Kate Wells

Arts, Culture & Education Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering cultural arts, education, and general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

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Arts & Culture
12:31 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Shout it out loud! Simmons tells AP movie about KISS '75 visit to Cadillac is a go

The KISS tour comes to Michigan this summer
Credit Anirudh Koul / Flickr's Creative Commons

KISS bass player and noted "God of Thunder" Gene Simmons says a film about his band's visit to Cadillac, MI in 1975 is now fully funded and in pre-production. 

Talk about "Cadillac Dreams!"  

According to Cadillac High School's then assistant football coach, Jim Neff, the town's team was using KISS' music to motivate their players in what went on to become a spectacular winning season. 

The film was reportedly offered $8.2 million in incentives from the Michigan Film Office back in 2012. 

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Politics & Government
1:28 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Detroit water dept: Our mistake was being "naive" about furor

Credit Michigan Green Party / Facebook

"Saying you work for the (Detroit Water and Sewerage) department these days is a bit like professing you molest children," wrote reporter Peter Rugh in his recent Vice article, "Who bled Detroit dry?"

OK, that's a tad much. 

But there's certainly a besieged feeling in the city's water department building these days.

For instance, getting into last week's Board of Water Commissioner's meeting, as a reporter, involved three security officers and approval from multiple public relations staff.

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Politics & Government
12:01 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Arab American group wants investigation into Dearborn Heights city clerk

Accusations are coming in against the Dearborn Heights clerk's office.
Credit Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

Update: we've now obtained the city clerk's (now rescinded) resignation letter from July 22, and we've updated the story to include the information it provides. 

Something “fishy” is going on at the Dearborn Heights city clerk's office.

That's how the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee puts it.

They say they're getting dozens of complaints from Arab Americans who tried to get absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights – and ran into trouble at the city clerk’s office.

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Politics & Government
1:45 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Don't like the water shut-offs in Detroit? Now you can pay someone's overdue water bill

The water shutoffs in Detroit have been suspended, but you can still help some Detroiters pay their bills.
Credit Maegan Tintari / Flickr

The only time Kristy Tillman could fit in an interview was on her lunch break. That's because of the insane number of reporters emailing her.   

“We never expected the press to get so big! We’re just like, oh man. So we decided we’re going to probably limit the time on that today, so we can get real work done.”

All those reporters want to talk with her about the website she and friend threw online this past Thursday.

It's called Turn on Detroit's Water

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Education
6:39 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

New Michigan president takes on football, sexual assault, and race

Mark Schlissel is wrapping up his first week as president of the University of Michigan.
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is complicated.

That much is already clear to Mark Schlissel, who wraps up his first week as president of the university this week. 

It has certainly been a busy one.

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Arts & Culture
11:17 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Flint's all-female poetry slam team goes to national competition

Sapphire Newby, right, practices with a teammate. The white board behind them lists the original poetry that needs to be memorized before the competition.
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The 17th annual International Youth Poetry Slam festival is in Philadelphia this week.

Flint is sending a team made up entirely of high school girls.

They’ve been practicing for months, writing poetry from their own lives about things like family, abuse, mental illness, and love.

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Arts & Culture
5:30 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Broadway dame and Detroit native Elaine Stritch dies at the age of 89

Stritch was an actor, dancer, singer, and comedian well into her 80's.
Credit Henri Louis Hirschfeld

Let's all raise a strong drink and take off our pants in honor of the one and only Elaine Stritch.

The 89-year-old Broadway legend died today in Birmingham, Michigan, according to media reports.

A native Detroiter with unabashed talent, humor, and a love of good booze, she gained new fame in her 80's for playing Alec Baldwin's mom on "30 Rock."

You only have to hear a snippet of that wry voice to picture her: the white pouf of hair, the bowler cap, the silk shirt over black stockings - and only black stockings.

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Education
10:27 am
Fri July 11, 2014

So, how big is Flint schools' deficit? Depends who you ask

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Community Schools says it's got a $20 million deficit ($10 million of which was only recently discovered, according to the district.)

But if you ask Lisa Hagel, Flint Community Schools owes another $8.6 million on top of that.

Hagel is the superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District, which is now suing Flint schools over allegedly misspending $8.6 million of countywide tax money.  

The money was supposed to go to the Genesee Area Skill Center for vocational training. Instead, it was blended into the general fund of the Flint Community Schools.

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Law
11:07 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Central American children, if they come to Michigan, would stay just 2-4 weeks

Protesters placed flags in front of the high school, where a community meeting was held to address some of the rumors swirling.
Credit Alyse Guenther / Michigan Radio

Some 200 people and about a dozen media outlets stuffed into an airless high school cafeteria in Vassar, Michigan last night.

The small town of some 2,600 has been thrown into the center of the immigration debate during the past few weeks.

That's because a local juvenile center, Wolverine Human Services, is in talks to temporarily house as many as 120 of the unaccompanied Central American children flooding into the U.S.

And so far, Vassar appears very, very against that idea. 

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Politics & Government
5:02 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Some Michiganders protest against unaccompanied minors coming here

Dozens of Vassar residents and people from out of town gathered in front of city hall Monday evening.
Credit Michelle Huan / Michigan Radio

Some of the chaos at the U.S. and Mexican border has made its way to Michigan.

