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.   

The Ann Arbor District Library wants a new building downtown.
AADL / Facebook

Voters in Ann Arbor rejected taxes for public art and a new downtown library. 

People feel like they already pay a lot of property taxes in Ann Arbor.  And while they’re proud of their reputation as a cultured community, they just weren't willing to tack on a couple new millages.

One would have paid for public art. The city's currently funding art installations out of the budget for capital projects. Even some city officials say it's a weird, inflexible system. 

And voters also turned down a $65 million rebuild of the downtown library.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A Wayne County judge says the ACLU can move ahead with its lawsuit against Highland Park schools.

That suit claims children in Highland Park are being denied the "right to read," and that the state is ultimately responsible.  It's getting national attention for what could be wide repercussions. 

Lawyers for the ACLU say the state and the district knew about major problems, like less than 10 percent of Highland Park middle and elementary students testing at grade level in reading or math.  In reading alone, they're often four to eight grade levels behind.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

What's being billed as the Midwest version of the Appalachian trail (albeit a…flatter version) is the subject of a conference in Saugatuck next week.

Planners will discuss a multi-state, 16-hundred-mile trail route along Lake Michigan.

Representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois say a lot of the needed trails and roads are already built or in the planning process.

What's missing are camp sites, access points, and marketing. Dave Lemberg is a geography professor at Western Michigan University. He’s also  the conference organizer. 

Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

The presidential candidates are fighting for every last vote between now and Tuesday. But it’s a totally different story if you’re a congressional candidate in Michigan.

Thanks to new district maps, almost every seat will be delivered on a silver platter. As Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells reports, it means this year, your vote matters a whole lot less.

You could see this as a good thing. Now voters don’t have to learn a lot of unneccesary information…like who the candidates are.

University of Michigan

How do you like them apples? Once again, the University of Michigan gets the nerd bragging rights for receiving more Fulbright Grants than any other school this year.

Forty Michigan students received the grants, a school record. Harvard’s in second with 31.

Besides the ego boost, Michiganders get to work in dozens of countries, researching everything from healthcare to Chinese sculpture.

Andrea Ubriel Goldner is studying landscape architecture in Morocco.

Steve Losher lives in Barry county, and he's worried. So worried, he and the rest of the citizens in the non-profit group called the Michigan Land Air Water Defense are suing the state. 

They're upset about what they believe could happen once the Department of Natural Resources auctions off the mineral rights to gaming areas in Barry and Allagen counties. It's a totally typical auction - the DNR does this kind of thing twice a year since about 1920. 

flickr - photodu.de

Updated:  4:48 p.m.

A Windstream spokeswoman says service to all customers has been restored, as of 3:30 today.

Customers of the company lost their phone service this morning, after multiple problems that happened on the same day.

Spokeswoman Erin Ascione says first, a key computer card that controls phone service failed.  The company is looking into why.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Here's one of those headlines that'll probably confirm your hunch:

Weather-wise, this January through September was the most extreme the country’s ever experienced, ever since we started keeping records. 

Let's just flip back through the 2012 calendar, shall we?

First, there was the winter-that-wasn't. Meteorologist Jeff Masters is based in Ann Arbor and is a big name in the weather-blog world.

"It started with the non-winter of 2012. It was one of the warmest Januarys and Februarys on record."

He says that warm winter led into a stormy spring, with a big tornado in March.

"Which ripped through Dexter, Michigan, causing a lot of damage there. And in addition, in March we had summer in March."

user Laura4Smith / Flickr

Over 10 years, Michigan could save a billion dollars and get more than 600,000 previously uninsured people health coverage.

That's the upside of expanding Medicaid in Michigan, according to a new study from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) in Ann Arbor. 

The federal government can't force states to expand their programs, but they are offering big incentives: for 10 years, the feds will pick up 100% of the costs of covering newly-eligible Medicaid patients, as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

Photo Courtesy of the Detroit Children's Choir

From potters to puppeteers, there are some very relieved artists in Detroit this week.  More than 60 of the city's cultural groups are splitting a $4 million grant from the Kresge Foundation.

