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!

Pages

Environment
12:27 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Conservationists celebrate more than $100 million in state grants

Dunes near Saugatuck and Lake Michigan.
Norm Hoekstra Creative Commons

Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill authorizing more than $102 million in grant money for more than 100 recreation projects and land acquisitions across the state. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports one of the largest grants will preserve dune-land along the Lake Michigan shore.

Peter Homeyer is executive director of The Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

“West Michigan and a lot of communities around the state are going to see projects now that are going to add to parkland and improve parks right close to home where folks can get out and enjoy nature with this new bill.

Read more
Education
5:04 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Explosive growth at community colleges likely to slow this fall

Many comunity colleges in Michigan saw a significant jump in student enrollment in the fall of 2009.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan community colleges have seen double-digit growth and record numbers of students in the last couple years. But many community colleges expect that trend to slow down, or even stop, this year.

Muskegon Community College’s Dean of Enrollment Services George Maniatessays the school has nearly 20% more students now than it did in 2006.

 “The easy money for retraining, the No worker Left Behind Programs, those are all now gone. So people are pretty much on their own."

Maniates says his school is already seeing a significant decrease in the number of “adult learners” over 23 years old enrolling for summer and fall classes. He says that’s mainly because there’s less money for job retraining programs.

“We’re also seeing a lot of families who are torn between ‘well can I find a summer job – or do I go to school?”

Mike Hansen is president of Michigan’s Association of Community Colleges. He expects most community colleges will see flat or slower enrollment growth this fall.

“Now you have to remember too these are increases from historic highs. In other words if you walked onto these campuses you’d say ‘wow there’s tons of people here. There’s no spots left in the parking lot.”

He expects colleges in more rural areas will be harder hit.

health
3:52 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Top 5 healthiest and unhealthiest counties in Michigan

This map shows healthier counties in white, unhealthier counties in green.
countyhealthrating.org

A new study says Ottawa County is the healthiest county in Michigan. The county borders Lake Michigan’s shore directly west of Grand Rapids.

Marcia Knoll is a community health analyst at Ottawa County’s Health Department. She says the department does not take credit for the county’s “healthiest” rating. Knoll says there are many organizations, churches and people working together to keep the community healthy.

“Instead of standing like silos, each with our own agenda and our own territory. So that’s not the environment here, that’s not the culture here and I think that has stood us well in the struggles and with our health care.”

The study was done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It looks at a number of measures that affect a community’s health; how many people smoke, are overweight, and have access to fresh, healthy foods.

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Economy of ideas
6:30 am
Tue March 29, 2011

$5,000 for good ideas in Grand Rapids

Steve Zaagman (middle) discusses his "upside-down-movie-night" with other contestants on February 22nd, 2011.
Paul Jendrasiak GRNow.com

Tonight two Michigan entrepreneurs will give away $5,000 in a competition devoted to creating buzz around good ideas. Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger-Robinson are trying to help make the best ideas a reality.

On the last Tuesday of each month, Pomegranate Studios (a business incubator DeVos and Holsinger-Robinson founded in Grand Rapids two years ago) offers 5 people 5 minutes to pitch their idea for a business, an organization, art project, anything really.

A panel of 5 judges then awards up to five thousand dollars to those with the best ideas.

Bill Holsinger-Robinson says they want to give people a platform for their ideas to grow.

“The event is really less about the grant making and is more about people sharing ideas and then getting people to act on those ideas within a community.”

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Education
1:49 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

State of Grand Rapids Schools strong, but facing challenges

GRPS Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr. apeaks to about 100 people during his 4th annual "State of Our schools" address.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s third largest school district estimates it would face a $25 million deficit if lawmakers pass Governor Rick Snyder’s budget. In an annual address to the community Saturday, Superintendent Bernard Taylor outlined how that could impact next school year

Financial challenges

The district has trimmed around to $70 million from its budget in the last decade. Taylor says to cut $25 million in one year would be difficult.

“But we can’t be afraid. We can’t show any trepidation about what our situation is because in the end, whether we have a billion dollars or we have one dollar children have to be educated.”

He proposed a pay freeze for all administrative staff, and that they pay 20% of their health care premiums. But even with those and a number of other cuts, Taylor warned the district still may have to lay off more than 180 employees.

Academic challenges

Next year, the state will raise cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the standardized MEAP test. Taylor says that will have a negative impact their academic achievement. But he stressed raising standards for a high school diploma isn’t a bad thing.

“It is not a precursor of anything if you are not college ready or workforce ready, meaning you have to have pronounced academics skills in the areas of literacy, mathematics, problem solving and being able to work cooperatively with others.”

