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.   

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

Ypsilanti's city council approved body cameras for police officers at Tuesday night’s meeting in city hall.

Police Chief Tony DeGiusti requested the cameras as part of a series of overdue updates to the department’s deteriorating patrol car cameras, microphones and the DVD burning system police use to make copies of patrol videos for lawyers.

Brady Hoke.
User MGoBlog / Flickr

Update: 6:00 p.m.

This was not an easy choice.

That's what interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett told reporters at the press conference earlier today after announcing that he'd fired head coach Brady Hoke. 

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

As the weather gets colder, warming centers are opening their doors around the state.

In Flint, the Catholic Charities Holy Angels Warming Center runs 24/7, starting today through the end of March.

It’s not intended as a shelter, just a safe place out of the cold where people can get a meal.

But Catholic Charities’ Vicki Schultz says people end up staying permanently over the winter.

The center can fit about 65 people a night and is intended for adults, but last winter was so brutal, 179 kids came in over the season.

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

  State officials are starting to figure out how President Obama's executive action on immigration could play out in Michigan.

Since last year, Michigan's Secretary of State has been giving out drivers licenses to so-called DREAMers, young people brought to the US as kids.

The President's recent executive action means parents of U-S citizens or permanent residents would also be protected from deportation, so long as they've been in the country for five years.

Sam Kim / Flickr

  Speed limits may change for Michigan's rural highways: the legislature is looking at raising them to 80 miles an hour.

State Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford) introduced the bill earlier this month to make 80 mph the new speed limit on all highways designated "rural in nature" by the state police and the transportation department.

But that's still a long ways off - first, the bill has to get approval from the house transportation committee.

And the Michigan State Police will get to weigh in on the idea. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Theresa Ely, a former custodian at Dearborn Heights school district No. 7, is suing her old employer for allegedly covering up asbestos exposure to some staff and students.

According to her lawsuit filed November 25th, Ely and another custodian were instructed in the summer of 2011 to speed up their work by cleaning asbestos-contaminated floor tiles in the schools with abrasive sandpaper, rather than removing the old floor wax with water as originally instructed.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr

Almost 30,000 Michiganders still don't have power after yesterday's wind storms. The dark spots are concentrated in Wayne County, according to DTE.

Of their 180,000 customers who lost power yesterday, all but 22,000 have had it restored.

Meanwhile Consumers Energy says about 6,100 of its customers still don’t have power.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

READERS - PLEASE NOTE: This story was written in the afternoon of 11/25 - and is about the protests that happened during the day. This story was published before the larger protests occurred in the evening.

Small protests continue around Michigan today after news broke last night that a St. Louis County grand jury won’t indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.  

Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr / Flickr

Sixteen people were charged in an indictment unsealed today, for operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme involving losses of $20 million and almost 300 victims around the country.

According to the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, the telemarketing ring called people offering them cheap deals on homes in Detroit, claiming the houses were bank-owned and up for a sale at a price way under their market value.  

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

 Welcome back to ArtPod, the arts-obsessed home for Michigan’s movie, music and book lovers.

Here’s what we're talking about right now:

1)      Matt Jones. The Ypsilanti indie-rocker with a cult following, a great new album (arguably his best yet) and a serious Civil War obsession. We’ll talk with him about alcoholism, getting through a self-destructive phase, depression and making great music with people you love.

2)      But first, let’s go back to a story that was just cool and different and got some press in the papers but nothing that really did it justice.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A new twist in the debate about children’s vaccinations: parents really have no idea how many little kids are not fully vaccinated. 

That’s one finding from a new national poll done by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The majority of parents – 74% to be exact– say they would remove their kids from day care if another child was not up-to-date on vaccines.

But in reality, one in four preschoolers aren’t up to date on their vaccinations, according to the CDC.  

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Between 40,000 and 50,000 classroom kids watched a live high-definition web stream of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra today, according to the DSO.

The symphony says it’s the first concert of its kind, reaching kids across Detroit and Michigan.

Paul Hogle is the DSO’s executive vice president.

"I think there's an opportunity for us to do this for hundreds of thousands of students,” he says, "because the Detroit Symphony Orchestra could become America's orchestra for educational concert programming."

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When students are failed by their school, who is legally responsible? 

Is a basic education a constitutional right?

And if it is, can the courts enforce it?    

These are the questions at the heart of this case, in which the ACLU of Michigan sued Highland Park schools and the state of Michigan, saying students were not taught basic literacy skills.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the ACLU cannot sue the state and the school district on behalf of students – even if those students were “abysmally failed.”

How much does your vote count? Thanks to gerrymandering, it depends on where you live.
Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

So here’s the good news: It could soon be a whole lot easier to make a down payment on a house.

If you’re in the market right now, you’ve probably heard that Fannie Mae wants to start accepting down payments as low as just 3% for conventional loans.

For many households, that’ll make saving enough for a down payment possible in just a couple years, rather than the 12 years it can often take now.

Of course, lower down payments often come with higher monthly mortgage payments.

Beaumont Health System

Doctors, trauma specialists, and some EMS workers are meeting in Detroit today for the annual Detroit Trauma Symposium. 

It’s run by the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University.

Among other things, they're talking about lessons learned from how other states are handling Ebola, and how they’ve prepared to treat it in Michigan.

Update: 11/4/14

You probably know Rob Bliss, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

He’s the guy behind the Grand Rapids lip-dub video, the Pure Michigan sing-along ad, and now, the street harassment video that’s racked up 16 million views on YouTube.

In case you still haven’t seen it, the two minute video follows a young women in jeans and a t-shirt walking through New York. Bliss says they spent 10 hours filming with a hidden GoPro as the actress, Shoshana B. Roberts, endured more than 100 instances of street harassment, including stalking.

