Lindsey Smith

West Michigan Reporter/Producer

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Lindsey has worked as a reporter at radio stations in both West and Southeast Michigan, and her work has been recognized by both the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and Michigan AP. She's a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and Specs Howard School of Media Arts.

Q&A

What has been your most memorable experience as a reporter?
Reporting from a hot air balloon was one of the scariest. Trying to bubble-wrap my recording equipment to come with me down a giant waterslide took the most preparation and ingenuity. Mostly I remember people; so many downtrodden, truthful, funny, inspiring, regular-everyday people. Nearly everyone I meet and talk to shapes how I view life in at least the slightest way.

What is your favorite program on Michigan Radio?
"Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me." It's hilarious. "On the Media" is a very, very close second.

What do you like best about working in public radio?
Mostly, I'm proud of what we do and the stories we produce.

What modern convenience would it be most difficult for you to live without?
The internet! What did anyone do without it! I mean, I remember life without it, but it's amazing how much I rely on it every day.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
It depends on the season. I love wakeboarding in the summer, hanging out on the beach, going on long walks with my dog Lola, grilling. In the winter I wish I could hibernate. I do enjoy snowboarding and movies and warm drinks indoors then.

What are people usually very surprised to learn about you?
If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise!

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Despite a previous state takeover, a slew of surprise costs and a dramatic drop in student enrollment have led to a new budget deficit for the public school district in Highland Park.

A multi-million dollar deficit prompted a state takeover of Highland Park Public Schools in 2012. The state appointed emergency manager restructured the district’s deficit into long-term debt with over $7 million in emergency loans from the state.

The manager created a new charter school district to educate students. In 2012  The Leona Group LLC., a charter company,was hired to run the entire district for an annual fee of $780,000.

But now the district is running a deficit again.

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids police used to use a state law outlawing panhandling to arrest hundreds of people over the years. But a federal judge struck down that law as too broad, saying it impinged on free speech rights.

So now the city is trying to narrow when, where, and how people can ask for money.

Panhandling from drivers on the side of the road, for example, would be illegal.

Grand Rapids’ attorney Catherine Mish says it can cause accidents and be dangerous for the person asking for money. Mish says a person panhandling was hit by a car just this week.

gophouse.org

Later this morning a legislative oversight committee will discuss a new secretive cell phone tracking device the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is using.

Not much is known about the device.

It can reportedly trick nearby cell phones into providing data to the police. It can be helpful in tracking people, like missing children and fugitives, but it’s not clear how much more information is collected and what the sheriff’s department does with it.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Like a lot of counties in Michigan, Kent County uses money out of its general fund to pay for services for veterans who live there. Right now that amounts to $8 per veteran. As a comparison, Oakland County spends more than three times as much per veteran. Livingston County spends nearly seven times as much.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

If you’re a fly fisherman, there are few rivers this side of the Rocky Mountains that compare with Michigan’s Au Sable River. There’s a particular nine-mile stretch east of Grayling known as the Holy Waters.

The water is clean, cold, easy to wade through, and packed with more than 100 pounds of wild trout per acre.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A popular summer spot in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is closed indefinitely. Scientists are trying to figure out the mystery of why some dangerous sinkholes have been developing in the dunes.

Wyoming Upper Green River Valley / Flickr

Today lawyers with Michigan’s Attorney General’s office will begin outlining the state’s case against energy giants Chesapeake Energy and Encana Oil & Gas USA.

The allegations stem from an auction for drilling leases on state land three years ago.

In May 2010 an auction of drilling leases brought in $178 million. That’s almost as much as all the revenue from all of Michigan’s leases of public land from 1929 to now, combined.

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State law gives a special board up to $50 million to loan to schools in financial distress. The long-term, low-interest loans are supposed to help school districts restructure and pay down their debt.

But it appears $50 million isn’t going to be enough.