Taylor wants to do a better job determining if students are really prepared to study beyond high school.

He’s asking the state allow the district to keep those students who aren’t ready in high school longer. Taylor wants to do that in cooperation with Grand Rapids Community College.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Protestors bring giant inhalers to Congressman Fred Upton

Kevin Karlinski, student from Western Michigan University, outside Congressman Upton's district office to deliver oversized asthma inhaler. Behind him, more community members drop off inhalers in Congressman Upton's office.
Nicole Lowen Environment Michigan

Several protestors rallied outside Congressman Fred Upton’s offices in Kalamazoo Friday.

Nicole Lowen is the with Environment Michigan, a state-wide advocacy group that tries to protect clean air, water and open spaces.

“We had gigantic, oversized asthma inhalers that we dropped off at his office just to represent the thousands of his constituents that are likely to suffer more frequent and severe health problems if he’s successful in stripping away these critical clean air protections.”

She says they were protesting a bill (H.R. 910) Upton introduced that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House. The republican from St. Joseph says allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will drive up energy costs, destroy jobs and make America less competitive globally.

“Such regulatory authority can only come from elected legislators, not unelected bureaucrats.  We must not allow this administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” Upton said in a press release issued Friday.

Offbeat
2:08 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Take part in city-wide Grand Rapids ‘lip-dub’ video

This is part of the storyboard for Bliss' lip-dub video promoting Grand Rapids.
Rob Bliss Rob Bliss Events

A community organizer is asking tens of thousands of people to help him create a video promoting Grand Rapids. Rob Bliss is known around Grand Rapids for putting on one-of-a-kind, free events and he's announced his latest idea. He’s planning to make the video crazy enough that it’ll go viral.

Lip-dubs are like a music video featuring regular people lip-singing and dancing to a song they all know. They’re usually not edited – meaning they have to shoot the whole video in one take.

Bliss says lots of high schools and colleges have been putting together lip-dubs to promote their schools lately.

“But no one’s really made a truly city-wide professional level production like this kind of thing. And I think that’s really what’s exciting about this, is that it’s really attempting something that – at least to me – feels nearly impossible."

Which, to me, is sort of strange. Bliss has pulled off all kinds of crazy events. For ArtPrize once he made thousands of colored paper airplanes and flew them off skyscrapers downtown. He’s attracted thousands of people downtown for a massive pillow fight, a world-record-setting zombie walk, sidewalk chalk floods, and the ‘world’s largest inflatable waterslide’ which stretched two city-blocks down a steep street.

The nine minute long video (set to the tune of a live version of Don McClean’s “American Pie”) will be a continuous, single camera shot with no edits. Bliss says it’ll take a whole day and thousands of residents to set up and shoot. 

 “We stuff it full of all of this crazy, crazy, crazy stuff. Weddings, marching bands, motorcades with police officers hanging out the windows singing the songs, pillow fights, kayakers in the grand river, lighting parts of Pearl Street Bridge on fire, helicopter take-off out of downtown; ridiculousness really.”

Bliss has hired a professional production company for the video shoot. He expects to spend between $25,000 and $35,000 on it. He’s now hiring some part-time staff and looking for volunteers to help with and be in the video.

The big day for the video shoot is Sunday May 15th with a rain date the following weekend.

K-12 schools budget
10:41 am
Thu March 24, 2011

Republican led state Senate introduces first draft of K-12 schools budget

A crowd gathers in a Grand Rapids neighborhood to protest Governor Snyder's budget plan earlier this month.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are taking feedback on their first draft of the budget for K through 12 public schools. The plan cuts less per student than Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.

Senator Howard Walker chairs the appropriations subcommittee on K-12, School Aid and Education. He says instead, the Senate version gets rid of line items funds in the budget that cover specific things like school bus inspections, adult education, and money for districts with two consecutive years of declining student enrollment.

 “We’re not making broad-based cuts to programs, that we’re not increasing class sizes too broadly so that the delivery of good educational opportunities is not affected.”

School districts get a certain amount of money from the state for each student. Currently, $7,316 is the minimum per pupil allowance a district gets. Governor Snyder is proposing to cut that amount by $470 (including making permanent a $170 cut made last year) for all school districts. The plan before the Senate would cut that per pupil allowance by $290.

Read more
Auto/Economy
12:01 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Wyoming approves plans to demolish huge former GM Stamping Plant

Former GM Stamping Plant in Wyoming, MI.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A 2-million-square-foot former General Motors stamping plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming will be demolished this year. Monday night Wyoming’s city council approved plans to destroy the 75-year-old building and redevelop the site.

