WUOMFM

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. 

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

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 http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

Wikipedia

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.
IIHS

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

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."

pixabay

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."

pixabay

The drought this summer may not have been good for your lawn.

But it was good for reducing the blooms of green slime known as cyanobacteria in Lake Erie.

"The low bloom we're seeing right now is just because Mother Nature threw us a dry year," says Chris Winslow, Interim Director of the Ohio Sea Grant. "Definitely the problem's not solved."

The problem is phosphorus, a component of fertilizer used on farmland throughout the water basins of Lake Erie. In a normal year, rains flush the phosphorus from farmland into the lake, and cyanobacteria loves phosphorus.

MDOT / via Twitter

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says 22,000 owners of surface parking lots and other parcels covered in impervious materials like concrete need to start pitching in for the city's $125 million annual cost for wastewater treatment.

Gary Brown is Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

We Energies

Michigan is asking its electric grid – known as MISO – to study ways to make electricity more reliable in the U.P.

MISO manages electric transmission in 15 U.S. states, including Michigan, and the Canadian province of Manitoba.  

State energy officials have asked MISO to study the benefit of connecting the U.P. to Ontario's grid, and improving the U.P.'s  connections to the Lower Peninsula. 

Judy Palnau, spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission, says that could improve reliability and reduce costs.

Melissa Cooper Sargent / Ecology Center

Many gardeners know that bees are in trouble, and they want to help.  Sales of so-called "bee-friendly" flowering plants are on the rise. 

There's just one problem, says Melissa Cooper Sargent of the Ecology Center, and it's a big one. 

Sargent says it's common practice for nurseries around the country to treat the seeds of the plants, or the plants themselves, with pesticides called neonicotinoids, that are highly toxic to bees.

Wikipedia

Update: 1:54 p.m. August 16

The City of Sterling Heights says animosity toward Muslims played no role in its decision to unanimously deny a permit to the American Islamic Community Center for a new mosque. 

The city says its decision was based solely on "established land use criteria."

Original Post:

The American Islamic Community Center is suing Sterling Heights for denying it a permit to the American Islamic Community Center to build a mosque.

freestockphotos

It happens every summer.  The rate of young children showing elevated blood lead levels goes up.  

That's in large part because kids spend more time in their houses, rather than at preschool and kindergarten.  They also spend more time outdoors where they can be exposed to sources of lead such as paint dust and soil.

But this year, in some cities and counties in Michigan, the spike was greater than usual.

Update: 11:37 a.m., August 15

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Kevin Elsenheimer issued the following press release over the weekend related to broken elevators at Towne Centre Place in Ypsilanti: 

Trump supporters at the Hillary Clinton speech in Warren.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Under the watchful eyes of several Warren police officers, about 40 Trump supporters gathered on one side of the street, near the building where Hillary Clinton gave a speech on her economic policies.

About 30 supporters of Clinton gathered on the other side.

“Lock her up!” chanted the Trump side. “Where’s your taxes?” chanted the Clinton side.

On the Trump side, Lisa Mankiewicz of Shelby Township is a true believer. She is sure Donald Trump will create jobs, and Hillary Clinton won’t.

Neal Herbert / flickr

Immigrants make Michigan's economy stronger and they should be welcomed, not feared.

That's the take-home from the Partnership for a New Economy, a bi-partisan group that supports federal immigration reform. 

The group’s recent study estimates nearly 642,000 Michigan residents were born abroad, and in 2014, they earned $19.6 billion, and paid $5.4 billion in local, state, and federal taxes.

Karen Phillippi is with the Michigan Office for New Americans. 

Wikimedia

Updated: 11:46 a.m. 8-10-16

Most Michigan pediatricians will be following the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control, which says children ages 2-17 should get a regular flu vaccine injection this year, not the FluMist nasal spray vaccine.

"The (FluMist) vaccine effectiveness is just simply not there," says Teresa Holtrop, a pediatrician and president-elect of the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

FluMist was developed by Michigan-trained epidemiologist Hunein Maassab.  He died in 2014.

Pages