With the loans the Emergency Loan Board issued Monday, it's nearly reached that cap, four years ahead of schedule. Treasury Spokesman Terry Stanton says the board has issued $48.5 million to schools so far.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A state board is likely to make a decision today on a controversial rule that would end certain legal protections for people raising chickens and other livestock in residential areas.

The rule change would take protections under the state’s Right to Farm Act away from people living in residentially zoned areas. The changes would not outlaw backyard chickens and other livestock.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 5:10 p.m.

Mosaica Education and Muskegon Heights Public School Academy have come to a mutual agreement to end their working relationship.

“This was a difficult decision for us and our board,” Mosaica Chief Executive Officer Michael Connelly said in a written statement.

“We are very proud of the academic turnaround we were able to achieve under the leadership of Alena Zachery-Ross, our regional vice president and the superintendent for the system,” he said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Some records about gun owners in Michigan would be shielded from the public under a bill that passed the state Senate Thursday. The bills had overwhelming bipartisan support. Only two state senators voted against the package.

If passed, the measure would change who can access information, like a person’s name and address, from pistol license applications and a database that tracks pistol histories.

Republican State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, introduced the bill to protect what he calls gun owners’ “fundamental right" to privacy.

“When it comes time for releasing information on gun ownership, we just believe that that deserves a different level of protection and it shouldn’t be public information,” Pavlov said.

The public and the press would lose that access, but police would not.

“If there’s suspicion of a crime that a gun was used in, those are all ways that you can access the system. So law enforcement, certainly they need it for law enforcement purposes. It’s not something that needs to be public information on the streets,” Pavlov said.

The bill comes in response to a New York state newspaper that published information about registered gun owners there. He wanted to prevent it from happening in Michigan.

The bill now heads to the state House.

R/V Laurentian NOAA / Creative Commons

You’ve probably heard about the big bad invasive silver or bighead carp, also known as Asian carp.

But there’s another invasive fish that’s roughly a third the size of the carp that’s already done a lot of damage to Great Lakes fisheries. Alewives have been a particular menace in Lakes Michigan and Huron. The invasive fish cause all kinds of problems for native lake trout.

Alewives scarf down lake trout eggs and very young fish. But even once lake trout grow big enough to turn the tables and eat the alewives, the invasive fish still cause problems.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been nearly four years since the Enbridge Energy oil spill. Enbridge has already recovered more than a million gallons of heavy tar sands oil from the Kalamazoo River. But federal regulators have ordered the company to clean up another 180,000 gallons that’s mixed in with sediment on the river bottom.

Now that spring is here, work is underway again.

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith says dredge work is nearly finished on a section of river near Battle Creek. Workers will remove Ceresco Dam closer to Marshall this summer.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has been running a deficit since 2007. A review in 2011 found financial stress, but the district was in the middle of making changes to save money. No emergency manager was appointed under a previous version of the law.

But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says BHAS isn’t making enough progress on the deficit.

The deficit is $14.7 million. For perspective, its revenues this year were $31.8 million.

Sheila Steele / Creative Commons

The unemployment rate in Grand Rapids is back where it was before the Great Recession.

But workers in Michigan’s second-largest labor market are making less money. Grand Rapids had the second-worst earnings decline of the top-100 labor markets in the country since 2001, down 6.6%. Only Detroit was worse at 7.2%.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights' charter school board acknowledged at a meeting Monday night it doesn’t know how it’ll fund operations for the rest of this school year. But it is reassuring the community it’ll figure something out by next week at the latest.

“As soon as we have something I will share it with you. That’s a promise,” Muskegon Heights Academy’s school board president Arthur Scott said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Muskegon Heights charter school district owes the company that’s operating its schools a little more than $2 million. That’s according to Mosaica Education’s CEO. 

The new charter district was created in Muskegon Heights when severe cash problems prompted a state takeover of the traditional school district by an emergency manager in 2012. Now the charter district is having cash flow problems of its own.

