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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. 

Eddie Curlin
MDOC

In 2016, 29-year old Eddie Curlin had been charged with receiving and concealing stolen property when he devised a plan to wiggle out of his trouble with the law. 

He thought authorities would drop the charges if he spray painted racist messages on Eastern Michigan University buildings, and then pretended to be an informant who could help police find the vandal. 

The racist messages caused distress and anger among students, and the plan went awry. After police figured out he was the culprit, they also discovered unrelated identity theft crimes he'd committed.  

public domain

Automakers are urging the Trump administration not to freeze fuel efficiency standards after the year 2022. 

The standards were meant to help the United States reduce carbon emissions and meet the terms of the Paris Agreement. In the final days of the Obama administration, federal regulators finalized rigorous fuel economy improvements for 2022 to 2025, reaching a real-world mpg average of about 35 miles per gallon.

Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in Michigan, people can file a complaint if they are discriminated against for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 

The state's Elliott-Larson Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, among other categories. Today the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a regulation stating that "sex" under the Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Chevy Volt at charging station
Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) / Wikimedia

Consumers Energy is proposing a $7.5 million rebate and education pilot project to encourage electric vehicle adoption.

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan's two largest utilities have struck a deal with the group Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan that will keep a renewable energy initiative off the ballot in November.

The group, backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, agreed to drop the ballot drive in exchange for a commitment from the utilities to rely on 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 25 percent by 2030.

Fred Freeman
Project Innocence

Fred Freeman was 25 when a jury found him guilty of gunning down 20-year-old Scott Macklem in a Port Huron parking lot in 1986.   

He never saw the verdict coming, figuring the unfairness of the trial would be so obvious to the jury it would come back with "not guilty," along with a tongue-lashing for the prosecution. 

As soon as Freeman got over the shock of his conviction, he began filing appeals, first in state courts and then in federal courts.

lake sturgeon
Tennessee Aquarium

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the federal government to protect lake sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center's Mark Finc says there used to be 15 million lake sturgeon in the U.S.  There's now just a few thousand.

While Michigan and some other states have taken steps to protect lake sturgeon, Finc says it's not enough.

"What we have found is it's fairly haphazard," says Finc, "and that it really needs to be more consistent across the board,  instead of just a couple spots here and there."

a fuel economy (mpg) sticker
wikimedia

Seven national environmental groups are challenging the EPA's decision to freeze fuel economy standards in the year 2022.

guns in holsters on two people
Lucio Eastman - Free State Project - PorcFest 2009 / CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27373086

A new survey finds only a quarter of Michigan teachers think arming teachers will make students safer from gun violence.

The poll found 95% of teachers and support staff say schools need more funding for mental health services.

Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association, which commissioned the poll.  

"More counselors and social workers can work with students who are struggling with issues in and outside the classroom, and provide them with the support they need," says Herbart.

Michigan United

Members of a church that gave an immigrant man sanctuary are walking from Detroit to Lansing to raise awareness of his situation.

Supporters say Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian man who's lived in the U.S. since 2001, is the sole support for his disabled wife, who has multiple sclerosis, and his 15-year-old son.  

He's been living in Detroit's Central United Methodist Church for four months after the government revoked his humanitarian status.

Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By more than a two-to-one margin, voters on Tuesday approved a nearly $97 million bond proposal for Kalamazoo Public Schools - the largest in its history.  Part of the money will replace a magnet school that was built in 1928. 

Jackson voters approved an $86.74 million bond proposal that will include building a new elementary school building.  The vote was 2,629 to 1,615.  

Roxbury Group

Cities like Flint and Detroit are redeveloping former industrial sites along their waterfronts.

Now it's hopefully Ann Arbor's turn, says a developer working for DTE Energy. David Di Rita is with the Roxbury Group.

He says DTE Energy wants to redevelop the former MichCon coal gasification plant on Broadway, along the Huron River.  The plant was closed in 1938.  

Karen Spranger
Macomb Daily

Federal District Judge George Steeh dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger Thursday.

Steeh ruled there was no relief under federal law for the complaints alleged in Spranger's lawsuit.

Spranger alleged there was a Democrat-led conspiracy to force her from office, because she is a Republican. 

The lawsuit also claimed it was a violation of her constitutional rights when the county revoked her authority to run the office as she saw fit.   

Michigan absentee voter form
State of Michigan

In the final days leading up to election day two years ago, Tom Barrett, a Republican candidate for the 71st District in Eaton County, was knocking on doors when he met a voter he had a lot in common with.

They got to talking about their shared military experience and after a while, the man said he wished he hadn't already voted for Barrett's opponent.

Starwood Energy Group

General Motors says a new wind farm being constructed in Ohio brings it one step closer to running all its facilities worldwide on 100% renewable energy. 

The 100 megawatt wind farm in northwest Ohio was grandfathered in, before a new law made it almost impossible to build wind farms in that state.

Rob Threlkeld, head of global renewable energy for GM, says the Ohio project, along with one being constructed in Illinois, will offset carbon emissions from seven GM plants in the Midwest.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Some state legislators aren't happy with a recent decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission to end net metering.

So they've introduced a set of bills to restore it.

Net metering was a method used to compensate residential utility customers with solar roofs.  The solar panels can often produce more electricity than the customer needs, so it goes onto the grid.

Net metering customers would get a credit for their excess electricity equal to the utilities' own rates.  

wikimedia commons

Stateside's Cynthia Canty recently spoke with David Carroll of the 6th Amendment Center about its new report, which concludes that public defenders in Wayne County are overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced.

