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.


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!

Chicago 2016 photos / Creative Commons

A Kent County judge has ruled that taxpayers cannot sue school districts and teachers’ unions who agreed not to privatize any employees. The taxpayers say the schools and unions entered an illegal employment contract when the districts agreed not to privatize any employees in exchange for concessions in pay and health benefits. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new Legal Foundation represented the taxpayers in the case.

The judge didn’t disagree with the Mackinac Center, but ruled only the parties in the contract – the unions or the school districts – had standing to file suit. And state law dictates the Michigan Employment Relations Commission must hear any unfair labor practice claims.

Paul Sicilian / Grand Valley State University

Economists at Grand Valley State University estimate last year’s ArtPrize added up to $7.5 million dollars; that’s just a little more than the first ArtPrize in 2009. But the study’s authors say they kept their estimates conservative.

Litandmore / Creative Commons

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants public input about bullying. The commission works to prevent and investigate discrimination complaints under state civil rights laws. It’s holding a series of forums across the state to collect the information in hopes of tackling what they say is a growing problem.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor is one of two finalists for an opening at a school district in New York.


The Air Force announced last week it picked Boeing over rival Airbus to build 179 new planes that refuel other planes while flying. GE Aviation Systems in Grand Rapids will design and build computerized mission control systems for the planes – known as tankers.

GE Aviation Systems General Manager George Kiefer says the contract is a great opportunity for engineers at his company.

“Typically, you’ll end up with – during your career – two or three or four new aircraft programs like this, if you’re lucky.”

Kiefer says the Grand Rapids location will be able to maintain 100 engineering positions thanks to the contract. Over time he says the company will create another 50 jobs. Those new jobs will be spread amongst the group’s facilities in Grand Rapids, Florida and the United Kingdom.

Gentex Corporation

When you think high-tech you probably don’t think about car mirrors. But now you can use your car rearview mirror to open your garage door, see how cold it is outside and call your mom. One of the nation’s leading car mirror manufacturers is Zeeland-Michigan-based Gentex Corporation. New federal safety regulations set to be finalized soon would significantly boost the company’s business.

Gentex designs and builds rearview mirrors with embedded video display; sort of like a TV with picture in picture. The built in screen displays the picture from a tiny camera mounted on the back of a vehicle.  

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

More than a dozen private business leaders are taking steps that would make it possible to merge Kent County and Grand Rapids to a single government. The One Kent Coalition includes more than a dozen lawyers, businessmen, and former elected officials.

Attorney Nyal Deems (former mayor of East Grand Rapids) presented the One Kent proposal to the Kent County Board of Commissioners Thursday. He says the coalition would like to see broader approach to governing the metro Grand Rapids region, rather than a number of smaller municipal governments.

 “All of our flow and economic interaction and cultural and social interaction ignores all those boundaries but governmentally we live by them. It would be good to mirror our communities more to match the way we live and work and function."

Matt Newton / Creative Commons

Although Michigan universities face huge funding cuts from the state, this rate hike has been years in the making. The change will affect a few thousand undergraduates studying at Western’s business school and school of fine arts.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than half a million Michigan kids qualified for free and reduced lunches last year. But only about 1 in 6 of them took advantage of the programs offered during the three month summer break.

By the numbers

  • The nation: 18.5 million children are eligible – 3.3 million (18%) participated
  • In Michigan: 546,000 children are eligible – 92,500 (17%) participated
pawpaw67 / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

Kurtis Garbutt / Flickr

Grand Rapids chef  Brian Gerrity with an idea for an underground supper club called “Fire & Knife” got $2,000 towards that goal.

“I’m a mercenary chef right now, chef for hire. It’s a fancy way of saying I’m unemployed."

He wants to offer a temporary venue where chefs don’t have to worry about normal constraints like food costs holding back their creativity.

Andrew McFarlane / Creative Commons

A new study shows Michigan’s tax incentives for the TV and film industry generated close to 4,000 fulltime jobs last year with an average salary of $53,700.  

Larry Alexander is President & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of several bureaus across the state that helped commission the study.

“Diversifying Michigan’s economy by investing $84.7 million- and generating over a half a billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 4,000 high paying jobs- sounds like a pretty good deal to us.”

