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.   

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

By Friday afternoon, more than 3,000 people had submitted online comments about the State Board of Education’s new recommendations for how schools should support LGBT kids.

These are just draft recommendations, and they’re purely optional.

Here’s a sampling of what the board is suggesting schools do to create a safer space for transgender students:

Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is updating its policies on student sexual assault and misconduct, following a campus survey last summer in which 20% of female students say they had a "nonconsensual sexual experience."

Over the last year, University officials say they've been hearing from students about the school’s policies – what they’re concerned about, which rules confuse them, and what changes they’d like to see.

Here's what the University is saying so far about the changes, which will be released April 6th and go into effect in July.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A $50 million emergency spending bill to keep Detroit Public Schools open through the rest of this school year has cleared the state House.

The district’s emergency manager says without an immediate infusion of cash, DPS probably won’t be able to pay teachers and staff after April 8th.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where Republican Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says he intends  to hold a vote on this $50 million bill, or a larger DPS bailout, sometime next week.

Kate Wells

Firefighters are one step closer to getting the cancer coverage they were promised by the state more than a year ago.

The senate approved $1 million today for the First Responder's Fund, which is supposed to cover firefighters who get job-related cancer.

Lawmakers created that fund in 2014 but never put any money in it.

Meanwhile, firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer and thinking they’re covered – only to find out they’re not, when their worker’s comp claims are denied.  

opioids, prescription drugs, vicodin
Sharyn Morrow/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan health centers are getting $3.4 million from the federal government to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.

It’s part of a new federal push to get more people into treatment.

"All across rural and urban American, the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues we face," says Kathleend Falk, regional director of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Humans Services. "We lose far too many of our fellow Americans to drug overdoses.”

Falk says in the six  Great Lake states alone, more than 8,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2014. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint has just about a month left until its federal emergency declaration expires.

That declaration lets the state buy bottled water, filters and testing kits through the federal government -- with the feds covering 75% of the cost.

The federal "emergency" declaration is really designed for short-term crises, like right before a hurricane strikes, when a city has to stock up on emergency generators or bottled water.  

Still, the state is asking for an extension of this emergency declaration for Flint through mid-August.

Sign in Flint, Michigan.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The state's holding focus groups in Flint, trying to figure out whether people are getting the information they need about the water crisis.

And so far, the answer is pretty clear: they’re not.

Harvey Hollins is running the state's response efforts in Flint. And he says the first focus group (which was held this week) was pretty unsettling.  

He says people suggested the state create a help line to call with questions about the water and where to get filters – even though 211 has already been offering that kind of information.

flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A suburban Detroit judge accused of sending poor people to jail if they couldn't immediately pay court fines has agreed to end that practice.

Courts aren't allowed to force indigent people to choose between paying a fine they can't afford, or going to jail – a practice that’s called “pay or stay.”

But the ACLU of Michigan says Eastpointe Judge Carl Gerds III was routinely doing just that.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

More than 200 firefighters rallied at the state Capitol in Lansing today.

They're pushing hard to finally win the cancer coverage the state promised them more than a year ago.

That’s when the Legislature created a first responder’s fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer – except, lawmakers never put any money in that fund.

Since then, the state union says at least 8 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer, one of whom died last month.  

Rocky2016.com

If you’re voting in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, your choices on the ballot are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley (who suspended his campaign) … and a guy named Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente.

So, who is that last guy?

De La Fuente, according to his campaign website, is a San Diego businessman and car dealership owner.

Michigan State University

The person in charge of charting a new academic course for the Detroit Public Schools is a familiar face in the district.

Former federal judge Steven Rhodes, the district’s emergency manager, has named Alycia Meriweather as the new interim superintendent

Merriweather is a lifelong Detroiter and DPS graduate who “started with the Detroit Public Schools as a four-year-old with Head Start,” Meriweather said during a sometimes-emotional press conference Monday.

clarkmaxwell

Firefighters will rally in Lansing on Tuesday as they push for cancer coverage that lawmakers promised them more than a year ago – but never delivered.

In 2014, the legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer. Governor Snyder signed it in January 2015, noting there was still no funding designated for the fund, and instructing lawmakers to find money for it.

But more than a year later, there’s still no money. So firefighters are getting cancer, thinking they’re covered, only to find out they’re not.

Voting sign
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It's finally our turn, Michigan! All the debates. All the months and months of nonstop news coverage. Now, we get to vote. 

