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.   

Andrew Kopietz / writeahouse.org

The Write-A-House project started out with a big, romantic plan: buy abandoned homes in Detroit. 

Fix them up. 

Then give them away to promising writers who commit to live in them for at least two years.

But one break-in and $50,000 in bills later, the reality of rehabbing a house in Detroit is becoming clear. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Update Monday, August 4th, 9:40am: Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins says the water ban is lifted in northwest Ohio and drinking water for 400,000 residents is safe. We'll have more details as they come in.

Sunday, August 3, 2014:   More than 400,000 people in Toledo and surrounding areas are without drinking water for a second day, due to a huge cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie, where the area gets its water supply.  The cyanobacteria, sometimes referred to as blue-green algae, create a dangerous toxin called microcystin, and exposure to the toxin can cause serious health issues. 

On Sunday afternoon, a boat hastily chartered by the National Wildlife Federation cruises over to see the massive cyanobacteria bloom floating near the city of Toledo.  It's hot, and it's a pretty day, but the water looks oddly bright green.

That's the cyanobacteria bloom. The blooms have been appearing for a couple of decades, but they're getting worse.

Toledo Councilman Larry Sykes says he and other officials have been worried about this for a long time.

About 3,300 of the unaccompanied children who crossed the U.S. Mexico border this year have been released to parents or relatives in this country. 

As of early June, nearly 100 of those kids were here in Michigan, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Meanwhile, another 20 or so children will reportedly arrive at a Bay City shelter run by Wellspring Lutheran Services later this month.

They’re supposed to stay in the Bay City facility for just a short amount of time, somewhere in the range of one to two months.   

Chris Shannon is the mayor of Bay City.

He says emotions in his town are mixed.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Everyone in the packed wooden pews - as well as a dozen or so latecomers who squeezed into the back - in the little Grace Lutheran Church in Vassar, Michigan rose to sing what would serve as the evening's main hymn: 

"This land is your land, this land is my land.

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. 

Supporters of the Michigan Green Party visit the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department.
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.

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.

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

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.

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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hankster123/4886606351/in/photolist-btHRpL-cGwrgA-8rP8PD-5vb8uB-6b4d52-5m5uQ7-6VysbH-4Nnhwo-5Vk5Ne-5VpqTL-4gqzE8-4j49x3-7Xgmj3-6LwMLL-6LwP8j-4Q7C
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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

http://www.performancenetwork.org/
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.

Inside the Arab American National Museum.
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.  

http://www.broadcenter.org/academy/network/profile/john-covington
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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