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

This post was updated as we learned news related to the rising waters in West and mid-Michigan. To see how events unfolded from Friday through Sunday night, scroll down and read up.

To read about current news related to the flooding, see this new post.

Sunday, April 21st, 9:30 p.m.

At nearly 22 feet, Michigan’s longest river is very near where the National Weather Service is predicting it will crest in Grand Rapids. The Grand River’s flood stage there is 18 feet.

City officials were confident the waste water treatment plant (that serves around a dozen other neighboring communities) will make it through the night, thanks in part to a massive sandbag wall lining the perimeter.

Over the weekend the city moved around $3 million dollars in equipment that’s not needed for the emergency to drier locations, just in case.

The flooding means the plant is processing more than triple the usual amount of water. Over the last three days, the city says the plant has treated 150 million gallons of water a day, compared to an average of 42 million gallons a day.

People are still being asked to conserve water; take shorter showers, hold off on washing laundry and dishes.

“We expect to be safe through the night,” the city’s Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn said in a written statement.

“The combined performance of our flood walls, our pumps, professional staff, and volunteers has been truly amazing. We must, however, continue to be diligent in monitoring the situation,” Lunn said.

The city is no longer calling on people to help fill and move sandbags, for now.

“I can’t possibly imagine what else we could do to react to this situation,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “We realize that things could change dramatically in the next few days with more rain or if issues associated with structures – such as buildings, walls, or bridges - arise.”

The crest will head to Grandville soon, where the city library is now taking on some water in the basement.

In Lowell, upstream from Grand Rapids, the water is already beginning to recede. There’s been very limited access into the city, with a number of bridges closed. But the barricades are predicted to move off Main Street before the Monday morning commute.

Sunday 4:30 p.m.

Electricity is being rerouted in Grand Rapids because of the flooded Grand River.

Officials from Consumers Energy said Sunday there are four high voltage distribution lines that run just under the Fulton Street bridge.

The water is high enough there's a concern that big trees or other debris floating down the river could snag the lines and cause safety concerns so they’ve de-energeized the lines. Electrical services have not been impacted because of the move.

Once the river recedes they’ll reopen the bridge. But officials couldn’t estimate how long that will be.

The Grand River is expected to crest Monday around 2 a.m. at 22.3 feet.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon Mayor George Heartwell thanked the hundreds of volunteers who’ve been filling and stockpiling 6,000 sandbags an hour over the weekend. He called for more volunteers this afternoon and evening.

“Even though we’re the most incredible volunteering city in the world, we need more,” Heartwell said, “Please help us protect our city.”

City-owned buildings have already been lined with the bags. So the 50,000 that remain are primarily for residents and business owners who need then, “or the possibility that the skies open up again this week, we get a ton of rain and we get a resurgence of these levels.”

Rain is in the forecast as early as Tuesday.

Michigan’s second largest city remains under a state of emergency because of significant property damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area.

It’s estimated that around a thousand residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes. Some have already been able to return.

Sunday 11:10 a.m.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

**Find updated flood coverage here.**

The Grand River in Grand Rapids is swollen after record rainfall this month. It’s expected to crest at just under 25 feet on Sunday; just nine inches shy of the 100-year flood level.

Amber Jones and Kelsey Caverly work downtown near the city’s fish ladder. They joined dozens of people who came down on their lunch break Thursday to check it out.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A venture capital fund backed by the DeVos family has invested $2.3 million dollars in start-up companies in the past year. The money went to 106 different ideas or projects.

The fund is called Start Garden. It was created nearly a year ago by Amway co-founder Richard DeVos’ grandson Rick DeVos, who’s also an entrepreneur (and founder of ArtPrize). He gave an update on the fund this morning.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Soon people living in the lakeshore cities of Saugatuck and Douglas will vote on a proposed merger of their local governments. The State Boundary Commission ruled today the question should be on the ballot in August or November.

A citizens group began the process to merge in 2011. The Consolidated Government Committee is pushing for the merger to save taxpayer money.

A group of runners in Kalamazoo will honor victims of the Boston marathon bombing by running together tonight.

“Runners who were nowhere near Boston just feel like a piece of their heart has been ripped out,” said Tonya Durlach. She did not run the Boston marathon, but members of her E.P.I.C. running group and Kalamazoo Area Runners did.

“We’re trying to make sense of what happened but we can’t. We can’t understand why someone would do something so horrible. But the only thing we can do right now is think of them and pray for them,” Durlach said.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The director of the nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists is in Michigan to talk about the Palisades nuclear power plant.

David Lochbaum is critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in his latest report on nuclear safety released in March.

Lochbaum says the NRC should have fined Entergy, the company that owns Palisades, over a water leak last summer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has recruited eight craft breweries in Michigan for a new campaign to promote clean water by supporting strengthening federal regulations like the Clean Water Act.

“When you talk about beer you have to talk about water,” said Jason Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids. “It’s not as sexy as talking about malt or hops or things like that.”

Spaulding says about 90-percent of beer is made up of water. He says if you want a great locally brewed lager, IPA or pilsner; you need clean water.

