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.   

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Arts & Culture
11:57 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Detroit after dark: a photographer, his dog, and a pickup truck

Bruce Giffin photography

Take a night ride through the city with photographer Bruce Giffin.

Most nights, photographer Bruce Giffin drives a pickup truck around Detroit, his dog Henry riding shotgun.

Giffin doesn't know what he's looking for: a couple kissing on their porch, maybe, or a late-night taco truck.

The results are photographs of Detroit's everyday people and places as many people never see them.

Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells tagged along on one of his night shoots, and brought back this report.

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Education
6:01 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Facing cuts, 'a district like Ann Arbor could go into default'

District spokesperson Liz Margolis says bankruptcy "is not something we want to happen, ever ever. But we're getting close."
GsGeorge WIKIMEDIA Commons

"Something’s going to have to give,” says Liz Margolis, spokesperson for the Ann Arbor school district.

This fall, kids in Ann Arbor are coming back to schools with 34 fewer teaching positions, and nine fewer staff positions.

That means fewer reading intervention specialists, administrators, secretaries, facilities workers and lunchroom staff.

Carving out $8 million from this year’s budget was “severe,” says Margolis.

And it’s already having “direct impacts on our classroom."

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Arts & Culture
5:52 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

ArtPod has musicals, murder, and Motown

This guy is amped for ArtPod. Or, this photo is just a ploy to get you to listen to ArtPod. But which one?!
Avanash Kunnath Flickr

Because you've got to eventually take a break from watching football, listening to football radio, and reading about football online sometime, right?

A little break? For arts?

Ok, then just for you NPR nerds who conform to stereoptype and aren't that into college ball, this one's for you.  

This episode, ArtPod's got a brand spanking new play, a Michigan murder mystery, and a crazy bit of history you didn't know about Motown.

If it helps, Ohio State's ArtPod will be nowhere near this good. If OSU, you know, had an ArtPod. 

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Environment & Science
1:37 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Ann Arbor, facing water contamination, urges state to step up

A government map the water contamination
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card Washtenaw County

As a plume of contaminated ground water keeps expanding in Ann Arbor, the city council wants the state to move faster to protect people from harmful exposure.

To be clear: Ann Arbor drinking water is safe.

But growing swaths of the city’s ground water is no longer a good idea to ingest (and again, the city is NOT getting their water from those areas,) thanks to chemical runoff from years ago.

That chemical compound is 1,4 dioxane and it seeped into ground water between the 1960's and 1980's when a manufacturer stored it in unlined lagoons.

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Politics & Government
3:02 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Bankruptcy judge to rule whether Snyder can be made to testify

Should the Governor have to testify under oath? That's what the judge will decide.
Patricia Drury Flickr

The judge overseeing Detroit's bankruptcy says he'll decide whether Governor Snyder and other state officials have to testify under oath about their decisions leading up to bankruptcy.

Union attorneys say Governor Snyder may have intended to take the city into bankruptcy all along, even before he hired an emergency manager.

If that's true, they say the city couldn't have negotiated with creditors in good faith.

That's a requirement for bankruptcy. 

But the state's attorneys say deposing Governor Snyder isn't relevant to this case.

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Arts & Culture
12:38 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

New play looks at cancer in college

Alex Kip was diagnosed with cancer his senior year in college.
AKip Productions http://akipprod.com/about.html

Love, pot brownies, and the full story here.

Nobody expects to get cancer in college.  

Alex Kip was just 23 when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

But the musical theater major at the University of Michigan was about to get even more bad news.

Young adults are the only cancer patients whose survival rates are not improving.

Now cancer-free, Kip is trying to help others, using what he knows best: theater.

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Education
8:46 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Time's running out to get 5,000 new kids to DPS

DPS built their whole budget on the bet they can lure 5,000 new kids to the district. Now, time is almost up.
User Motown31 Creative Commons

The clock’s running out for the Detroit Public School district.

School starts Tuesday, and DPS officials went into the summer with the hefty goal of recruiting 5,000 new students.

That's an awful lot of new kids, especially given that demographers predict just the opposite. They think DPS will lose students this year, like they have in the past.

It's an important goal for DPS, because even if they have the same number of students as last year, they’ll have to cut $38 million from the budget. 

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Arts & Culture
5:23 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

ArtPod bids farewell to summer & to one of Michigan's great writers

Summer's almost over and we are not happy about that.
farmer64 Morgue File

This time on ArtPod, we say a sad goodbye to one of Michigan’s best writers, and wistfully wave to a summer packed with adventures, music, and general art goodness.  

In today’s lineup:

Elmore Leonard was the freaking man

Detroit lost one of its greats yesterday. We’ve got an appreciation and a look back at the fabulous, game-changing career of the “Dickens of Detroit.”

After that, we’re going to go binge on Justified on Netflix as tribute.   

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Arts & Culture
11:49 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Remembering Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard died yesterday from complications from a stoke.
Linda Solomon HarperCollins Publishers

Detroit lost one of its greats yesterday.

Elmore Leonard, 87, will be remembered as the writer who rehabbed the Western, wrote great bad guys, and saw his stories made into movies like "3:10 to Yuma" and "Get Shorty."

So in honor of one of America’s most prolific crime writer, we're going to take a tip from the man himself: show, don’t tell.

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Arts & Culture
2:18 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

In this Traverse City gallery, strong drinks but "no watercolors of cherries"

Art in the InsideOut gallery
Kate Wells Michigan Radio

If you’re a local in Northern Michigan, especially in a tourist town, you need a few places that are all your own.