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Politics
4:28 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Duo that conspired to strike Senator Levin with a pie enter plea agreement

Senator Carl Levin speaking in Grand Rapids earlier this year.
Derek DeVries Grand Rapids Community College

Defendants Alam Mohsen and Max Kantar explained to a federal judge in Grand Rapids the pie incident was an anti-war statement. They singled out Levin because of his foreign policy stance.

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Auto/Economy
4:47 pm
Thu March 17, 2011

Grand Rapids Chamber backs proposed bridge between Detroit and Canada

A downstream view of the Ambassador Bridge and downtown Detroit from the proposed location of the new bridge crossing.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Add the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to the growing list of people, organizations hoping to see the rebranded New International Trade Crossing become a reality.

Andrew Johnson is the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of Government Affairs.

“We care about the bridge because 1 in 7 jobs in the Grand Rapids area is tied to exports. And the stronger trade we have between Michigan and Canada, the better it is for our West Michigan businesses.”

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Budget protests
9:58 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Rallies against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget continue

Rich Fink addresses the crowd in the Heritage Hill neighborhood Tuesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

More than 60 people in Grand Rapids rallied against Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts Tuesday night. Protestors took over a normally quite block in a residential neighborhood.

Speaking into a microphone and speaker set up on a sidewalk, Rich Fink told the crowd he’s a proud member of the Jenison Education Association.

“They are after the middle class and it’s time that we say enough is enough.”

Their signs say they’ve had enough of cuts to public education, fair wages, benefits and most prominently Governor Snyder.

60-year old retired General Motors worker Gregg Shotwell is not against balancing the budget. But he says Snyder’s plan to create jobs by lowering taxes for businesses won’t work. 

“They’re not going to use that tax break to create jobs. Because there’s not going to be greater demand for their products or their services if we’re all making less money.”

Snyder says replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a flat 6% tax on corporate income is "simple fair and efficient."

Shotwell was among many other retired UAW workers who are very upset about Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. But Shotwell says the proposed cuts to public education is what brought him out to the protest.

“Our children are the future and you can’t expect to improve the state of Michigan, improve our economic future if you’re going to sabotage education and this is sabotage.”

If lawmakers approve Snyder’s budget, state funding to public universities would be cut 15 percent. K through 12 schools would be cut by a little more than 4 percent.

tax incentives
4:02 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

MEGA approves tax breaks for 10 companies, nearly 2,000 new jobs

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation headquarters in Lansing. MEDC staff serve the MEGA Board and administer activities and programs.
MEDC

Together the projects will generate up to $602 million in new investments and create close to 2,000 new jobs.

By far the biggest project approved by the board this month is in Charlotte. Spartan Motors Chassis designs and manufactures a variety of special products for vehicles. They’re expected to add 450 new jobs along with an expanded facility.

George Bosnjak manages business development at The Right Place. It’s an economic development group in West Michigan. He helped two companies expanding in Grand Rapids get the tax breaks. Atomic Object LLC will expand its current location over a site in California. They expect to launch two new programs that’ll add 30 high tech software design jobs. Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Company makes all kinds of storage related components in Grand Rapids. They purchased a company in Illinois and will move production to Michigan, creating more than 120 new jobs.  

Bosnjak is optimistic about industry growth in West Michigan.

 “We really see a positive trend across all sectors, certainly nothing where it’ll turn around and change what’s happened over the last three years overnight but I feel that our economy and companies here are certainly moving in the right direction.”

However, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing to eliminate these and many other tax breaks. Bosnjak says they’re playing it by ear.

“I don’t think anyone really knows exactly what the programs will be and what the changes will be and how it’ll affect companies. But we’ll certainly deal with the tools that we have and make the best and do the best job that we can.

Snyder says the incentives inherently pick winners and losers when he says the state needs to create a simple and fair tax structure so all businesses are on an even playing field.

Environment
9:55 am
Tue March 15, 2011

Michigan girl scouts take on saving endangered species in Asia

Rhiannon Tomtishen (left) and Madison Vorva (right) are working to save rainforests in Asia.
Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva

Two Ann Arbor teens are trying to save Orangutans on the other side of the globe from becoming extinct. Orangutans have become an endangered species because of poaching and the rainforests they live in are being destroyed.

15-year olds Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva became friends 4 years ago through Girl Scouts. Tomtishen says it their mission started when they decided to work together to earn a bronze award.

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Artprize 2011
5:14 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

ArtPrize hopes to attract more performance art in 2011 contest

ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos hopes having St. Cecilia Music Hall as a venue will attract more musicians to consider entering.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Business owners who want to serve as a venue for ArtPrize this fall can now begin registering. The winner of the art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids. The top prize is $250,000.  

ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos says this year they’re opening the historic St. Cecilia Music Center to host more than two dozen performance pieces. They’re hoping to attract more musicians and dancers to enter the contest.

“ArtPrize has already been open to all these things. The difference is with St. Cecilia coming on we’re being a little more intentional about trying to create a very specific space for it and draw more attention to it.”

St. Cecilia Music Hall opened its doors in 1894. The classically styled gold trimmed music hall will welcome all sorts of performances during ArtPrize this year. The music hall will have listening stations to hear the contestants – in addition to the live performances.

“There have been dances and performance art pieces that have been a part of ArtPrize the first two years. And we see that continuing. We just wanted to continue to press the envelope.”

Artists can begin registering in four weeks. ArtPrize runs from late September through early October.

Economy
3:23 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Study: Grand Rapids, Detroit among Top 20 hardest hit by recession

The Grand Rapids metro region, like many places in the U.S., was hit hard by the recession.
Steven Depolo Flickr

A new study by the Brookings Institution shows the Grand Rapids and Detroit metro regions are in the top 20 hardest hit by the recession.

The study measures how deep the recession hit the top 100 metro regions in the United States.

It also looks at how strong the recovery is for those cities.

Jennifer Bradley co-directed the study in the Great Lakes region:

"It's not just about a particular city or a particular suburb. These places are economic units. They're rising and falling together and they will come out of the recession, or not, together."

Bradley says Grand Rapids and Detroit lead the nation in keeping their unemployment rates from spiking even higher, but it's unclear why:

"It could be more people are getting jobs. It could be more people are leaving the workforce altogether. It could be more people are leaving the region all together."

There is a lot in the study that’s not surprising.

It shows most metro regions near the Great Lakes had a weak economy before the recession, mainly because of job losses as the auto industry declined.

Bradley says business and government leaders in metro regions need to work together to strengthen their chances of recovery.

medical marijuana
6:28 am
Mon March 14, 2011

Safe under medical marijuana laws, and driving laws?

Is it against the law for medical marijuana patients to drive if they've smoked earier that day?
Craig Finlay Creative Commons

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows people to use the drug, but motor vehicle laws forbid driving with any marijuana in your system. The legal battle could head to the State Court of Appeals.

Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.

A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is supporting the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s appeal to the State Court of Appeals. He says Koon isn’t “being prosecuted for using marijuana, but for driving shortly after using it.”

Japanese Earthquake
4:50 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Earthquake "nightmare scenario" for Michigan students from Japan

Universities across the state are reporting all students they have studying overseas in Japan are safe and accounted for. But many students from Japan who are studying in Michigan are trying to get in touch with friends and relatives.

Thirty-year old Tomomi Suwa is working on her doctorate degree at Michigan State.

 “As an international student I fear about this kind crisis a lot. I live so far away from home that sometimes it’s very difficult to get a hold of family or friends. It’s like a nightmare scenario for me.”

Her father called Suwa and woke her up at 6 o-clock Friday morning to tell her the news about the earthquake. She says she wasn’t totally shocked by the news. She grew up practicing earthquake and tsunami drills at school and she’s experienced numerous earthquakes. The biggest registered 4.4 on the Richter scale. 

“At that magnitude you can really feel that things are moving around; it’s already scary at 4.4. So I can’t even imagine what 8.8 or 8.9 could be.”

So far, Suwa says she’s very relieved all of her family and friends that she’s been able to contact on the phone or online are okay. But she has not been able to get in touch with everyone yet. 

The University of Michigan, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University each have students currently in Japan for classes overseas.

Offbeat
8:36 am
Fri March 11, 2011

Grand Rapids tosses world record 925 rubber chickens at once

Organizers stack rubber chickens in front of the Grand Rapids Arts Museum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids smashed the former world record for rubber chicken chucking set last April in a town near Boston. They got 265 people to toss rubber chickens at once. Last night Grand Rapids tossed an impressive 925.

The world record title marked the beginning of LaughFest. An event that'll take over much of Grand Rapids over the next 9 days. Those little yellow smiley faces representing the festival dot billboards, bar windows, churches; people even wear them as lapel pins.

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Environment
2:59 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Potential large scale wind farms coming to West Michigan

Industrial scale wind turbines could begin to pop up in West Michigan.
warrenski Creative Commons

There’s been a lot of talk in West Michigan lately about how wind power could boost the region’s economy. The area, particularly along the Lake Michigan shore, could be home to several potential wind projects.

Read more

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