“Doesn’t matter how many hops or how much malt you put in it, if your water is not good your beer is not going to be good,” Spaulding said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids and a group behind the decriminalization of marijuana there are at odds over how to enforce the charter amendment voters passed in November.

In a recent court filing, the city argues police should have discretion, if not the duty, to turn over marijuana charges to the state. That way, offenders would be charged with a crime, not a civil infraction.

michigan.gov/msp

This month Michigan State Police helicopters began what will be regular patrols of the Grand Rapids area.

Lieutenant Chris McIntire commands the Rockford Post. He says the patrols come in response to a spike in murders and other violent crime in the past few months.

“Not just in Grand Rapids but all of western Michigan, the State Police has found it's probably a benefit to bring some of those resources over here, help to curb some of that crime,” McIntire said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

On Thursday a Kent County district court judge ruled in favor of a farmer with two huge political signs on his property. The signs are critical of socialism and President Obama.

Gaines Township argued what the signs say is not at issue, just the size of them. Under local zoning laws, people can have commercial signs up to 32 square feet, political signs up to 20 square feet.

The township issued Vernon Verduin a citation, since his signs are much larger than 20 square feet. One can see the signs from a nearby freeway.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Small business owners want Michigan to make its curriculum standards for high school students more flexible.

The state passed broad standards in 2006 for all students. They are supposed to ensure all students are ready for college.

The Michigan Merit Curriculum requires four years of math and English language arts; three years of science and social studies; and two years of a foreign language. Complete standards are outlined here.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Entergy Corporation, the company that owns the Palisades nuclear power plant, says the plant is on the “road to recovery” after a series of safety problems.

Federal regulators recently upgraded the plant’s safety rating from one of the worst in the country after it passed a major inspection last fall.

Palisades Vice President Tony Vitale outlined the steps he and his staff took last year to improve human performance at the plant, one of the main reasons for the safety rating downgrade.

He says a recent, independent study of the safety culture shows the plan is paying off.

Julia Henshaw / ACLU

“I can summarize it in common language; what’s more important, egg McMuffins or political speech?”  attorney Howard Van Den Heuvel said.

His client, cattle farmer Vernon Verduin, posted two huge signs critical of President Obama and socialism back in September. One of the signs reads “Marxism/Socialism=Poverty & Hunger,” the other “Obama’s ‘mission accomplished’ 8% unemployment 16 trillion debt.”

Van Den Heuvel says the township cited Verduin after two anonymous complaints. Gaines Township ordinance has a 20-square-foot limit on the size of “political signs” and a 32-square-foot limit on “commercial signs.”

David Kinsey / Creative Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to clean up toxic chemicals along an 80 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River. But Kalamazoo city leaders aren’t happy with the federal agency's proposed plan.

The effort is focused on cleaning up toxic chemicals, known as PCBs, left behind from several paper mills.

The EPA wants to consolidate the material and cap it so water cannot get in.

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

The changes affect doctors, 131,000 medical marijuana patients and 27,000 caregivers, who grow the drug for patients.

These new changes were passed during the state legislature's lame-duck session last year. A super majority in the legislature approved the changes that affect the Medical Marijuana Act voters approved in 2008.

Changes for patients

Patients will have to prove they live in Michigan. They can do that through state ID, driver’s license, or voter’s registration card. Their medical marijuana cards will be good for two years instead of one.

Turtlemom4bacon / Flickr

New data shows people who drink and drive motorcycles in Michigan were much less likely to wear helmets after the state repealed its mandatory helmet law.

Carol Flannagan, Research Director of the Center for the Management of Information for Safe and Sustainable Transportation within the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. She presented her findings to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning this week.

“The story that I see in the data has to do with the combination of risky behaviors that are kind of all traveling together in the data or going together in some sense,” Flannagan said.

Particularly at risk are those motorcyclists who drink and drive. “Once they are in a crash their probability of dying is much higher,” she said.

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

This week Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Magwood came to South Haven to tour the Palisades nuclear power plant in nearby Covert Township.

Magwood did not respond to requests to comment on how his tour went or why he chose to come.

He’s the second commissioner to visit the plant in less than a year. NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng says that many high-level visits in such a short time is “not necessarily” uncommon.

“You can draw your own conclusions about that because I cannot do that for you,”Mitlyng said.

Kevin Kamps is with the anti-nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear. Unlike the media, he and several others got a chance to sit down with Commissioner Magwood.

“There were some hints around the edges that it’s because of the problem plagued nature of Palisades and he even used the word disappointment for continued problems out there,” Kamps said.

2012 was a crazy year for the Palisades. Get a feel for it in our timeline on Palisades here.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Bernard Taylor Jr. ran what’s now the state’s fifth-largest K-12 district for five years.

Eventually, Taylor and some members of the school board did not get along very well. By in the spring of 2011, it became clear Taylor was looking for a new job. He agreed to resign that summer and ended up signing a severance package.

But last month Taylor sued, claiming the district never paid him.  He calculated GRPS owed him $330,000 including lawyer’s fees.

