year-old Tiffany VanAlstyne of Berne, in Albany County, is now facing charges of murder and manslaughter in the December strangulation death of her 5-year-old cousin, Kenneth White.

Alicia Ouellette
Albany Law School

Alicia Ouellette earned a law degree in 1994 from Albany Law School, and then began a career that included private practice, a stint as a Court of Appeals clerk and as Assistant Solicitor General in the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Greg Haymes
Times Union

Nippertown's Greg Haymes is here with his January musical selections. 

Math for America

Attracting and keeping math teachers is the goal of the group Math for America. The organization says it was the model for New York's Master Teacher Program, celebrated at Thursday's State of the State by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Math for America President John Ewing says there are a number of ways to get math teachers into schools, and there are ways not to.

Tim Kremer
Tim Kremer

Among those who will be paying close attention to Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State and budget message Wednesday will be Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. As is the case every year in Albany, education will be front and center as the budget takes shape. We spoke with Kremer Tuesday about what he hopes to hear from Gov. Cuomo tomorrow.

Scenic Hudson

There have been many suggestions recently about how New York should spend the $5 billion windfall it gained from legal settlements from banks and other financial institutions stemming from the financial meltdown of 2009. The majority seem to favor using the money the money to build and repair the infrastructure, New York's roads and bridges. But Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, says at least half of the windfall should go to the state's environmental infrastructure.

City of Schenectady

Schenectady, like many other Northeastern cities that once hosted a major manufacturer, faced hard times as the payrolls at GE were cut and the downtown stores and the shoppers headed to the suburban malls. But with word that a major riverside casino and development are coming, there is renewed optimism in the Electric City. Mayor Gary McCarthy, who gave his state of the city address this week, says the casino is just one reason why Schenectady is looking forward.

The business and taxpayer group Unshackle Upstate has a new executive director. Greg Biryla served as the group's director of development before being appointed by the executive board to the top position. Unshackle Upstate supports hydrofracking, and Biryla says there may be a slim chance someday that the recent decision by the Cuomo administration to ban the gas drilling procedure could be reversed.

Greg Haymes
Times Union

Nippertown's Greg Haymes is here with his December musical selections.

On Dec. 17, New York's casino siting board may announce where the four upstate casinos will be located, and both gambling opponents and supporters are counting down the minutes. Some of the loudest opposition to a casino has come from East Greenbush in Rensselaer County, where the group "Save East Greenbush" will hear tonight from former Connecticut Congressman and casino opponent Robert Steele. Steele says the failure of the casino law repeal in Massachusetts on Election Day was not a great surprise.

While most New Yorkers don't pay much attention to the water levels in Lake Ontario, one environmental organization says it is among the most important issues now facing the region. It is called plan 2014, and it's being promoted by the New York arm of the Nature Conservancy. Stu Gruskin is the chief conservation and external affairs officer for the Nature Conservancy.

Members of law enforcement, educators, health care, and treatment experts and others gathered at the Guilderland Town Library Tuesday evening for a panel discussion on heroin and opiate addiction. The panel was organized by Albany Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy.

The city of Detroit is beginning to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, and the man who helped to pull New York City out of its severe money problems back in the 1970s will be steering Detroit's long road back to recovery. Former New York Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch has been appointed as a senior adviser to the financial review commission in Detroit. Ravitch will be at Albany Law School Wednesday afternoon at 2 for a panel discussion on Detroit and what it might mean for New York.

Greg Haymes
Times Union

WAMC's Brian Shields speaks with Nippertown's Greg Haymes about the local music scene and his November selections.

One of the most quoted lines from William Shakespeare is his enduring question "What's in a name?" from Romeo and Juliet. The Bard apparently knew what he was talking about when it comes to corporate branding and supermarkets. This week, the Golub Corp. announced that its 134 Price Chopper stores in the region would change to Market 32 to reflect evolving customer needs. CEO Jerry Golub tells WAMC News how the change came about after 41 years as Price Chopper.

