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. 

brain scan
NIH IMAGE GALLERY / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority can't seem to seal the deal with a new CEO.

The state's largest such authority is responsible for a more than $700 million Medicaid budget to care for 80,000 people with mental illness, developmental disorders, and substance abuse disorders.  

The decision by two consecutive CEO choices to pull out of contract negotiations with the authority is bringing long-overdue attention to the way the authority spends its money and manages contracts.  

New Center Community Services

Joy Calloway has withdrawn from contract talks to lead the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority (DWMHA) as CEO.

The move came after Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, who appoints six members of the authority's board, wrote two letters to board chairman Herbert Smitherman asking that the offer to Calloway be rescinded, because of a conflict of interest.

Calloway is CEO of New Center Community Services, an agency that receives funds from the DWMHA.  An audit recently found that New Center may have overbilled DWMHA by nearly two million dollars.  But the board decided to settle the matter for $95,000, the amount found in a 5% sampling of New Center's claims.

Calloway wrote an impassioned letter to two members of the board on the search committee, in which she said she was retracting her acceptance because "it is abundantly clear that I am not the candidate the

Spranger before she was elected as Macomb County Clerk.
Macomb Daily

Here’s a pop quiz for you. What’s the name of your county clerk?

County clerks play a critical role in keeping government operations on track, but they’re not usually in the spotlight. That is, unless you live in Macomb County. Since taking office this year, Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has been caught up in one controversy after another. 

Warren Evans on Instagram

  The state's largest mental health authority has selected Joy Calloway as its next CEO, but Wayne County Executive Warren Evans says the board should resolve a conflict of interest before hiring her.

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is currently in contract negotiations with Calloway. 

The authority has a budget of over $700 million, and cares for 80,000 people with mental health and substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities in Detroit and Wayne County.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A circuit court judge has issued a temporary restraining order directing Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger to reinstate key employees, give them the resources and staff they need to do their jobs, and allow them to perform their duties.

The TRO was issued after the Macomb County circuit courts, the county treasurer and sheriff, and the county itself sued Spranger for an unprecedented situation: an elected official who seems hell-bent on destroying the functioning of her own office.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state task force has issued recommendations for the regulation of unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) in Michigan. There's hardly an industry in Michigan today that doesn't have a possible use for drones.  They could do crop inspections for farmers, bridge inspections and wildlife surveys for the state, traffic enforcement for police, and help real estate agents sell homes.  But they may not be safe or desirable everywhere.   Mackinac Island probably won't want drones spooking the horses, for example.   So the state may need a law that allows special exemptions. Mike Trout is with the st

Consumers Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission has set new "avoided cost" rates for small, renewable energy companies that provide electricity to Consumers Energy.

The rates compensate the producers for the electricity they provide, which allows Consumers Energy to "avoid" having to produce that amount of energy itself.

The new rates are seen as deeply unfair by some types of renewable energy producers, like hydro and waste-to-energy.

Tracy Samilton

The University of Michigan is negotiating with white supremacist Richard Spencer on his demand to speak on campus.

U of M President Mark Schlissel says Spencer's views are abhorrent. Spencer thinks whites should pursue what he calls a "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to remove minorities from the U.S.

"However, as a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech," Schlissel told a jeering and angry crowd of students at a hastily-called regents meeting Tuesday night.

Enbridge

A final state-commissioned report on alternatives to Line 5 is out.    People are looking for those alternatives because the pipeline runs under the straits of Mackinac, and a spill could be catastrophic.   The highly technical report from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems claims the overall risk of a spill from Line 5 is very small.  Most people worry about the pipeline losing its protective coating, or metal fatigue caused by stresses from the strong currents, but the report claims the greater threat is a ship anchor striking the pipeline.    The alternatives considered range from an expensive $2 to $3 billion new pipeline that avoids the Great Lakes altogether to constructing a new section of the pipeline across the Straits in a trench or tunnel. That alternative would cost between $30 to 150 million, according to the analysis.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Eastern Michigan University's faculty unions are running ads to try to stop an online degree initiative.