About 75 protesters turned out last night in in the tiny, mid-Michigan town of Vassar, population roughly 2,600. 

That's where a juvenile center is in talks to potentially house some of the unaccompanied minors flooding into this country from Central America.

Michigan Radio's Kate Wells sent us this field report. 

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Law
4:31 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Protests Monday night against migrant children coming to Michigan

Credit via Center for American Progress

UPDATE 10:49 PM 

Some 75 protestors and several police officers filled the front lawn of Vassar's city hall Monday evening.  

Even though officials say these kids would stay in the juvenile camp for housing and school while they're going through the asylum, or more likely, the deportation process, lots of people expressed concern about what it would mean for the town. 

"More crime," said Josh Barnes, of Vassar, when asked why he was worried enough to come out and protest.

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Law
4:34 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

More Michigan cities will vote on decriminalizing pot

That's a lot of pot.
Credit Prarie Plant Systems

In Berkley, activists say they've now turned in enough signatures to put decriminalization on the local ballot this fall. 

The city clerk says they'll know whether or not the signatures are valid by Thursday.  

Berkley is just the latest city to consider the issue.

Similar proposals are already on the August primary ballots in Oak Park and Hazel Park.

And the group behind the petitions, the Safer Michigan Coalition, says it plans to turn in another petition in Saginaw next week. 

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Politics & Government
7:01 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Here's why Michigan is hiring the people who rolled out Healthcare.gov

Yes, Michigan is hiring a contractor who worked on Obamacare. But why?
Credit healthcare.gov
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Arts & Culture
10:58 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Theater community rallies to save beloved playhouse

A recent performance at the Performance Network Theater
Credit The Performance Network Theater

Michigan’s theater community took a hit a few weeks ago, when an iconic professional theater in Ann Arbor suddenly shut down.

Audiences showed up for the evening performance only to find a note on the door, saying everything was canceled indefinitely.

In a panic, the theater community rushed to come up with a plan, any plan, that could save it.

“When the locksmith showed up, the writing was on the wall.”

May was a busy month for Carla Milarch.

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Families & Community
5:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

"Take on Hate" campaign targets anti-Arab prejudice in Detroit

Credit www.accesscommunity.org

Earlier this month there was the annual anti-Islam rally in Dearborn (although more cops than actual protestors showed up.) 

A few days before that, police investigated the burning of several Qurans outside a local Mosque. 

 And in February, an Arab-American man won more than $1 million dollars in a lawsuit over the religious and racial harassment he said he suffered at work.  

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Education
8:07 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

The guy with one of Detroit's toughest jobs is resigning

EAA Chancellor John Covington has resigned.
Credit The Broad Superintendents Academy

Let's do this MEAP style. Choose one of the following.

John Covington is:

A) an education visionary, brought in to turn around some of Detroit's worst schools using a model that lets kids learn at their own level, regardless of age or grade;

B) an overpaid, underperforming puppet of a state takeover of Detroit's schools;

C) It just depends on whom you ask. 

Right or wrong, the chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority is stepping down. 

Hired to fix Detroit's failing schools, amidst political turmoil 

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Politics & Government
4:04 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Remember that plan for a part-time legislature for Michigan?

Capitol dome in Lansing.
Joe Dearman Flickr

Yeah, it's dead, and petition organizers partly blame what we are still talking about in Michigan: the freezing cold winter.

More from Jonathan Oosting from MLive:

Chairman Norm Kammeraad said an unusually cold winter made it difficult for the group to collect 322,609 (signatures) by July 7 in order to put a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot.

"Every time we hit the field with these things, we were overwhelmed by people who wanted to sign them," Kammeraad said Tuesday evening. "It was just phenomenal. Problem is, we couldn't get organized enough because of the weather."

Kammeraad, the chair of the Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-time Legislature, also blamed "elite Republicans" for coming up short.

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Education
5:09 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Flint school district lays off 250 staff

District administrators say they're running out of options.
Credit Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sending out some 250 pink slips this week.

They're laying off non-classroom staff, from janitors to secretaries to school safety workers. 

 Administrators say they have no choice: they're coming up against a state deadline to eliminate the district's $10 million general fund deficit. 

Now the district will look to outsource those positions through a private company.

Karon Grubb is a secretary in the administration office.

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Education
9:06 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Detroit high school for pregnant teens is closing – this time, for real

The Catherine Ferguson Academy serves pregnant and parenting moms in high school.
Credit Catherine Ferguson Academy

It's kind of heartbreaking. 

The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing at the end of this month, due to low enrollment and financial trouble.

That's the announcement from the Wayne RESA, the intermediate school district that held the school's charter, and the whole thing feels like deja vu.

A beloved school repeatedly finds itself on brink of closure    

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Transportation
3:33 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Small businesses say higher gas taxes would hurt their bottom line

Paying more at the pump would hurt small businesses, critics say.
Credit user futureatlas.com / Flickr

If there's one issue uniting Michigan's old and young, Republican and Democrat, it's the need to fix our crumbling roads.

Things are so bad, state legislators are even considering hiking the gas tax.

But critics say small businesses will struggle if they have to pay any more at the pump.

Charlie Owens is with the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

He says he's hearing from Michigan companies that are worried about higher gas prices right now, considering the minimum wage just went up, and the economic recovery is still fragile.

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