So here's 3 things you need to know about how to vote on Tuesday, and what to expect once you get there.

1) You can vote for Democrats or Republicans, regardless of your own party. 

Technically Michigan has a "closed" primary, but you can vote for either a Republican or a Democratic nominee, regardless of your own party affiliation.  

Tim Wang / Flickr

DTE Energy wants to raise electricity rates for residential customers, and it's getting push back from the state's Attorney General.

Utilities companies can ask for rate hikes once every year, but that doesn't mean they'll get them. The Public Service commission has to give the ok.

And Attorney General Bill Schuette says DTE's latest request is unreasonable. It would raise rates about $7 a year for the average residential customer – but Schuette points out, DTE just got a rate hike approved last year.

Eastern Michigan University
krossbow / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Fred Klein says he couldn’t wait to call Eastern Michigan University and tell them the good news.

After two years, the Ann Arbor teacher’s union was ending their boycott on taking EMU student teachers into their classrooms.

That ban was intended to protest EMU’s regents, who authorized the charter of the Education Achievement Authority, a controversial school district in Detroit.

Klein, the vice president of the Ann Arbor teacher’s union, says the student teacher boycott was always a tough call.

clarkmaxwell

Firefighters could finally get the cancer coverage they were promised by state lawmakers more than a year ago.

The Legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters in 2014. Governor Snyder signed the law in January 2015, telling lawmakers to find money for the fund.

More than half of all states already offer some kind of cancer coverage to firefighters, who have elevated risks for several cancers. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

You know when you've got $20 to spend on groceries, and you need paper towels?

So you head over to that aisle and, of course, it's cheaper per-roll to to buy the huge bulk package. But you just don't have $17 to drop on paper towels this week. That $20 needs to buy food, too.

So you buy the 4-package roll, or if you're really strapped, the single roll.

That's a common - and surprisingly costly - cycle poor people get trapped in, according to researchers from the University of Michigan.

Wikimedia Commons

High-achieving kids in Ypsilanti and Southfield: The University of Michigan wants you.

The school is trying to boost its diversity on a campus where just roughly 4% of the student body is African-American, and where many in the black student body say they often feel out of place or even downright unwelcome.

With a state ban on affirmative action at public universities, Michigan is trying something new: it’s called Wolverine Pathways, and it’s set up as a dedicated pipeline for high-performing kids in 7th and 10th grade from these two cities.

michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder is now officially scheduled to testify before Congress on March 17 about the Flint water crisis.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding two new rounds of hearings about Flint, after an initial hearing in early February.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, did not invite Snyder to testify at the previous hearing, despite urging from Democrats.

Snyder’s office recently released a statement saying he’d called Chaffetz, asking to testify.

Sanofi Pasteur / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan health officials say they've confirmed the state's first case of the Zika virus.

An Ingham County woman experienced Zika-like symptoms after traveling to Barbados. 

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, left, and Bernie Sanders, right.
berniesanders.com/hillaryclinton.com

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are talking about the Flint water crisis a lot these days – but we wanted to know: Is any of this campaign attention actually helping the people who can’t drink their unfiltered tap water?

Here’s what the campaigns say they're doing in terms of real, practical efforts to help Flint residents.

Clinton: fundraising, campaigning, and all over the issue   

Under Michigan law, Governor Snyder is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Flickr user Michigan Municipal League / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Snyder says he now wants to testify before congress to “explain mistakes made by water quality experts that led to the current crisis, and detail the emergency response in place to help residents recover,” according to a statement released Friday.

Snyder’s office says he called the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to ask for the opportunity to testify.

Snyder Press Secretary Dave Murray says the governor will use the opportunity to call for a national conversation on infrastructure.

www.defense.gov

When Michigan firefighters get work-related cancer, they’re supposed to be covered by the state. But that’s not happening. 

Because more than a year after lawmakers created a cancer-coverage fund for firefighters, they still haven't put any money in it. 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Luke Waid says he was stunned when he got the results from his daughter Sophia's 1-year check-up.

It was August 2014, and a blood test revealed a lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers 5 "high." 

Six months earlier, Sophia's blood-lead level had been fine, Waid says. Then, in April of 2014, Flint started pumping its drinking water from the Flint River. Four months after that, her lead level spiked.

The following month, in September, Waid says doctors did a follow-up test, just to be certain. Same result.

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.

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.

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