Kate Wells

Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering 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.   

user Bjoertvedt / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Snyder will not be called to testify at a Congressional hearing next week looking into the Flint water crisis.

Instead, the spotlight will be on the EPA.

On Thursday, the Republican leadership of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced the hearings would be focused on “Examining the Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan.”

Alberto G. / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Third- and fourth-graders at Savage Elementary School in Belleville did really well on the math section of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress – M-STEP – last year.

So well, in fact, school district administrators were a little confused.

The M-STEP is designed to be harder than earlier state tests, and students took it for the first time last school year.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers, parents and students have been complaining their school buildings are falling apart.

Now, health and safety inspection reports from DPS schools are being posted online, and they're not pretty. 

In the first batch of 11 school inspections, officials found rodent and insect issues, mold, a gym that's completely closed because of water damage, broken glass, bathroom doors that don't close, and boilers that don't work. 

Members of the Michigan National Guard preparing to help residents in Flint get access to clean drinking water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As of today , the National Guard is scaling back its mission in Flint.

The guard will keep manning five water resource centers around the city. But troops will no longer be going door-to-door handing out bottled water, filters, and testing kits. 

So far response teams, including police and civilians, say they've reached some 30,000 homes.

But they know they haven't reached everyone. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Peanut butter and banana pockets. Chocolate strawberry French toast.

Those are a few of the recipes in Hurley Medical Center’s nutrition guidebook for Flint families dealing with lead.

Right now there’s a big push to get healthy food to Flint kids, because the right diet (iron, calcium, lots of Vitamin C) can actually reduce the effects of lead on the body.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

Governor Snyder could be called to testify before Congress about the Flint Water Crisis.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, says she's requested the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hold a hearing.

She says she wants Governor Snyder, the Michigan Department on Environmental Quality, and the EPA to testify.

Kate Wells

Angelita Davis says she’s got 52 kids in her eighth-grade classroom at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy.

“How do you walk into a classroom with 52 kids? They’re packed in there like sardines," she says, shaking her head as she marches on a downtown Detroit sidewalk Wednesday with dozens of other protesters.  

"We can't do it anymore. We just can't."

Recently, the math teacher at Davis’ school had to move her class to the library. But not because of overcrowding. Because of rats in the classroom. "They ran the kids right out of the room," says one teacher. 

President Barack Obama
Pete Souza / White House

President Obama travels to Detroit on Wednesday.

The White House says he'll be in town to "experience the remarkable progress made by the city, its people, and neighborhoods."

The president is expected to tour a Detroit neighborhood, visit the auto show, and give a speech at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

But he's coming at a time when Detroit Public Schools are about to run out of money, and teachers are staging sickouts.

And it was just days ago that the president declared a state of emergency in Flint over the water crisis there.

Kate Wells

Protesters demanding Governor Rick Snyder step down over the Flint water crisis rallied in downtown Ann Arbor Monday night, outside the governor’s home.

Despite the cold, University of Michigan student Noor Ahmad marched with about 80 others.

She says they've got to march here, because people in Flint are being poisoned by the water in their homes.

"He should realize that, in the security of his own home, other people that, because of him, do not have the security of clean and safe water, that we in Ann Arbor are privileged to have."

Cass Tech Alumni Association

As a counselor at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Monica Jones knows this hasn't been the happiest couple of weeks at Detroit Public Schools. 

Between teacher sickouts to draw attention to unsustainable teaching and learning conditions, more news about just how terrible the district's finances are, and scathing criticism from Lansing aimed at DPS teachers, "there's like an ugly air, like an ugly funk going on," Jones says. “So we wanted to do something positive. There’s too much negativity out there, and all that negativity weighs you down.” 

Smart phone
Johan Larsson / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than 2,000 tips about potential school violence came in through a state-created app called “OK2Say” in 2015.

Twenty-three of those tips were about possible school attacks, which a state spokesperson says led to the removal of 14 weapons from schools.

Federal research shows when school violence happens, usually at least one other person – most likely a peer – knew about the attacker’s plan, but didn’t report it. 

Ann Arbor plans its first-ever deer cull this year.
Rodney Campbell / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A federal judge says the city of Ann Arbor can go ahead with its deer cull – at least, for now.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow denied a request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the city’s deer cull.

Alvimann / morgueFile

Wireless companies in the U.S. are hungry for more bandwidth. So the federal government is holding a big auction, and inviting TV stations to sell off their broadcast frequencies.

Several Michigan broadcasters are considering it, like WKAR-TV in the Lansing area.

They're holding public forums about what selling their broadcast spectrum frequency could mean for the 1.6 million people in their viewing area.

Thomas Marthinsen / Flickr

Many communities are grappling with an epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse. 

But when Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski crunched the local numbers, he says they were "eye-popping."

His officers responded to 26 heroin-related deaths in 2015, he says. 

"That is actually more than homicides and fatal car accidents here in the city of Lansing," he says.

Lester Graham

A Detroit artist is suing to protect her nine-story mural, which has become a landmark in the city's north end.

If you've driven by it, you probably remember Katherine Craig's massive, technicolor piece called The Illuminated Mural.

Created in 2009 with nearly 100 gallons of paint, it kind of looks like bleeding rainbow, covering a massive wall at 2937 East Grand Boulevard.

user Bernt Rostad / flickr

After the Paris climate agreement, it looks like 2016 could be a big year for new climate change and energy policies in the U.S.