The university has a contract with Academic Partnerships, a for-profit company, to recruit students for online degrees. AP gets 50% of the tuition for the students it enrolls in EMU online degree courses.

A "No Trespassing" sign hangs outside the Handlon Correction Facility.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Drone technology is quickly becoming more sophisticated and affordable. While that's great for people who want a drone under the Christmas tree - it's a nightmare for prison officials. 

Criminals are using drones to try to smuggle in drugs, cell phones, and other contraband.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Enough is enough, Macomb County Commissioners say.  It's time for County Clerk Karen Spranger to go.

Before she was elected, Spranger was a political neophyte known for odd forms of protest, such as showing up at a Warren City Council meeting wearing a silver track suit, sunglasses, and two hats, to protest DTE smart meter installations.

It's not clear why Macomb County voters chose someone with no qualifications as their next County Clerk, but most county officials believe she was elected solely by virtue of straight-party ticket voting, and won the office on Donald Trump's coattails.

Spranger's tenure has been a whirlwind of one scandal after another, with lawsuits, employee grievances, a car wreck, allegations of perjury, and chaos in the day-to-day workings of a crucial county department that touches the lives of citizens, businesses, and the courts.

"She refuses to hire new employees," says County Commissioner Robert Leonetti, "so now we're down 11 or 12 employees, in her department, not to mention the ones that are on administrative leave because of harassment."

MDHHS

More people were sickened this week, and another person died in the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan.

495 cases have been reported since the outbreak began in the summer of 2016. 416 of those cases involved hospitalization. 

The numbers continue to rise despite public health efforts to vaccinate those at higher risk, and to educate people about how this virus strain is being spread -- person-to person, via lax hygiene and close contact.

Updated: 11/9/17

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners has once again said "no" to the county clerk's request for money for a private attorney.  Karen Spranger asked for $15,000 for a private attorney earlier this year, and she asked for $100,000 on Tuesday.

Spranger is involved in so many lawsuits it's hard to keep track. 

She's being sued by two former employees that she fired after they allegedly blew the whistle on her ethics violations. She's being sued by one of the unions that represents her employees. And she's being sued by the county.   

MDHHS

A public health coordination center is being activated, after indications that a regional hepatitis A outbreak could spread to other parts of the state. 

Most of the 457 people who have contracted hepatitis A since last summer live in southeast Michigan. But a few recent cases have been reported in counties in the thumb, as well as Ingham County. 370 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak began, and 18 people have died.

The state's Community Health Emergency Coordination Center supports public health groups on the front lines of fighting disease outbreaks, providing expertise, guidance and educational materials. The center was last activated in response to the Flint Water Crisis. It was also activated during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.

Macomb Daily

There have been so many twists and turns and controversies since voters elected anti-government activist Karen Spranger as county clerk, it would make a pretty good soap opera.

The latest: A circuit court judge has issued a temporary restraining order directing Spranger to stop threatening and harassing her employees.  That's after internal grievances, which were upheld, failed to stop her behavior, which includes threats to fire people.

Michigan State Police

District judges are urging Governor Snyder to support bills that would eliminate a tax called the Driver Responsibility Fee.  The bills would also forgive money owed from past assessments of the fee. 

More than 300,000 people owe the state large sums because of the DRF.

Hand washing
Pixabay

Michigan has 14 times more hepatitis A cases than it did last year at this time, say epidemiologists with the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The outbreak, which is mainly in southeast Michigan, has sickened 457 people.  Of those, 370 have been hospitalized and 18 have died. 

The outbreak is complicated.  There's no single source such as food contamination - and many groups of people are at risk, including homeless people, drug users, people who are neither, and now there are more cases among men who have sex with men.  

Workers repair the water main break in Farmington Hills.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Near 14 Mile and Drake, a green pool of water covers half the road at the site of the 50-year-old water main that broke Monday night, leaving more than 300,000 people without drinking water.

military veterans
John M. Cropper / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some disabled Michigan veterans could get some income tax relief from a bill being introduced by state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

Jones says he began work on the bill after learning about a Michigan man who was completely disabled after a tour in Afghanistan.