Maud Dahme had a childhood that no young person should ever experience. At the age of six, two years after the Nazis invaded Holland, Dahme and her 4-year-old sister Rita, were taken in by two Christian families to survive . They lived with new identities for three years, until 1945 when the war ended and they were reunited with their parents. Maud Dahme’s story is told in the film The Hidden Child, which will be shown this Thursday night at 7 at Page Hall at the University at Albany.  Maud Dahme will be there. She now lives in New Jersey and spends her days as a Holocaust educator.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

In recent days, WAMC News has been speaking with New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, the incumbent Democrat in the race for the 46th district seat, and her opponent, former Republican Assemblyman George Amedore. The two faced off in 2012, a race Tkaczyk won by 18 votes.

Ralph Nader was part of the campaign this fall in New York's 21st House district, which covers a large area of northern New York. Republican Elise Stefanik, Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello are vying for the seat to be left open by the retirement of Democrat Bill Owens. Nader says Funiciello has the right platform for the district.

If the polls are correct, the Green Party candidate for governor of New York, Howie Hawkins, will get about ten percent of the vote next Tuesday. With the campaign now in its final days, Hawkins spoke with WAMC news today and said it has exceeded all expectations.

On Election Day next week, New Yorkers will decide three ballot questions. No. 3 is called the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, a measure from Governor Andrew Cuomo that would allow the state to borrow $2 billion to equip schools with computers, tablets, wireless internet and other technology. But on group think it's a bad idea. EJ McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, says borrowing isn't the main objection. He says there appears to be no demand from educators.


The president of the Sage Colleges says Ebola has become a teachable moment. Dr. Susan Scrimshaw is an expert in the field of public health and spoke with WAMC News the day after the first confirmed case in New York.

Tim Kremer
Tim Kremer

More than 2,400 educators and school officials from 400 districts across the state will be in New York City Sunday through Tuesday for the 95th annual convention of the New York State School Boards Association. Executive Director Tim Kremer says the agenda is full as the meeting comes at a critical time.

Jim Levulis / WAMC


“Don’t play with matches!”

It was the first and foremost safety rule we learned as children, but almost 45,000 fires in the United States were set by children in 2010. Tomorrow at the Pineview Community Church in Albany, teachers, parents, day-care providers and others will learn how to teach children about fire safety. Doctor Robert Cole will present a “Play Safe-Be Safe” workshop. Dr. Cole, president of the Fireproof Children Company of Rochester, says “don’t play with matches” is still important.

During the past 20 years, approximately 1,400 girls who are poor and work in the factories of Juarez, Mexico have been abducted, sexually abused and then murdered. Their story and the story of an Irish artist who is working to keep their memories alive are told in the film Blood Rising, to be shown tonight at 7 at the University at Albany's Recital Hall. Admission is free. The director Mark McLoughlin, the arist profiled in the film, Brian MaGuire, and Marisela Ortiz-Rivera, the mother of one of the murdered women of Juarez, will be at tonight's screening.

Schenectady schools

Some students in the Schenectady School District will be taking home more than just books and homework on the weekends. They will also have food supplied by the district as part of the weekend backpack program, which is expanding. The announcement was made today by the superintendent of the district, Larry Spring.

A federal grant of $1 million over three years will allow Excelsior College, a distance learning institution based in Albany, to help military veterans with a health care background and prior medical training earn  a bachelor's degree in nursing. Dr. Barbara Pieper, the associate dean for the bachelors' and masters' degree programs at excelsior, says the funding comes from the health resources and services administration.

Tim Kremer
Tim Kremer

The classrooms have been cleaned, the supplies have been bought, and teachers have their lesson plans ready to go as the bell is about to ring on a new school year across New York. There are many challenges facing students, teachers, principals, and the school boards, including Common Core, test scores, and funding, just to name a few. For more the issues facing education and educators as the new semester begins, WAMC reached out to Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.