He says there are only 16 public defenders for Wayne County when there should be 30.

Their caseloads are 145% of the national average, and they have no secretaries, paralegals or investigators.

They're also grossly underpaid.

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Mott Community College will use a $20,000 grant from Cypress Creek Renewables to help develop a solar energy training program.

The grant will support curriculum development for electric workers and construction workers who specialize in commercial solar installations.

Kevin Borgia is Cypress Creek Renewable's Midwest Policy Director.  He says Mott's new program will reach out in particular to women, minorities, and veterans.

CPB agents in Mexico port of entry
CPB

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says its 2017 annual civil rights report shows a spike in complaints of discrimination against Muslims - especially against federal agencies, like Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The report says incidents in which people were inappropriately targeted and harassed by CPB were the second most frequent type of abuse and constituted 13% of cases.  

"This is the first time that CBP has ranked within the top five," says the report, "and it is possible to attribute this to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban executive order."

Eddie Curlin
MDOC

A black man who spray painted racist graffiti on Eastern Michigan University buildings in 2016 and 2017 has pleaded guilty to three charges of malicious destruction of property, a misdemeanor, and four counts of identity theft -- a felony -- related to the investigation.

The investigation into the vandalism cases showed that Eddie Curlin vandalized the buildings and then acted as an informant to police on the pretense of helping to solve the case in order to have other previous criminal charges dropped and be allowed to return as a student to Eastern Michigan University.

solar panels
David Goehring / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Two solar energy companies say DTE Energy is stonewalling to keep them out of the state.

Kevin Borgia is with Cypress Creek Renewables, which plans up to 700 megawatts of new solar farms in Michigan.

He says the company can't proceed without first getting basic information from DTE, like where's a good place to connect to DTE's grid - and what kind of transmission upgrades will be needed.

He says DTE is violating state law by continually failing to meet deadlines to provide the information. "Over 100 times DTE has failed to meet those deadlines," he says.

Workers install solar panels on a roof
Alex Snyder / Wayne National Forest/Wikimedia Commons

Starting some time next year, electric utilities will be able to submit lower reimbursements to the Michigan Public Service Commission to compensate their solar customers.

Right now, when a customer with a solar roof creates more electricity than needed, it becomes available to the grid.

Utilities pay the customer the same rate that they themselves charge.

A tug and barge leaving Duluth port
Pete Markham / Wikipedia Commons

Michigan's Attorney General says the Escanaba-based company allegedly responsible for damage to two pipelines under the straits of Mackinac will face civil charges.

solar panels on roof of home
pixabay

Advocates for solar energy are calling for a change in state law, after the Michigan Tax Tribunal sided with the city of Ann Arbor in a dispute over the value of solar panels.

The city increased a couple's property tax assessment by more than $5,500 after they installed solar panels on the roof of their home.

Becky Stanfield is with Vote Solar. She says taxing someone for putting in solar panels is like taxing them for buying a more energy-efficient refrigerator or other appliance.

quagga mussels in lake michigan
Greg Marks / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The U.S. Senate is expected to soon take up an authorization bill for the Coast Guard that includes the "Vessel Incidental Discharge Act."  

Environmental groups think the Discharge Act would be really bad for the Great Lakes.

The Discharge Act gives the U.S. Coast Guard sole authority in setting regulations for ballast water discharges into the lakes. 

A very large black bear
Oswold's Bear Ranch

The Michigan Legislature is considering bills that would allow both zoos and other facilities to breed large animals, like bears, tigers, or lions.

But the Detroit Zoo says only zoos can keep both large carnivores and the public safe. From its statement:

Jeffrey Zeigler
Oakland County Sheriff

A Rochester Hills man has been charged with two felony counts after he shot at a 14-year-old black teen with a shotgun Thursday morning.

Police say Brennan Walker, also of Rochester Hills, knocked on the door of retired Detroit firefighter Jeffrey Zeigler, who chased him into the yard, and shot at him with a 12 gauge shotgun as the teen fled.

Zeigler's wife claimed Walker was trying to break into the home. But Walker said he was walking to school in an unfamiliar neighborhood after missing the bus, and he wanted to ask for directions.

wikipedia

Saginaw attorney Philip Ellison has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of nine parents whose infants' blood was taken and tested without their consent.

Newborn screening is a public health program required by state law.   It uses tiny samples of blood to screen for about 50 genetic diseases.

If a condition is detected, the parents are notified.  The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says each year more than 250 Michigan babies are found to have a disorder detected by newborn bloodspot screening.

A Kirtland's Warbler
Joel Trick / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State and federal wildlife agencies say the Kirtland's Warbler can safely be removed from the endangered species list. 

The yellow breasted songbird breeds only in stands of young jack pines, trees found mainly in northern Michigan, but also in the U.P., Wisconsin, and Ontario.

The bird numbered only about 330 individuals at its lowest point in 1987, but it has since recovered and now numbers about 4,600.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes how the warbler got into trouble:

Wikipedia Commons

It's been a long, tough, cold winter in Michigan. But it's turned out especially tough for residents of Neebish Island in the U.P.  

The island is entering week two of being cut off from the mainland, after ice pieces from Lake Superior jammed the passage across St. Mary's River. 

Jamie Pringle is captain of the island's ferry. He says he is using an airboat to get mail and supplies to people. And the Coast Guard has a helicopter ready for emergencies.

Pringle says islanders are taking the situation in stride. 

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