He says the federal government forgave the man's student debt.

But the IRS considers forgiven debt a form of income.

Michigan Department of Corrections

Authorities say Eddie Curlin, an African-American man, was acting in "self-interest," not politically, when he allegedly spray painted racist messages at Eastern Michigan University last year.

That's the only explanation so far for why a black man would spray paint racial slurs including the "n-word," and "KKK" on three separate occasions in the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017.

Police say they caught the 29-year-old after an intensive investigation that included more than 60 interviews and viewing 1,200 hours of video from campus cameras.

wikipedia

Honda is stepping up its effort to get some of the most dangerous recalled cars in the country repaired.

Tests have shown that the early-issue Takata airbags in these vehicles have up to a 50% chance of exploding in the face of the driver in a crash:

NHTSA

General Motors is paying out more money after delaying a recall of cars with a potentially deadly defect.  

The automaker has settled with states for $120 million, after states sued for damages related to the automaker's ten-year delay of an ignition switch recall. 

The switches could easily be bumped or jostled into the off or accessory position.  That also turned off safety systems like air bags. 

More than 124 people were killed in accidents in which the switches turning off was a factor. 

Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor will significantly expand its deer cull this winter, requesting trained sharpshooters to kill up to 350 deer.  That's up from the goal of 100 last year (sharpshooters were able to kill 96).

Most of the cull will take place in Wards 1 and 2, north of the river, where as many as 600 deer are living, according to Tom Crawford, who is in charge of the city's deer management program.

He says it's year three of a four-year program, and the city has enough experience with the program now to determine what's needed.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A new study says Michigan's transportation system is better prepared for climate change than many other Midwest states.

But it's still not enough, according to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute.

Study author Mary Craighead says Michigan will see higher temperatures, heavier rains, increased erosion, and more frequent freeze-thaw cycles.  That will damage bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

Craighead says it's an economic issue for the whole country, not just Michigan.

battlecreekcvb / flickr

Battle Creek Public Schools has balanced its budget for the first time in ten years.

Superintendent Kim Carter says the district sold two under-capacity school buildings, outsourced bussing, and sold its buses.  

Selling the schools also meant the district could reduce some administrative and support staff who worked in those buildings.  Carter says they avoided direct cuts to classes and teaching staff.

Hand washing
Pixabay

Since an outbreak began last August, 376 people in Michigan have contracted the sometimes fatal illness. It's mainly spread person-to-person via contact with feces.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

"We haven't found one contaminated food source or exposure at this point," she says, "but we are seeing a lot of relation to people who are using opioids or drugs."

People who are, or have been incarcerated, are also considered at higher risk of getting hepatitis A, as are homeless people. A staggering 86% of those who've gotten hepatitis A in the state since last year have been hospitalized.  Fourteen people have died.

Car dashboard
Pixabay

Many infotainment systems are placing very high demands on drivers, according to new research. 

Of 30 infotainment systems tested, virtually all broke the two second rule for many tasks, meaning don't take your eyes off the road more than two seconds to fiddle with the radio or navigation system. Some tasks took drivers more than 40 seconds.  Gary Bubar is with AAA.  He says the message for drivers is clear.

"Use your common sense," he says.  "Understand that just because the systems are there we don't need to use them while we're driving."

A flag with both the University of Michigan and Michigan State
yooperann / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Thousands of football fans are pouring into Ann Arbor for tonight’s face-off between the U of M Wolverines and MSU Spartans.

The long-standing rivalry between the two teams and the game’s later-than-usual 7:30 start time have local officials on guard.

Diane Brown with U of M's Division of Public Safety and Security says the department has a comprehensive security plan in place, “as usual.”

She says at the beginning of each season and each week, the department looks at its plans to see if any adjustments are needed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been without an administrator since January.

Reuters reports former NHTSA officials, consumer groups, lawmakers and some business leaders are urging the Trump Administration to appoint someone.

Amit Narang is with Public Citizen.  He says the situation means tire safety regulations have been put on the back burner.

Pages