Michigan State University / http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-partners-with-detroit-to-investigate-death-scenes/

It sounds like "CSI" meets "Bones." 

The Wayne County Medical Examiner is sending swab samples from dead bodies to Michigan State University researchers.

They're going to run a new kind of analysis in hopes of determining when someone died, whether they touched a weapon, and possibly even where they've been. 

What they’re looking at are the teeny-tiny things that live on our bodies: microbes.

You can’t see them with the naked eye, but we all have bacteria, fungi, and even tiny worms that live on our bodies and form their own ecosystems.

Whitmore Lake Public Schools / https://sites.google.com/a/wlps.net/wlps/

Next week, voters will decide whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the small, struggling district next door: Whitmore Lake.  

And some Whitmore Lake students say this may be the best way to save the small-town schools they love.

The 11th-graders in Jill Henry's advanced-placement government class are bright kids.

Even before they started doing their election projects about this possible annexation, they obviously knew their district was struggling.

After all, the whole district is down to just about 1,000 kids.

It’s $60 million in debt.

user clarita / morguefile

Hundreds of thousands of low income Michiganders are signing up for healthcare coverage under the state's recently expanded Medicaid plan. 

That expansion lets people who are slightly above the poverty line get on Medicaid. 

It was deeply controversial when it was approved in Lansing, largely because of its ties to Obamacare. 

But 100 days after it opened in April, more than 320,000 people signed up.

That's more people than were expected to sign up all year.

Lance McCord

Everyone is freaking out about Ebola right now, even though health experts say there is next to no chance of a widespread American outbreak.

But there will be a different outbreak this year that kills children, puts thousands of adults in the hospital, and sickens 10% of our population: the flu.

Yet the Centers for Disease Control says less than half of all Americans actually get the flu shot, even though it’s safer, cheaper and more accessible than ever before.

So we wondered: why not?

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It's only one study. 

But if it's right, then researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have just proven that Lake Erie is even more vulnerable to toxic bacterial blooms than we thought.

And we don't really know why. 

Don Scavia is one of the study's coauthors. He's a professor at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. 

"So we know that phosphorous loads going into the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily from agricultural sources, is what’s driving these blooms," he says. 

"This is why I hate Ann Arbor's bigotry," one Whitmore Lake parent whispered to her neighbor at an information meeting today to discuss whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the Whitmore Lake school district. 

So yeah, things got a little heated towards the end. 

But the first chunk of the meeting was spent tackling parents' questions about how the logistics and numbers would play out.

Ann Arbor Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte kicked off the event with her argument for annexation: right now, the Whitmore Lake district is barely operating in the black.

Eastern Michigan University isn't the only school in Michigan bucking funding incentives
flickr user krossbow / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Updated:

Black men have some of the lowest graduation rates among college students.

Nationally, just 33% of them finish their degrees within six years.

At Eastern Michigan University, it's even lower: around 18%, according to their numbers from 2004-2006.

“We have [about 1500] black males. We can’t connect with all of them, but we can cast a wide net.”

EMU likes to boast about their diverse student body – one of the “most diverse in the Midwest,” according to the school’s website.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This fall, thousands of college students in Michigan are going through a new kind of training aimed at stopping sexual assaults before they happen.

It’s called "bystander intervention training,” which is exactly what it sounds like: trying to get students to feel comfortable stepping in when they see a potentially shady situation.

It’s ambitious, when you consider what kind of bravery it might take for an 18-year-old to put themselves in the mix when some stranger at a party heads off with a very drunk young woman.

LisaW123 / Flickr

Some forecasters are warning that this coming winter could be a replay of the not-to-be-forgotten winter last year.

Michigan counties are still reeling from the costs of clearing records amount of snow from the roads last winter.

They burned through their road salt stockpiles, and that's caused a shortage – and forced the price of salt through the roof.

It's up to $76 a ton, more than double last year's price.

Roy Townsend is with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

"We're going to still obviously provide the service, clear the snow, do all that.

dailyinvention / Creative Commons

It's a really good year for the 850 family-run apple farms in Michigan.

They're approaching a near-record crop.

It’s thanks in part to the awful winter Michigan had.

It turns out, the cold weather helped the apple trees stay dormant long enough so their spring blooms didn't freeze.

Diane Smith is the executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee.

She says this year’s crop is one of the “cleanest” they’ve seen in years – no bug issues or early blossoming killing the crop off.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

For years, kids have been leaving Benton Harbor schools in droves.

Meanwhile, per-pupil money from the state has been flat. 

Now the school district has signed a consent agreement with the state to wipe out a $15 million deficit.

Ask school board member Joseph Taylor how Benton Harbor schools got here, and he says, simple:

"It's what's called debt. You know, we had an $18 million deficit. We knocked it down some, but the state only gives you so much time. And when that time ran out, we had to consider other options."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Police say they're investigating more than 50 water theft cases across the city.

They say they've already arrested 7 people, including a City Water Department employee who is accused of illegally turning on water for residents.

Flint has some of the highest water rates in the county: an MLive analysis this summer showed that an average resident pays $140 dollars a month, while people in the neighboring town of Burton pay less than $58 a month.

And the city raised its rates again in July.

Jason Lorenz is with the city of Flint.

Half of all college students in the U.S. drop out, according to Michigan State University, and another 25% wind up on academic probation.

It’s part of the research MSU is doing with 10 other big schools to better understand why so many students don’t make it to graduation, and what colleges can do about it.

For low-income and first-generation kids, getting to graduation is harder

Students who are from low income families or the first generation in their family to go to college are more likely to struggle, says MSU provost June Youatt.

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