That dive bar visitors don’t know. The private beach that’s hidden away.

For Traverse City residents, one place like that is the InsideOut art gallery.

First thing you do there is get a drink at the cocktail bar.

Then, you head to the patio that has no view of the lake (which, hey, no tourists!)

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Law
3:34 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Is Davontae Sanford in prison for a hit man's crimes?

The case is now before the court of appeals.
Ken Mayer Flickr

Hear the full story.

A new chapter in a bizarre murder case is playing out in Detroit.

Six years after four people were gunned down in a drug dealer’s home on the city’s east side, one mother maintains her son is innocent and in prison for a professional hit man’s crimes.

The hit man agrees.

Now, after five years in prison, Davontae Sanford may get another shot at justice.

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Law
6:27 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

The kid or the hit man: who killed 4 people?

Davontae Sanders was a partially blind, developmentally delayed 14-year-old when he was charged with murder.

The Michigan Court of Appeals today heard the case of a 14-year-old boy convicted of four murders.

The court is considering evidence that the now 20-year-old man may be innocent.

In 2007, four people were shot in a Detroit neighborhood.

Police picked up Davontae Sanford, a partially blind, developmentally-delayed 14-year-old.

They held him for questioning without a parent or attorney present.

Sanford confessed and was given decades in prison.

Then, a convicted hit man, Vincent Smothers, said he - not Sanford - committed those murders.

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Politics & Government
6:20 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Detroit to put a price on DIA, Windsor Tunnel and other assets

Peter Martorano Flickr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced today that the city will start figuring out how much its assets are worth.

This comes as the bankrupt city is wrangling with creditors about how much of Detroit’s $11.5 billion unsecured debt will actually be repaid.

Orr also says he’s hiring Christie’s auction house to appraise the city-owned portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection.

It’s tough news to those still holding out hope that the museum will emerge unscathed from the bankruptcy process.

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Politics & Government
6:11 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Would hiking property taxes save Wayne County?

Public trust in government is already low, thanks to projects like the new jail
Wayne County via Wayne County

It's no secret Wayne County is in rough financial shape, with an accumulated deficit nearing $200 million.

County budget officials say a financial review team that could lead to an emergency manager may not be far off.

Yet perhaps all is not lost: those same budget watchers say the county can still get back on the right track.

But their solution is about as politically popular as a property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

Because it IS a proposed property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

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Health
8:36 am
Sat August 3, 2013

Michigan health officials sound the alarm for West Nile Virus

Mosquito
dr_relling Flickr

The first human case of West Nile virus is being reported in Michigan this week.

Last year, the virus killed 17 people in this state.

Here's the good news: There has been lots of rain this year.

It turns out the kind of mosquitos that carry West Nile like dry, hot weather.

The bad news: we're not in the clear yet. August and September are the peak months for mosquitos.

It wasn't until this time last year that Michigan had its first human case in 2012.

"The fact is, we're seeing it in animals, now we're seeing it in humans,” says

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Arts & Culture
1:17 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

The tough road for a small biz in vacationland

Read this before you quit that day job.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Hear the full story above.

On every great vacation, there’s that moment when you think: hey, we should move here! No really, I’m serious this time!

We’ve all been there.   

Heck, northern Michigan is littered with B&Bs, cafes and art galleries run by vacationers who never left.

New ones open every summer. And every summer, some of them go bust.

So we hunted down some of the folks who are actually courageous (or crazy) enough to make the leap.

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Politics & Government
2:18 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Detroit firefighters, police show up for bankruptcy hearings

user: jodelli Flickr

In Detroit today, firefighters and police came out to watch the first day of federal bankruptcy hearings.

They know their pensions could be on the line.

Detroit’s pension funds are $3.5 billion short, according to the emergency manager.

So pensions will likely be slashed as the city tries to dig out of debt.

But some Detroit employees are filing to block the bankruptcy.

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Arts & Culture
5:24 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

ArtPod heads up north

Where to go? What to read? ArtPod's got you covered.
Bug_girl_mi Flickr

There’s nothing ArtPod hates more than humidity. Don’t even mention the word “frizz” right now.

And since so much of southern Michigan swings between flash flooding to feeling like a sauna, ArtPod is doing what all true Michiganders do: heading up north.

Specifically, Petoskey. And not just for the pretty bay views or the $5 kiddie-size gelato.  

Petoskey has a humming arts community in its own right, one that draws artists and art buyers from across Michigan, even out of state.

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Education
2:38 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Detroit Public Schools pinning budget hopes on 5,000 new students

MLK High School
DPS

Consider this some free advertising.

Right now, Detroit Public Schools is proposing its most optimistic budget in years:

  • No teacher layoffs
  • The return of after-school programming, at least in some schools
  • Minimal increases in class sizes
  • New parenting resources
  • A little more money for instruction: about $2 million in total 

But it’s all riding on whether the district can lure 5,000 students away from competitors.

That’s a big bet to make.

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Education
1:26 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Wayne State says no choice but to raise tuition beyond state cap

The school is raising tuition 8.9%.
User: ellenm1 flickr

You’ll have to pay an additional $900 a year to be a Wayne State student next school year.

The university is raising tuition by 8.9%.

That’s especially tough on a student body that’s almost entirely from in-state.

And it’s a dramatic move for the school.

This year, every other public university in Michigan is playing along with a state deal: schools get access to an extra pool of state money, if they cap tuition hikes at 3.75%.

But that incentive isn’t enough to make up for deeper cuts from the state.   

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