While four million bucks spread across 60 groups may not sound like a lot, it could actually be what keeps the lights on for some of them. Especially teeny groups, like the Detroit Children’s Choir.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Eighty percent of Detroit parents say they do not believe the city's public schools are the best choice for their child. But they’re split on the other options as well.

A new survey from the Detroit News and the Thompson Foundation asks Detroit parents how they feel about their school choices.

Only one in five parents picked DPS as the best for their kid. But even with the recent increase in school options - charter, private, public schools outside the city - none was a clear winner.

Oakland County Michigan

2012 just may go down as the year of election fraud in Michigan.  After scandals involving Jase Bolger and Thad McCotter, now it's the case of the two John Scotts.

The elder Scott is the Republican commissioner of Oakland County. He says this summer he heard about another John Scott, this one a 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University college student,  who was gathering signatures to get on the ballot as an independent. 

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan stopped in southeastern Michigan yesterday. His visit comes as a new poll shows Republicans closing in on the President’s lead in this state.

It’s the first time either member of the Republican ticket has visited this fall, and thousands lined up in the chilly evening weather at Oakland University campus in Rochester for the chance to see Ryan.

Every woman sees those skinny, photo-shopped models in magazines, and it probably makes us all little crazy.  But some women internalize that pressure more than others - and your genes could be the reason. 

A growing number of studies are linking eating disorders to genetics, but a new study from Michigan State University is the first to find that an early indicator of eating disorders - namely, how much of the "thin-ideal" a woman buys into - could also have a genetic component.  

artprize.org

Start practicing your drum rolls, people. 

It's ArtPrize's big night, with some $560,ooo ready to be handed out to the winners in downtown Grand Rapids this evening.  

With voting closed as of midnight today, let's go over the rules one last time: the public votes for one set of winners, and a jury selects their own favorites. Organizers are hoping there'll be some overlap, as they're trying to keep the more avant-garde artists involved in ArtPrize, and not just the big crowd-pleasers. 

Doug Coombe

It's opening night for ArtPrize! The Musical.

“Greetings! I am your humble narrator,” booms a baritone straight out of The Lion King. “My friends, I know it’s hard to recall, but once there was a day with no ArtPrize!”

Just for a moment, let’s reflect: how many other things do you know that didn’t exist four years ago, but have now given locals enough to love and hate and just generally send up that they’ve got enough material for a one-hour twenty-minute original musical?

Natalie Kolb / Image used with permission of The State News

Update: September 27, 2012 1:15 pm 

The Ingham county prosecutor won't press any charges in the alleged assault and hate crime involving MSU student Zachary Tennen - and Tennen's family supports that call.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — No charges will be brought following an investigation into an assault on a Michigan State University student who claimed he was punched and had his jaw broken because he's Jewish, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Kurt Stepnitz / Michigan State University News

After a year's deployment in Afghanistan, 600 members of Michigan's National Guard are coming home. They'll join the ranks of 19,00 local Guardsmen and women who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this particular unit will soon embark on a new mission. And this time, they're bringing their families.

For 3 years, the veterans, their spouses, and children will be part of a Michigan State University study on how families cope with life after combat.

FreeAmir.org

The family of a Flint-area Marine veteran who's been jailed in Iran for more than a year, says time is running out for the family to reunite.

The Marine's father has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, and wants pressure raised on the Iranian president while he’s in New York this week. 

Amir Hekmati is still being held in Iran on charges of spying for the US. Both his family and the US government say he is not a spy.

Now Amir's father, Dr. Ali Hekmati, has a brain tumor and his prognosis is grim.

University of Michigan

It's the largest gift in the art school's history, and believed to be one of the biggest gifts to any art school (perhaps in first place: Detroit's College for Creative Studies, with a $50 million gift from the Ford family in 2006). 

