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!

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has taken the next step in process that could result in an emergency manager.

Gov. Rick Snyder announced today his appointment of a six-member review team. The team has 60 days to determine if the district is in financial stress.

The district’s superintendent, Leonard Seawood, told state officials a few weeks ago it is. 

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.
Entergy Corporation

People will get two opportunities this week to hear how the Palisades nuclear plant is doing. Palisades was recently listed as one of the worst-performing plants in the country.

Regulators have raised the plant's official safety rating, but they say the safety culture among security staff still needs to improve.

File photo / Kent County Sheriff

A former Kent County commissioner will spend a year in jail after pleading guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.

Gary Rolls resigned his county commission seat earlier this year. He was accused of beginning a sexual relationship with a girl when she was nine. She's now in her late 20s.

Rolls said nothing before he was sentenced Thursday afternoon.  

In a statement, the victim told the judge Rolls used his position in power to threaten her.

“I saw him with police officers and important people in the news and I believed him,” she said.

m-1rail.com

Leaders of a light passenger rail line project being constructed in Detroit are looking for another $12 million from the federal government. If they don’t get it, the project may have to be scaled back or redesigned, or they may have to spend money that’s set aside for operating the line once it’s up and running.

The Detroit News uncovered the plea for more federal funds in a letter from a handful of Michigan congressmen and Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin.

Officials from Levin and Stabenow's offices forwarded Michigan Radio a copy of the letter, but declined requests for comment.

In it, elected leaders say without the $12 million grant "this important project will be delayed indefinitely, and we fear the resulting costs could make the project unaffordable."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager thinks a new setup to run the district next year will be more economical than hiring another charter company.

For the last two years, a for-profit company ran Muskegon Heights schools. But it ran into cash flow problems. The state had to give the district two cash advances this spring to pay staff and give it an emergency loan to keep schools open through the end of the school year.  

“We are in a survival mode,” Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager Gregory Weatherspoon said at a press conference Tuesday. “We will go for whatever will work and save us money and this was a cost savings to us,” he said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated: Emergency manager says new arrangement will be more economical than charter school company

Muskegon Heights schools will not hire another for-profit charter company to run the district. Instead, the district plans to hire its own superintendent, a staffing company and the intermediate school district in Muskegon County to run schools for the next three years.

static416 / Creative Commons

A bill that’s working its way through the state House would make large-scale dog breeders register with the state. “Large scale” would be any breeder with 15 or more female dogs used for breeding puppies.

Governor Rick Snyder's statement after a federal court overturns Michigan's ban on same sex marriage in March 2014.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the consequences of turning entire school districts over to for-profit charter school companies deserves more consideration from state lawmakers.

Flanagan told a state panel last week it’s not clear if the Muskegon Heights school district, or the for-profit charter company that ran it the last two years, will face any consequences for running up a deficit big enough to require an emergency loan worth $1.4 million and two cash advances to keep schools open through June. It’s unclear exactly what the deficit is for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Muskegon Heights school district is now looking for a new operator. That’s after the district and its emergency manager agreed to end its contract with Mosaica Education Inc. when the company couldn’t turn a profit.

“Now that (Mosaica) is leaving, they pretty much told us they’re not going to do (the district’s) deficit elimination plan. To follow up on that, we should wait for the new management company and deal with them,” Dan Hanrahan, Michigan Department of Education’s director of state aid and school finance, told the panel.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of the nation’s nuclear regulatory agency toured two nuclear plants in southwest Michigan Friday.

NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane wanted to see how the plants are doing in the wake of the disaster at a nuclear plant in Japan. Congressman Fred Upton joined Macfarlane for the visits to the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant and the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, both of which are located in his district.

Nuclear regulators are requiring plants to upgrade equipment and emergency plans that take into account the meltdown of the Fukushima plant in 2011.

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Michigan Congressman Justin Amash never gets sick. His car never breaks down and he doesn't take off work for doctor's appointments.

OK, that’s probably an exaggeration.

Amash has represented Grand Rapids in Congress since 2010. He's never missed a single vote on the House floor. He's now cast 2,500 votes in a row. This appears to put Amash and Congressman Steve Womack from Arkansas in a tie for the prize of longest active voting streak of any sitting representative.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

On Monday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency released the federal government’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The agency's calling it the "Clean Power Plan."

The EPA says carbon dioxide emissions are the main driver of climate change. The agency is proposing a 30% reduction in CO2 from power plants by 2030. Here's what EPA says about the proposed regulations:

Climate change is not just a problem for the future. We are facing its impacts today:

Average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with seven of the top 10 warmest years on record occurring since 1998.  Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion. Nationwide, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by approximately 30 per cent from 2005 levels. It will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.

Policymakers at the state level and the state’s major power companies don’t seem surprised by the news. 

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

State law forces power companies to get 10% of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by next year. It’s a target they’re expected to meet.

The state issued a report last year that shows companies could get as much at 30% by 2035. But there’s no law that requires that, yet. It’s something a workgroup will consider as it works this summer to update Michigan’s energy policy.

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) will help lead the group.

ckay / Creative Commons

A popular program to improve the environment around the Great Lakes could be extended. A task force including 11 federal agencies and led by the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft of the updated plan Friday for public review.

Congress has already approved $1.6 billion on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. An updated blueprint calls for another $275 million annually over the next five years. 

A big chunk of that money helped jump start efforts to clean up industrial pollution that happened decades ago. There are 14 of these so-called "toxic hot spots" in Michigan on a list of Areas of Concern. Cleanup efforts have been underway since the 1980s.

“They’ve been on the list for far too long. We need to give these harbor side and riverside communities some relief and get them cleaned up,” Cameron Davis said. He’s a senior advisor to the administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan residents would save around $9 a month by 2020 under a plan to improve energy efficiency. That’s according to analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The group’s plan comes out less than a week before federal regulators are expected to unveil a new plan to drastically cut carbon emissions, which scientists believe contribute to climate change.

Ryan Basilio / Creative Commons

Leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo are warning parishioners not to take part in an ordination ceremony this weekend, because the person being ordained is a woman.

In a weekly newsletter, Bishop Paul Bradley reminded parishioners who take part that they will be kicked out of the church. Those who witness what he called the “simulation” ceremony must confess before receiving sacraments of the church. The Diocese did not return requests for comment on this story.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A group behind a petition drive to return Michigan to a part-time Legislature is ramping up its efforts.

Most states have a part-time legislature. Michigan used to, but the 1963 state constitution changed that.

Norm Kammeraad thinks lawmakers now have to please lobbyists and rich people to keep their full-time jobs.

“We’re at a point where, unless you’ve got a lot of money or financial clout – which that’s probably only about 2% or 3% of Michiganders – you’re not being represented,” Kammeraad said.

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.

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