Rick Hert heads the West Michigan Film Office. He says talk about limiting the film incentives in the past reached Hollywood and caused some producers decide not to come to Michigan.

 “This is much bigger. This is a new governor of the state of Michigan and his comments are doing more than reverberating, they’re putting a clamp on the future of this industry.”

Hert is thankful the governor didn’t totally remove the incentives, but worries they’ll be too limited to keep attracting producers.

Hert says he understands the state is broke and that legislators have some tough calls to make.

Derek Devries / Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says success depends on two factors. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says the Obama administration should stick to the July deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and make sure the country can continue to build up its own security forces.

The committee’s ranking republican Senator John McCain opposes the deadline.

Levin told a gathering in West Michigan Monday the deadline has helped the Afghanistan police and army exceed recruitment goals. He called a large, effective home-grown security force in Afghanistan “the Taliban’s worst nightmare.”

“Because it would demonstrate that contrary to their propaganda the war against the Taliban is not a war of foreign occupiers seeking control, that it is instead a war that the Afgan people believe in.”

Levin told a crowd in Grand Rapids that President Obama's deadline in July to begin transferring power to the government of Afghanistan has put pressure on the situation in a good way.

Public transportation officials in Grand Rapids are excited about one detail in President Obama’s budget announced this week. A proposed rapid bus transit system in Grand Rapids is one of ten new construction projects that Obama would like to fund in 2012.

Ped Saunders / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids City Commission gave their support to a big motorcycle event scheduled to take place this summer. Organizers of a new big motorcycle rally were able to coax commissioners into supporting a shortened version of the original event.

The largest portion of a former General Motors Plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker is back up for sale. The more than quarter-million-square-foot space was to supposed to become a massive movie studio known as Hangar42.

Sean Ellis / Creative Commons

Organizers want to see a huge event for motorcycle enthusiasts in downtown Grand Rapids this summer. They've made a number of concessions to try and convince the city commission to allow the now 4-day event.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Joseph Cassias once stocked shelves at the Walmart in Battle Creek. He was fired after he tested positive for marijuana. Cassias has an inoperable brain tumor and qualifies as a patient under Michigan’s medical marijuana act.

Holland BPW

The state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment initially denied the air quality permit. That’s because former Governor Jennifer Granholm said the state must consider whether or not a community really needs more power before issuing a permit. An Ottawa County judge ruled that’s not a good enough reason to deny the permit and ordered the DNRE to review the permit application by this Sunday.

Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

The state Supreme Court will not take up the case against the city of Benton Harbor and developers of a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Three holes of the 200 acre golf course were built on the dunes of Jean Klock Park on the shores of Lake Michigan. The 90 acre park was donated to the city in 1917 for public recreation. Opponents argue a private golf course isn’t a public use.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled six to one against taking up the case. Documents say the court was “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

Carol Drake is one of two residents who filed the suit. She is vice president of the Friends of Jean Klock Park organization. She says Justice Steven Markman ‘got it’ in his dissent.

“That was just amazing to me that collectively that the other justices couldn’t see that this is a legacy case; how important this is and what this decision does in terms of other deeded land and other park lands.”

She argues the case creates a bad precedent for the preservation of public lands.

“I believe that history will show that we were right. That this land should never have been used for a golf course to begin with, that it was a privatization of public park lands, and that if it fails, the rest of the park will probably follow in terms of being used for private purposes.”

Drake is hoping the bench in a separate, federal case will be more favorable to her side. That case is set to go before the Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this spring.

Tulane Public Relations / Creative Commons

In Michigan there are two count days each year; one in September and one in February. Count days are important to every school district’s bottom line because the total number of students on those two days helps determine how much state money the district gets year-round.

The count day in September carries more weight in determining funding than today does. September's count day makes up 75% of a district's total enrollment and the count day in February 25%. But school leaders are still notifying parents of the extra importance today holds.

John Helmholdt is with Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“Parents need to do everything they can to ensure children are in school every day, it just so happens that there’s two days a year where our state funding is based on the total count of students on that day.”

Helmholdt notes students with an excused or unexcused absence can still be counted.

