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.   

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

Detroit expects to shut off water to about 1,000 households this week, according to the city’s water department.

Earlier this month the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department hung about 3,000 door-hangers, warning people they had 10 days to get on a payment plan with the city, or be shut off.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Detroiters behind on their water bills have a new place to turn for help.

The Heat and Warmth Fund, also known as THAW, has received a $1 million dollar donation to create a new water assistance fund.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

It looks like the toxic bacterial blooms on Lake Erie won't be as bad this summer.

Last August the blooms, which look kind of like algae or pond scum, were dangerous enough that people in Toledo and parts of Michigan couldn't drink their tap water for a few days.

Sal Rodriguez

World-renowned street artist Shepard Fairey has unveiled his new, 180-foot mural in downtown Detroit.

He also opened a new exhibit at the Library Street Collective gallery in the city over the weekend.

Kate Wells

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Ruth Johnson, the Secretary of State, for making it difficult – and sometimes impossible – for transgender people to get a license that accurately reflects their gender.

The policy essentially requires proof of a surgical sex change

If a transgender person wants to change the gender listed on their license or state ID, Johnson’s policy requires them to first amend the gender listed on their birth certificate.

UPDATED AT 7:37 PM on 5/20/15

More scandal today for Aramark, the company that provides food for Michigan's prisons.

A former food supervisor in a Northern Michigan prison is being charged for allegedly trying to hire one prisoner to assault another prisoner, who had reportedly killed one of the supervisor's relatives. 

Michael R. Young worked at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Chippewa County.

Persons with Fungal Infections Linked to Steroid Injections, by State
CDC

 A judge has approved a $200 million settlement for victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012.

It was caused by a Massachusetts pharmacy called the New England Compounding Center, which was making massive amounts of back pain shots in a dirty lab.

G.L. Kohuth / Michigan State University

The state is kicking in $3 million to investigate evidence found from thousands of backlogged rape kits in Detroit.

Some 11,000 abandoned rape kits were found in an old Detroit police evidence locker in 2009.

By now they've all been tested for DNA.

As results come in, a lot of kits are pointing to serial rapists, because the same DNA shows up in multiple kits.

But this is when the real work begins.

user william_warby / Flickr

With water shutoffs in Detroit resuming as early as this week for some 18,000 households, activists say many officials are refusing to consider one possible solution: discounted bills for low-income residents.

Otherwise known as an affordability program, some activists say it’s a better option than the current assistance programs – which offer temporary financial help only after people are already behind on their water bills.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Detroiters owe the city water department millions of dollars in late water bills – at least $47 million, according to a city report back in March.

And that makes rates higher for everybody in the city.

But with shutoffs resuming next week and some 18,000 households in “shutoff status” –  meaning they’re two months behind and owe more than $150 – the city is facing a crucial question.

Andrea Malone has been on and off payment plans for months.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Some 18,000 Detroit households could have their water shut off next week,  less than a year after the city started a program that was supposed to avoid this exact situation.

Payment plans were supposed to keep households from facing shut-offs. But those plans have shown themselves to be a failure.

Matt Picio / Flickr

For years, we've been hearing about a public transportation system that would connect downtown Detroit with three areas: Ann Arbor, Pontiac and Mount Clemens. 

Now, at a kickoff rally in Detroit today, officials announced they'll have those plans ready to go in November, in time to get them on the 2016 ballot.  

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

A group of about a dozen activists rallied in front of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Detroit today.

Last month,an ICE agent fatally shot a 20-year-old black man in Detroit during a police raid. 

Simon Brass / Flickr

The mother of an Ionia County prisoner is suing three prison guards for allegedly allowing her mentally ill son to commit suicide by drinking water nonstop for two hours, despite having placed him on suicide watch.

Kenneth Dalstra, 41, was serving 3 ½ to 75 years for criminal sexual conduct, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

http://www.detroitmi.gov/News/ArticleID/188/Detroit%E2%80%99s-First-Major-Residential-Development-in-Decades-Blends-Historic-Preservation-and-New-Construction-in-Brush-Park#prettyPhoto
City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan today announced what he says is the city's first major housing development in decades.

Some 330 houses, apartments, and retail units will be built in Brush Park, right on the edges of trendy Midtown and Downtown, and should have people living in them sometime in 2017.  

Demand for housing in those areas is booming.

The developers are part of Dan Gilbert’s family of companies.

Ben Carson Twitter / https://twitter.com/realbencarson

Republican Ben Carson formally kicked off his presidential campaign in his hometown of Detroit today, with an event that included a gospel choir, five opera singers from Nashville, and a video ad featuring Mount Rushmore, a soaring bald eagle, and amber waves of grain.  