The money is coming from two donors, Penny and E Roe. Stamps (that name will sound familiar to Ann Arbor residents: they also sponsor the Stamp Lecture Series in town).

The art school will now be called the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.

Kate Wells

Whether it's your show tunes-belting grandma, your Grand Rapids teacher getting Liberian schools named in her honor, or busted graffiti artists using their talents for good, this week Art Pod is a leeetle obsessed with the stories YOU tell us. So check it out, and keep those stories coming. 

Kate Wells

Justice still hasn’t been done in the case of a fatal police shooting of a mentally ill man in Saginaw this summer.

That was the message at a community forum this week, where some 200 residents came out to express frustration with local law enforcement, and with the county prosecutor for declining to press criminal charges against the officers. 

Among the mostly African American crowd at the forum, the primary question seemed to be: why was so much lethal force used on July 1st, the day Milton Hall was shot by police 11 times?

Photo courtesy of Jackie Ladwein

This next story is about an epic friendship between a white, 76-year-old Grand Rapids teacher, and the driven Liberian boy she inspired 50 years ago when she was a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Their bond has survived hunger, poverty, and a brutal civil war. And it’s created ripples across Liberia, leading to the country’s first school for social workers . Now, it’s reuniting both friends back here in Michigan.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

They called it the “Black Eden.”

From the 1920’s to 60’s, tens of thousands of African Americans poured into the resort town of Idlewild, Michigan. They came to escape steaming summers in segregated cities, and to see some of the greatest musicians of the age.

Kate Wells

Vice President Joe Biden took the spotlight at Detroit’s Labor Day parade. It's one more sign that the auto bailout is shaping up as a central theme of the Obama-Biden campaign.

Last week Republican nominee Mitt Romney asked Americans if they were better off today than four years ago. Now comes part of the Democrats’ response: you sure are if you’re an auto worker.

Cecelia Cichan shows a tattoo of an airplane she has on her wrist. She speaks about being the sole survivor of the crash of NW flight 255 out of Detroit in a documentary. WDIV aired clips of that documentary.
screen shot / WDIV

Filming has wrapped on a documentary featuring the only survivor of the 1987 plane crash near Detroit.

Twenty-five years after Northwest Flight 255 killed some 150 passengers, Cecelia Cichan is telling her story publicly for the first time.

She was just four years old when she survived the crash that killed her parents and brother. Now she and 13 other lone survivors of commercial crashes are the focus of the film entitled "Sole Survivor."

taliesin / Morgue File

Two months after Saginaw police fatally shot a mentally-ill man, his family and community are still calling for answers.

On July 1st, Milton Hall was gunned down in a parking lot during a confrontation with police. It was captured on a cell phone video and made national headlines, with some media reporting the officers fired 46 times.

Hall reportedly held a knife, though the video appears to show he was several feet away when police opened fire.

JoJan / wiki commons

Construction starts today  on a new exhibit at Michigan's Holocaust Memorial Center. It will showcase what's likely one of the last existing Nazi railway cars.

Millions of European Jews were transported to concentration camps in these boxcars.  Allied Forces later commandeered the trains.  That's according to Stephen M. Goldman, the museum's director.

imma / http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/219775

Maybe you've seen a note on your electric bill, saying some of your payment goes towards green energy initiatives. It's to help explain - and, just maybe, stave off frustration about - double-digit increases in the last few years.  

But green energy aside, all these rising rates have some out-of-state electric companies seeing a business opportunity. They’ve joined with several Michigan businesses to form the group Energy Choice Now, which put out a new study out this week.

danielito / http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/170485

It seems like agriculture in Michigan just can't catch a break. First the drought, now a growing labor shortage.

The industry is desperately seeking highly skilled workers with 4 year degrees. Think supply chain managers or grain market analysts. But these days, not enough college students are going into agriculture. 

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