Helmholdt says the district treats count day sort of like a campaign; blanketing the community with fliers and making robo-calls beforehand and hosting fun events in school today.

Grand Rapids’ Mayor George Heartwell painted his city as a destination for medical researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and young people in his State of the City address Saturday.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland and Grand Rapids’ Public Schools are both closed because the sidewalks aren’t shoveled enough yet to send kids to school safely.

Holland BWP

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality will not continue its legal fight to prevent the plans for two coal power plants.

The state denied air quality permits last year for two coal plants, one in Holland and one in Rogers City.  The decision was based on an executive order issued by former Governor Jennifer Granholm. She said the state must factor in whether or not a community really needs more power and consider conservation efforts and alternative energy.

Brad Wurfel is a spokesman with MDEQ. He says their decision to change course is partly because of two judges ruling against the state and partly because of the new administration.

 “Governor Snyder is in favor of building Michigan’s economy and in the case of Wolverine Rogers City has expressed an interest in additional power to realize a long term vision for increasing its port capacity, expanding its infrastructure, and they need power to do it. Right now they’re buying that power from Ohio and Indiana.”

Wurfel says it’s not an issue of whether or not the new governor is for or against coal plants. 

“Our job at the department of environmental quality is to see to it that the permits that are issued to them are in compliance with state and federal clean air statues.”

Wurfel says the state is working with Wolverine Power on their plans to build a new plant in Rogers City, and the City of Holland to expand an existing plant. He says they will still have to meet air quality standards to get the permits they need.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The east side of the state may have been spared the brunt of the storm but in Grand Rapids the nearly 16 inches of snow in a 24-hour period could prove record setting

Chad Doty shovels a foot of snow off the sidewalk of a Big Boy in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s normally packed during lunch but today it’s closed. He’s been out shoveling for hours.

 “We tried to get out at like 1 o’clock (in the morning) but the weather was just too bad I couldn’t see the drive. So I had to pack it up, got back out at about 4 o’clock I think and just started the grind.”

Doty says he’ll work until early evening, take a nap, and head back out. He says the extra snow means extra cash for him. 

The busses are running, even though all universities, many schools and businesses are closed today.

Mayor George Heartwell refused to declare a snow emergency. City workers are working around the clock to clear the streets. He says all of them should be clear by Friday. Heartwell is asking those physically able to do so help clear snow away from fire hydrants, and keep cars off the streets if possible.

City leaders say they expect around 16 inches total. That’s nearly equal to the record set more than 20 year ago. 

Hal and Judy Fruit trek down a normally busy street in snow shoes they got for Christmas.

“It’s a good storm but I think they overblew it a little bit. It’s Michigan. It’s snow. It’s winter. No big deal. You know you live with it. Roads are clear. The sun is out. It’s beautiful!”

Just under 400 people in Kent County were without power, but are expected to be back online before the end of the day.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving who has access to patient information under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

Meijer Facebook fan page

Michigan-based retail giant Meijer says it will now ship any of the items from its stores to any place in the world. Before now, customers could only get bulk items shipped to their homes.

Frank Guglielmi is a Meijer spokesman.

“There’s the customers who are familiar and predisposed towards Meijer who perhaps lived in the Midwest or Grand Rapids and have moved to other destinations and then there’s providing a good offering online for groceries for any consumer out there.”

Entrepreneurs will get a unique opportunity to get their business idea off the ground in Grand Rapids. During “5x5” 5 people will have 5 minutes to present their ideas on anything from art to education to business. 5 judges will decide which of the ideas should be awarded up to $5,000.

Dan Lockwood / St. Clair DDA

Zeeland, St. Clair, and Saline are competing this weekend to take home the "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy.

Art Trapp is Saline’s Downtown Development Director.

“In our community we don’t see a lot of activity downtown during the winter and we thought this was one way to get people off their couch.”

The other point of the competition is to see which community can build the most 4-foot-tall snowmen with 50 volunteers in 2 hours.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Public transportation around Grand Rapids could get a huge boost if voters in the city and 5 suburbs approve a mileage increase set to appear on the ballot in May. If the levy passes, The Rapid CEO Peter Varga says it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $76 a year.