Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto industry, business, and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio.   She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly "bitten by the radio bug," and never recovered.  She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.  Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.   Her coverage of Michigan's Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. 

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. 


The U.S. Justice Department has charged two people in Detroit with taking bribes in order to defer the deportations of immigrants. 

The government says Detroit attorney Charles Busse took bribes from Iraqi, Mexican, and Albanian immigrants facing deportation, and then paid bribes to Clifton Divers, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The scheme had Divers claiming the clients were confidential government informants in order to get the deportations deferred. 

The crimes allegedly took place between 2009 and 2015.


The number of people diagnosed with chlamydia rose 6.4% in Michigan from 2014 to 2015.  In all, there were 47,702 cases of chlamydia last year.

Gonorrhea cases rose 9.8%, with 10,615 people being infected.

But the increase probably doesn't mean that more people are catching STDs, says Katie McComber with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Chloroform was detected in the groundwater at about 5 parts per billion in some tests in Waterworks Park in Ann Arbor.
user UnagiUnagi / Google Maps

State officials have a new water contamination investigation on their hands: what is the source of newly-discovered contaminants found in the groundwater near Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality discovered the chemicals trichloroethane and chloroform there after conducting tests for a different chemical - 1,4 dioxane. 

The 1,4 dioxane is a known contaminant from the chemical company Pall-Gelman. The plume of 1,4 dioxane is slowly moving underneath Ann Arbor towards the Huron River.

teenage driver

In the past decade, fatal car crashes for teen drivers ages 18 to 20 haven't declined as much as those for younger teens, ages 15 to 17.

That's according to a study commissioned by Ford Safe Driving for Life, a program to teach teens to be safer drivers.

Jim Graham is Manager of the program.  He says the problem appears to be that more teens are waiting until they are 18 or older to get their license.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At long last, the foreclosure crisis is over.

That's according to Daryn Blumquist, Senior Vice President of Attom Data Solutions.  Blumquist says in Michigan, September saw the lowest foreclosure activity since December, 2005. 

Foreclosure activity plummeted 41% from September of 2015.

Bank foreclosures are also no longer being delayed due to a backlog. Blumquist says taking a long time to foreclose caused unintended problems for neighborhoods.

wikipedia/creative commons

Self-driving cars, taxis and buses could pose a threat to the viability of commuter trains and subways,  according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. 

Nicholas Lang of BCG estimates between a third to to half of rail passengers could migrate to self-driving transportation by the year 2040.

One example of how this could happen:  imagine automated mini-buses that seat up to 15 people.  Lang thinks they could be more comfortable, convenient and cheaper than existing public transportation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Many minority students remain stunned, hurt, and angry, days after racist flyers were found in two buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

One of the flyers called on "Euro-Americans" to "Be White" and "stop living in fear."

Another flyer gave racist reasons why white women should not date black men.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel called a "Community Conversation" meeting on Sunday afternoon to let people express their feelings and thoughts.

Michigan Governor's office

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is returning from a seven-day trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland.

It's the Snyder administration's first-ever trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Calley says his focus was on discussing Michigan's wealth of talent in engineering, IT, and skilled trades.  The state no longer offers long-term tax breaks to lure foreign businesses, but Calley says that kind of incentive isn't really necessary.

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: 9/28/2016 2:50 p.m.

There appears to be a compromise on funding for Flint that would avoid a potential partial shutdown of the government.  House Republicans say they will allow a vote on U.S. Representative Dan Kildee's amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, providing $170 million to help Flint deal with a lead-tainted water system.

U.S. Senator Gary issued the following statement:

“The people of Flint have waited far too long for Congress to act and finally help put them on the road to recovery. House Republican leadership refused to even go on record supporting Flint as recently as Monday, and I am pleased that under pressure from Senate and House Democrats they are now indicating some willingness to help Flint. I will continue pushing to pass our carefully crafted, fully paid-for agreement that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of WRDA or another legislative vehicle. I have said that Congress can and should help both flooding victims and Flint residents, and I cannot support a government funding bill that prioritizes one state’s emergency over another’s.”


Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted against a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9, sending the bill to defeat.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said the bill included $500 million to help victims of flooding in Louisiana, while ignoring residents of Flint, whose water was tainted with lead two years ago.  

Roller coasters may help you get rid of kidney stones.

Sometimes science moves in a mysterious way.

A few years back, urologist David Wartinger, a former Michigan State University professor, saw a student patient who he'd been treating for kidney stones. The patient had just returned from spring break in Florida.

"And he told me, doc, you're not gonna believe this, I went on a roller coaster and I passed a kidney stone. I got right back on the same coaster, I passed another stone. I got back on the coaster a third time and I passed three stones in a row."

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Tesla, the electric car company based in California, is suing Michigan over its law that prohibits direct-to-consumer sales of cars. 

In 2014, the Michigan state legislature essentially Tesla-proofed an existing law at the urging of auto dealers. 

The law makes it clear that car companies can sell their products only through licensed dealers. Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers out of stores it owns. 

Tesla says the Michigan law violates its constitutional right to due process and equal protection, as well as restricting interstate commerce. 

JBleeker / Creative Commons

The Center for Automotive Research says the federal government's plan to impose a 54.5 fuel economy standard by 2025 is likely to result in significant job losses, if gasoline prices remain roughly the same as they are today.

The standard will require automakers to install increasingly sophisticated and expensive technology in new cars.  CAR says consumers won't be able to offset that higher cost through lower prices at the pump.

University of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued federal policy for automated, or self-driving vehicles, to spur innovation while taking a proactive approach to safety.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Many people are open to the idea of buying an electric car, according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

Thirty-six percent of people who don't know much about electric cars said they'd be interested in buying one someday; 57% who do know a fair bit about electric cars said the same.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada

Unifor, the union that represents most Canadian auto workers, says it has reached a tentative contract with General Motors after "round the clock negotiations." The strike deadline was 11:59 p.m Monday.

The terms of the deal include a major concession by Unifor, according to the CBC:

A major concession in the talks was an agreement by the union to convert all new employees to a defined contribution pension plan. That's different from the defined benefit plans that legacy employees all have. 

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan and its Midwest electric grid operator, MISO, believe they've come up with a solution to a potential shortage of electricity that could happen as early as 2018.

That's the year yet another power plant in the grid will shut down (this time in Indiana); Michigan's Consumers Energy shut down six smaller power plants in April. 

The shutdowns mean there might not be enough electricity generation capacity during times of peak demand.

Wind turbines
(courtesy Consumers Energy)

Researcher Markus Hagemann says even he was surprised by the radical degree of change that will be required in energy use in order to limit global warming to a 2 degree Celsius increase.

Hagemann is with NewClimate Institute, a partner with Climate Action Tracker.

The group's research shows that gas and diesel-burning cars and trucks would have to get about 100 miles to the gallon by 2030, and the entire fleet will need to be at least 50% electric by 2050.

A Tesla supercharging station at a Meijer store in Ann Arbor.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In an administrative hearing, the state of Michigan denied electric car company Tesla of California a dealership license that would permit it to sell cars here.

No one was surprised by the denial, including Tesla.

In 2014, Michigan car dealers successfully lobbied the state Legislature to essentially Tesla-proof a Michigan law that forbids auto manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers. 

That's Tesla's business model, and dealers see it as an existential threat. 

wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr

General Motors has committed to using electricity solely from wind, solar or biogas for all of its 350 operations in 59 countries around the world -- within the next 34 years.

CEO Mary Barra says it "helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact." 

The automaker says it used about 9 terawatt hours of electricity in 2015 to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses globally.  A terawatt equals a trillion watts.

Workers at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant will soon be working on larger vehicles.
Sam VarnHagen / Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company is by no means the only automaker moving production of small cars to Mexico.

Ford confirmed this week it will move the last of its small car production to Mexico, where labor costs are significantly lower than in the U.S.  But many other companies have been doing the same.

And suppliers have wasted no time in expanding in Mexico to serve the new factories.

Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

Emidio "Mimi" Soltysik says his run for president under the banner of the Socialist Party USA banner is more of an organizing project than a traditional campaign.

Soltysik described that project to a group of about 20 people at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor Wednesday night. With his calm and gentle demeanor, the former musician comes across more as a guru of socialism than a fiery revolutionary.

The purpose of his campaign is to get people "plugged in" to their communities, he says, not get the most votes possible.

Tracy Samilton

Some customers of Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor had to wait a little longer for their cappuccinos and lattes Tuesday afternoon, due to a stop there by Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

Kaine,with a sizeable contingent of local and national press at his heels, shook hands and chatted with customers, before ordering a cup of coffee and heading to a rally on the University of Michigan diag.

About 1,250 Clinton-Kaine loyalists gathered inside the gated area, and another 5,000 or so lined up farther out, according to a U of M event coordinator.


Warmer waters due to climate change are likely to hurt the reproduction of walleye in inland lakes in Midwest states like Michigan.

Gretchen Hansen is a research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

She says over the next 30 years, as the planet and its waters warm, there will be a significant decline in walleye, especially those in smaller inland lakes, and an increase in largemouth bass. 

That's because walleye reproduce more readily in colder waters.

Hansen says the trend will be most noticeable in smaller inland lakes.

Wikipedia/US Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing a new regulation to require public notices of combined sewer overflow discharges into the Great Lakes.

Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller is in favor of such a regulation, but she says it won't be enough.

Combined sewer overflows happen when heavy rains overwhelm a city's combined sanitary and stormwater system, sending untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers and lakes.

A motorcyle rider with no helmet and a passenger with a helmet.

Motorcycle crash injuries became more serious after Michigan repealed its mandatory helmet law in 2012.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety teamed up with researchers at the University of Michigan Injury Center, the University of Michigan School of Medicine, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to look at the numbers.

They found that skull fractures after a motorcycle crash increased nearly 40% in the year after the state Legislature said riders over age 21 could skip wearing a helmet if they so chose.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada

Unifor will sit down at the bargaining table with General Motors first in its upcoming contract talks with Detroit-based car companies.

The talks could be even more tense than usual. 

That's because union leaders suspect GM may have long-term plans to pull more jobs out of Canada. 

Unifor wants GM to promise new models for its Oshawa plant, but GM is balking. 

Harley Shaiken is a labor expert at the University of California-Berkley. He says it makes sense the union is worried about losing more jobs.

Screencap from Google Maps / Google

A group of cities near the Great Lakes is appealing a decision to let Waukesha, Wisconsin draw water directly from Lake Michigan. 

Waukesha asked to divert water from Lake Michigan because its own water source is contaminated. 

Great Lakes governors approved the diversion, but many Great Lakes mayors disagree. 

A group of 120 of them – members of The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative – is appealing. 

Humble Design

Humble Design has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the garage of its co-founder, Treger Strasberg.

Strasberg got the idea for the non-profit after a co-worker and her children became homeless. 

After some time in a shelter, the family found a house to rent. But they had almost no possessions.  Strasberg recalls visiting the home and being shocked at how they had to live.

"(They made) little nests on the floor of where they were going to sleep with their coats and their clothing," she says, "and (they had) no furniture at all."


Thousands of disabled people in Michigan may soon be able to save up to $100,000 without jeopardizing their federal social security disability payments and other benefits like SNAP.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley says he believes the federal program, called MI-ABLE in Michigan, is the most important program to help disabled people since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.

It applies to those who were disabled or blind before age 26.

Kentwood, MI

Methane, a combustible gas, has been discovered underground, outside the boundaries of a Kent County landfill.

The now-closed landfill is near Kentwood's City Hall. 

Dar Baas, Kent County Director of Public Works, says methane usually vents up, into the air, but in this situation, some of it is moving horizonally, under the surface.

He says there will be increased monitoring in the area.

"We did some testing at the city office," says Baas, "and everything's coming back there non-detect, which is really good news. But we want to make sure we're thorough."