Courtesy photo / facebook.com

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) says libertarian leaning Republicans like himself are having an impact on federal policies involving people’s civil rights. He made the remarks at a town hall meeting Monday night hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union in Grand Rapids.

He points to US Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour-long filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. That filibuster was, in part, to raise awareness about the ambiguity in the rules governing the use of unmanned drones on American soil.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips / Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to talk about national security.

Amash is more libertarian than many Republicans. While he and the ACLU don’t see eye to eye on everything, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Mary Bejian called Amash “one of the ACLU’s strongest allies in congress on these important national security issues.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A number of federal employees took part in protests in six Michigan cities Wednesday afternoon. The events were part of a national campaign opposing sequestration, the automatic spending cuts to the federal budget that are already taking effect.

Kyle Austin has been working at the social security administration in Grand Rapids for 35 years. He admits, not everyone knows or necessarily seems to care about sequestration.

“It worries me because we’re the front line people. We see these people. Congress doesn’t,” Austin said.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

During an online public meeting Tuesday night, federal nuclear regulators reiterated their belief that the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan, near South Haven is safe.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted the meeting to talk with the public about the strength of the vessel that contains the nuclear reactor and fuel. Radiation, high pressure and temperatures over long periods of time make the metal vessels in all pressurized water reactors more vulnerable at nuclear plants.

Palisades is the oldest nuclear power plant in the state, and it’s got one of the most brittle reactor vessels in the country. Older nuclear plants like Palisades have some copper in the mostly steel vessel; later designs have stronger steel, regulators said.

Mark Kirk is a Senior Materials Engineer in the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research at the NRC.

“It’s unquestionably true that Palisades, one of the welds in Palisades, is one of the most embrittled in all of the plants operating in the US,” Kirk said. “Even so, Palisades continues to operate in compliance with the relevant NRC rules.”

By 2017 the plant’s vessel will become too brittle to legally operate.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The number of motorcyclists who died in traffic accidents in Michigan last year rose 18-percent.

About a year ago Michigan became the thirty-first state to allow people to ride motorcycles without helmets.

But Michigan State Police warn one year isn't enough time to say whether the changes to the helmet law had anything to do with this year’s spike in motorcycle deaths.

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage / Entergy Nuclear Operations

Nuclear regulators will discuss the risk of “pressurized thermal shock,” one of the biggest fears anti-nuclear groups have about the Palisades nuclear power plant during an online meeting Tuesday.

Over time the radiation, extreme pressure and heat from the nuclear reactor wear on the metal vessel that contains it. That’s called embrittlement.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

For the first time the Grand Rapids region now has more than a million people.

The boost in the 2012 estimate comes in part because of changes to the way the US Census is calculates the population there. The Grand Rapids metro area now includes Ottawa County because more than a quarter of the people who live there commute to work in Grand Rapids.

Tim Mroz is with the economic development group The Right Place. He says the million mark is significant in attracting big companies to the region.

A charter school in Muskegon County will have to repay the state close to $30,000 that, technically, the school shouldn’t have gotten in the first place.

The more students a school has the more money it receives from the state.

Barbara Stellard, who directed Waypoint Academy from 2002 to 2010, was charged in October with multiple criminal charges for reporting more students than actually attended the charter school.

Michigan Attorney General’s office spokeswoman Joy Yearout says another employee at Waypoint told tipped the state off to the scam.

Courtesy photo / Michigan Democratic Party

It's Sunshine Week, an annual push for open government and the public’s right to know stuff.

Democrats in the state House tied the introduction of a package of bills to Sunshine Week. The bills include a number of changes to Michigan's laws and constitution regarding ethics, campaign finance, and elections.

Courtesy photo / Novi Energy

When you find an anaerobic digester in Michigan, they’re usually set up on large scale dairy farms.

Michigan State University has a good YouTube video showing how the process works at the digester on their campus.

Bacteria turn all that cow manure into methane, which is burned in engines to create renewable electricity. But now there’s a new kind of digester in Fremont, Michigan that’s consuming much more than cow poop.

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

The State of Michigan says the new owner of bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems cannot get the company's state tax credits.

In April, 2009 the state awarded a “high-tech state tax credit” worth a little more than $25 million over 15 years and a “battery cell state tax credit” worth $100 million over four years

China’s Wanxiang Group (specially, one of it's American-based subsidies) bought most of A123 Systems' assets for a little more than $250 million. A123 says those assets include the state tax credits for two battery plants in Romulus and Livonia.

oswaldsbearranch.com

The Michigan House approved a bill Thursday to allow tourists to come in close contact with bear cubs.

The bill only really affects one bear sanctuary in the Upper Peninsula.

Meet Don Oswald of the Oswald Bear Ranch.

“I have 31 bears here right now. They’re my babies,” Oswald said.

You can find YouTube videos of Oswald bottle feeding his “babies,” usually given to him after their mother bears are killed in logging or cars accidents.

He says he’s gotten about a dozen bears from state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources in Michigan; from Ohio, Minnesota, New York and South Dakota. Some come from breeders who can’t sell the bears, Oswald said.

“If I don’t have them they’re going to be euthanized,” Oswald explained.

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