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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.   

Two young protesters at City Hall last week. The council floated a draft resolution to ask the city to stop charging people for water.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

But here’s the thing: the city council doesn’t really have the power to actually force the city to stop billing people for their water.

That’s because big financial decisions (and this one would be a doozy) still have to be okayed by a state-appointed board, called the Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

They’re the guys the state put in place after the Emergency Manager left in April 2015.

Technically, that’s when Flint “transitioned back to local control,” according to the state, but there’s still a lot of limitations on what local officials can actually do.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants all Flint kids, age six and under, to get a blood test for lead by April 1.

That's more than 8,000 kids, according to census data.

"That's a lot of kids to test,” says Dr. Nicole Lurie of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “Testing is underway. And there are lots of places in this city, whether it's your doctors office, or other sites where you can get tested in the next two months."

The state says it's important to assume all kids who drank Flint water in the last two years were exposed to lead.

According to the poll, Governor Snyder's approval rating has fallen to 39.7%.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Emails released Thursday show a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder knew about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint and its possible links to the Flint River, almost a year before Snyder says he found out about it.

The emails are to Harvey Hollins, who Snyder just picked to lead the state’s response team in Flint. Back in 2011, Hollins was named director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives. That means he was a " principal adviser to the governor on matters related to urban and regional economic initiatives that contribute to job growth." 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

$90 million. That’s how much money the city of Flint says it needs to cover people’s water bills for the rest of 2016, and to repay the bills people have already received for lead-contaminated water over the last couple of years.

Flint’s city administrator Natasha Henderson crunched the numbers, and says Governor Snyder’s proposal to send $30 million for water bill compensation just doesn’t go far enough.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Flint will start replacing lead service lines connected to homes with pregnant women or kids under the age of six.

That’s according to Mayor Karen Weaver, who said those are the “highest risk” homes in the city.

But she isn’t saying how many homes that will be, or how much it’ll cost. That could be because the city doesn’t really know yet.

flickr user Bart / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In Flint, attorneys have filed what they hope will be a massive, class-action lawsuit representing all of the city’s residents.  

The same Baltimore law firm that represented the family of Freddie Gray, who died under questionable circumstances while in police custody, is now part of the legal team seeking at least $150 million for Flint residents.

That money, attorneys say, would be partly to refund the last two years of water bills, starting from when the city switched to suing the Flint River.

photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand / www.fotopedia.com

Michigan’s cities and counties have made a lot of promises to their workers about retirement.

But when it comes to healthcare, local governments owe more than $7 billion dollars to retirees – money they just don’t have right now.

Michigan State University’s Eric Scorsone has been crunching the numbers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We've finally got the witness list for who's going to be called to testify before Congress next week at a hearing on the EPA's role in the Flint water crisis.

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.”

There were some improvements in test results this year, but the overal picture is still rough.
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.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
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.

The city's bus system has a reputation for running late and being unreliable.
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.

The lawsuits are examples of the how the courts are pulled into campus cases
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.
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.

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