And if Michigan businesses haven't already started preparing for new energy markets and a changing climate, they'll need to soon, says Andrew Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

"Any business who hasn't been looking at least at, where are our greenhouse gas emissions coming from? What will it cost to reduce them? Where will it be cheapest, where will it be most expensive?"

Wikimedia Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are some 10,000 unsolved homicides in Michigan since 1980.

But many counties lack the money and manpower to devote to cold cases.

That’s why the Prosecutors Association of Michigan is pulling together a new team of investigators, police, and prosecutors – some of them retired – to serve as a cold case advisory board.

“They may see things from a different perspective, and may offer insight or advice that someone who's very, very close to the case, cannot see,” says Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka.

The University of Vermont

Wild bee shortages are hitting West Michigan farmers hard, according to a new national study.

Researchers at the University of Vermont, Michigan State University and other institutions say they've put together the first national map of where wild bee shortages may be toughest for farmers. 

Some of the "red zones" are in California, North Dakota, and Western Michigan.

MSU Professor Rufus Isaacs is one of the authors of the study, which indicates a 23% drop in wild bees populations in recent years.

Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is building a new $10 million diversity center – something the Black Student Union demanded in 2014.

When the #BBUM campaign went viral that year, one of the demands was to replace the current Trotter Multicultural Center with a new building on central campus.

Kate Wells

UPDATED AT 8:53 am on 12/18/15

At a mosque in Dearborn Heights today, about a dozen faith leaders rallied against what they described as the recent "wave of Islamophobia."

Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Jewish leaders railed against Donald Trump, and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.

"It is unconstitutional, and un-American, to ban an entire religious group from America, the land of the free and home of the brave, just because they are Muslim,” said Baptist pastor Lawrence Glass.

MDOC

The Michigan Innocence Clinic says a wrongfully convicted man has served nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Lamarr Monson was convicted of brutally killing a 12-year-old girl in 1996.

But attorneys with the Innocence Clinic say Monson was forced into a false confession, and that new fingerprint evidence points to another killer, who's currently living freely in another state.

A brutal killing 

Lamarr Monson and Christina Brown were both selling drugs out of the same apartment in Detroit in 1996. Monson would eventually tell police their relationship was sexual, but he says he didn’t know she was 12.


Syrian refugee children in Jordan enjoy a concert. The event was put on using funds from Brazil.
CGFome MRE

When refugees arrive at the Detroit airport, they’re often exhausted, physically and emotionally, by the weight of their journey. They may have literally have just the clothes on their backs.

And sometimes, they’re greeted by a volunteer welcoming committee of cheerful, homemade sign-wielding Michiganders.

“It’s like, here’s a bunch of six-foot blonde white people, 'Congratulations, this is your new normal,'” laughs Troy Howley, the refugee and volunteer outreach coordinator at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

There’s a fierce debate happening right now in Michigan’s LGBT community.

Some activists are launching a big campaign to put civil rights for lesbian, gay and transgender people on the ballot. 

But others say voters just aren’t ready. 

LGBT discrimination is legal in Michigan. But making it illegal? That's tough. 

Here’s the reality of being LGBT in Michigan right now:

Jacob Lewkew, Midtown Detroit Inc.

Christopher Prater and his wife TaNisha grew up in Detroit, moved to Atlanta for several years, then came back and opened a vintage-meets-consignment boutique in Midtown called Thrift on the Avenue.

Two years ago, even before Thrift on the Ave was really up and running, neighbors were telling him: you guys should do a soft opening on Noel Night, because there’ll be some 40,000 people out shopping.  

photo by Vincent Duffy

Chris Robbins just wants to figure out why teachers and students aren't allowed to use Pinterest, and other websites blocked by the Plymouth-Canton school district.

So the Salem High School senior and student newspaper reporter sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the district, asking for emails in which some 85 teachers and staff appealed the blocked websites.

UNHCR

 

There’s been a lot of confusion in the last few days.

So let’s just clarify something here: Syrian refugees are still coming to Michigan. More are expected.  

And Governor Snyder is fine with that.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Several refugee agencies in Michigan say Governor Snyder’s administration led them to believe, in several behind-the-scenes conversations over the last couple weeks, that Snyder would be publicly un-doing his “pause” on bringing more Syrian refugees to Michigan.

Go Blue / The University of Michigan

Maybe do some lunges today, or jog around the block or something.

Just get the blood flowing a little, in between Thanksgiving's feasting and Saturday's football marathon of snacking and sitting and watching Michigan and Michigan State wrap up the regular season with  big, emotional, must-watch games. 

Juan Flores

Anyone who’s ever been stuck on campus for Thanksgiving knows it’s kind of depressing.

“Just seeing everybody leaving with their luggage, and you’re left behind, you know it’s going to be a long weekend,” says Denise Cruz, a senior at Michigan State University.  “And it does make you feel a bit out of place. Like you have nowhere to go.”

Kate Wells

In metro Detroit, several Garden City families are fighting eviction, after they say their homes were wrongfully foreclosed and sold to the city.

Garden City bought 17 foreclosed home from Wayne County this year, before the houses went to public auction. But the city didn’t tell residents their homes had been purchased, and then resold the houses to a private development company.  

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