The retired neurosurgeon and former Fox News contributor is a long-shot candidate in what’s already a crowded primary field.

But he’s hoping he can build on his outsider status, his powerful biography and his tea party popularity.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder rolled out his plan today to overhaul education in Detroit and get Detroit Public Schools out of the deep, deep hole it’s in now.

DPS is reportedly the worst-performing urban school district in the country, with years of falling enrollment and $2 billion in crippling debt.

Kate Wells

Detroit has struck a deal with the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, which gives the company a strip of city-owned land they need in order to build a second bridge span.

The bargain: a land swap between Detroit and Moroun

The three acres surrounding the Ambassador Bridge are currently part of Riverside Park on the city’s southwest side.

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

Last year, 876 people died in Michigan car crashes, according to the state police.

Another 71,000 were injured.  

Some of those injuries were catastrophic, leaving people with lifelong brain damage, in wheelchairs, or hooked up to ventilators.

Robbie Howell / Flickr

Michigan's hospitals say they could be forced to make major cuts to their trauma centers if bills to overhaul the state's no-fault auto insurance law go through.

All Michigan drivers are required to buy no-fault auto insurance. A portion of premiums goes into a fund for unlimited medical care for catastrophic crash victims.

Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr / Flickr

Some 5,000 would-be Detroit homeowners are expected to turn out tomorrow for a mortgage workshop, according to the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

Attendance is the required first step for taking part in a new Detroit mortgage program boasting no down payments, closing costs, or credit checks.

Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick

This time of year, the DNR plants some 2 million pine trees in Northern Michigan in an effort to save what it calls the rarest song bird in North America.

There are some 4,000 Kirtland's warblers in existence, according to the Associate Press, and nearly all of them live in Michigan.

Kate Wells

Right now it's baseball season, and hockey and basketball playoffs are underway.

It's also women's football season.

First of all, yes, if you didn't already know – women's football is at thing.

There’s the Legends Football League, aka the Lingerie Football League. Which is exactly what it sounds like: helmets, cleats, shoulder pads … and push-up bras and bikini bottoms.

Then, on the fully-clothed front, there appear to be two main leagues.

user william_warby / Flickr

Detroit will start shutting off residents' water again on May 1.

Last summer, the city drew international criticism when it shut off water to thousands of households behind on their bills.

That pushed the city to get some 29,000 people onto payment plans so they could avoid shutoffs. But a lot of them are falling behind again.

Starting this week, the city says it's been leaving notices on people's doors warning their water could be shut off. There is more financial help available.

Covering the planned Red Wings arena construction
User: WXYZ-TV Detroit / YouTube

After weeks of delays, Detroit's city council has finally voted to let major construction start on the new Red Wings arena.

The city's been going back and forth on the details of this $450 million arena for months with Olympia Development – which is owned by the Ilitch family, who also own the Red Wings and Little Caesar’s.

Kalamazoo is taking steps to build relationships between its police officers and its community members.
taliesin / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

UPDATE: Highland Park's police chief Kevin Coney has sent out a press release about Officer William Melendez's employment status with department.

It says part-time officer Melendez "has not worked in quite some time, a period exceeding 60 days, [and] shall not return to any role or have any active role within the police department, pending the outcome of the recently charged case."  

The University of Michigan

Billionaire A. Alfred Taubman died Friday at home from a heart attack, according to the Associated Press. He was 91.

He led “an epic American life,” growing up a poor Jewish kid in Detroit, and going on to make a massive fortune by creating the modern shopping mall.

He also survived a major scandal in his later years, when he went to prison for price-fixing.

What’s more, Alfred Taubman was the second-largest donor ever to the University of Michigan.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The Ann Arbor school board has unanimously voted to ban guns on school grounds, less than two months after a man wore a gun to a school choir concert.

Dozens of parents turned out to recent board meetings asking the board members to pass the ban.

But it required lengthy discussion with the board’s legal advisors, because technically, an exception in Michigan law makes it legal for someone with a concealed pistol license to open carry in schools.

Kate Wells

The Michigan Innocence Clinic is asking for a new trial for Davontae Sanford, who in 2007 was a developmentally disabled 14-year-old when he confessed to fatally shooting four people in a house on Runyon Street in Detroit.

Shortly after Sanford was tried as an adult and sentenced to prison, a hit man named Vincent Smothers was arrested and confessed to several murders – including the ones for which Sanford was convicted.

Smothers told police they had the wrong guy.

flickr

A Michigan school district is defending its gun ban in court.

Open carry advocates sued the Clio Area School District back in March. 

That's after a dad with a concealed pistol license was asked to leave his daughter's elementary school for openly carrying a gun.

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