Nuclear Regulatory Agency

Federal regulators are holding a private meeting with officials from DTE Energy today to discuss a security issue at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan.

Details are scarce, due to security concerns.

But Viktoria Mytling with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says an issue was discovered during a security assessment that showed vulnerability.

“Specifically, this vulnerability would have allowed unauthorized or undetected access into the plant – to the protected area of the plant,” Mytling said.

Kendall College of Art and Design

The president of Kendall College of Art and Design, David Rosen, announced his resignation Thursday afternoon. It’s not clear why he resigned.

Students and staff rallied in support of Rosen in person and on social media.

Kendall is a college within Ferris State University. FSU spokesman Marc Sheehan says the reactions are “completely understandable.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is asking the state to front $191,000 to cover paychecks that are set to go out this Tuesday.

It’s the second time this month the district has asked for an advance.

The advance would come out of the district’s state aid payment April 20. Earlier this month the state advanced $231,000.

State treasury officials say the district typically gets roughly $455,000 a month after debt obligations.

School board officials have previously declined requests for comment from Michigan Radio. Reports out today say board members also declined to comment to reporters at the special board meeting today, which lasted approximately five minutes.

Charter company Mosaica Education is running the district. The company’s CEO has not returned repeated requests for comment this week.

Mosaica’s Regional VP of Operations Alena Zachery-Ross says advancements for struggling school districts aren’t completely uncommon. She says the district is working on a plan to meet payroll for the rest of the year but couldn’t comment on the details of those negotiations.

Tulane Public Relations / Creative Commons

More parents and grandparents are setting up savings accounts to cover college expenses for the next generation, according to a national report released today.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State officials and the Muskegon Heights School Board are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to pay staff for the rest of this school year, although the district’s emergency manager is “confident” they’ll work something out.

Doc Searls / Creative Commons

An inland lake north of Muskegon that was once one of the most polluted places surrounding the Great Lakes is making big progress. Most of the pollution in White Lake was caused by a chemical company that dumped waste into the water decades ago.

Efforts to clean the leftover chemicals from the environment have been underway since the late 1980s.

Randy Knauf / Creative Commons

A new state law encourages oil companies to go back to oil wells that are considered tapped out and extract more oil.

So-called “enhanced recovery projects” are relatively new in Michigan. In fact, there’s only one company that’s using the technique.

The process recycles carbon dioxide that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere and pumps it down into existing oil wells. The pressure forces more oil to the surface. Proponents say the process makes better use of existing oil wells because the oil couldn’t be recovered without the technique.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters will decide in August if businesses should get out of paying taxes on equipment each year. 

Michigan’s personal property tax applies to all kinds of things: Carmakers pay the tax on heavy machinery, restaurants pay it on ovens and dishwashers. It doesn't matter if the equipment is new or old. The tax amounts to several hundred million dollars each year.

The effort to repeal the personal property tax was bi-partisan. A previous version replaced only a portion of the lost revenue to local governments.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 4/2/14:

An attorney for the MHPSA board says all employees have been paid as of today. He said there was a "glitch" in payroll but declined further comment on this story at this time.

Original post 4/1/14:

The state is fronting $231,000 to the charter school district in Muskegon Heights so it can pay its employees. Teachers and staff didn’t get paid like they were supposed to on Monday.

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was set up in June 2012 when the old school district there went broke.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been a couple of roller coaster years for the state’s fruit growers.

Michigan apple growers had the most dramatic ride. 80-degree weather in March 2012, followed by multiple freezes caused total crop failure that fall, the worst since 1945.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is headed to Europe this weekend. It’s the second trade mission he’s taken to Germany and Italy since taking office. He’s also taken three trade trips to Asia.

“I think everyone acknowledges the world is only becoming more global,” Snyder said.

Snyder says he’ll focus on the automotive and manufacturing industries during this weeklong trip.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood / U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

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