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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. 

Emma Winnowiecki / Michigan Radio

State Senator Rick Jones says billboards advertising medical marijuana are sending a harmful message to kids and adults.

"All over the capital city of Lansing as you drive around, you see giant billboards that advertise 'High Michigan," says Jones.  "And they're talking about getting high on medical marijuana.  It would be the same as if you had billboards that said 'get high on opioids' that you take for pain medication."

Michigan State Police

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards has released its report with recommendations to improve trust in law enforcement in Michigan.

The report states recruits, and police officers, should have more one-on-one interactions with people of different backgrounds - and they should receive more training on mental health issues, de-escalating conflicts, and being aware of unconscious bias.

Screen grab taken from Karen Spranger's Facebook page

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger faces a new lawsuit, after being sued earlier this year by two former employees who say their firing was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on her unethical behavior.

This time Spranger is being sued for actions she took before taking the oath of office.

Diane Zontini says ten days after the election in November, she caught an associate of Spranger secretly videotaping her as Zontini was conducting private business at the Clerk's office.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie in late July of this year.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan has a draft plan ready for public comment on how it will help keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie.

All Great Lakes states will come up with their own plan.  Those plans will become part of an EPA-led strategy to fight harmful cyanobacteria, which thrives on the high loads of phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

Jim Johnson is Director of the Environmental Stewardship Division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

line of chevy volts
Courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is adding to its fleet of automated cars. The company hopes to maintain what it says is a big advantage in a crucial technology of the future.  

GM put 50 self-driving Bolt EVs on public roads late last year.  At GM's Orion Township plant, CEO Mary Barra showed off some of the 130 next-generation self-driving Bolts that will soon be added to the fleet.

a child sitting at a desk hunched over his schoolwork
Taylor International Academy

Taylor International Academy in Southfield closed abruptly last week, 12 days before the end of the school year, after the school board, the principal and other administrators quit.

But even though the school has been struggling financially, that doesn't mean it's completely broke.

Central Michigan University, which chartered the school, will be getting state school aid payments through August for the school.

Tracy Samilton

For most Michigan kids, the school year is over next week. 

But for the 300-some kids at Taylor International Academy in Southfield, it ended twelve days early, after the charter's management company suddenly pulled its staff, including the principal.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station right on Lake Huron in Ontario.
user Cszmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

Thirty-two members of Congress – including Debbie Dingell – have sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to get involved in efforts to stop a nuclear waste storage site.

A Canadian company has proposed a site about a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

The Chevrolet Bolt, a long-range electric car
GM

Less than eight months after General Motors made its initial 100% renewable energy commitment, the Detroit automaker's CEO, Mary Barra, says the timeline will be sped up.

"That's a stake that we put in the ground and now we plan to move that back," Barra said at a press conference held prior to GM's annual shareholders meeting.

A spokesman for GM confirmed the plan, but says there is "no new timetable to announce at this point."

DTE Biomass

Most people know DTE Energy as a gas and electric utility that operates in southeast Michigan. 

But the company also has a subsidiary with projects throughout the country that convert landfill gas to renewable energy. 

DTE Biomass has now added two landfill gas-to-energy projects in Texas to its portfolio.

Kevin Dobson, Vice President of DTE Biomass, says landfills produce greenhouse gases from the decomposition of organic waste.  About half is methane.

Upward Bound alum Amy Lehigh, and parent of alum Jackie Allard.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Many programs are on the chopping block in President Trump's proposed budget.

That includes the Upward Bound program, which helps rural low-income kids who are the first in their families to go to college.

Upward Bound is for students in 9th-12th grades, offering field trips along with academic instruction in subjects like math, literature and foreign languages.  Students learn how to study in college, how to take good notes, and what to expect once they get on campus.

wikimedia

Chuck Rizzo, the former CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services, a garbage hauling company, has been indicted along with others on multiple charges after he allegedly used his business to foster a criminal enterprise. 

Rizzo is accused of bribing officials to get hauling contracts, as well as stealing money from his company, which was majority-owned at the time by a private equity firm. 

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
flickr user frankileon / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the state legislature to spend money from an upcoming lawsuit settlement on a public health campaign on opioid addiction. 

Opioids include illegal drugs like heroin as well as prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

Michigan is getting about $860,000 as its share of a national lawsuit settlement with Johnson and Johnson over a botched recall. 

Emilio Labrador / Flickr

New car sales have reached a plateau, according to Michelle Krebs of Autotrader. 

Krebs says May's sales could be flat or just slightly higher compared to last year.  That follows several months of sales being down slightly.

She says one reason is the cost of everything, including a new car, is going up, but incomes aren't.  The average price for a new car is now $30,000. 

"The price of shelter, of health care, of education have gone up even more," says Krebs, "and yet household income has stagnated."

wikimedia commons

The law firm that previously sued Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, and Fiat Chrysler for alleged cheating on diesel emissions says General Motors did the same thing.

Hagens Berman has sued GM on behalf of a potential class of approximately 700,000 owners of Chevy and GMC diesel trucks, claiming the automaker cheated to bypass federal standards for allowable emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx.)

The U.S. EPA says the pollutants are linked to asthma, heart disease, smog and global warming, among other ills.

automotiveauto.info

President Trump followed up on a key campaign promise last week and formally notified Congress of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Some economists say there's more of a downside than an upside to opening up the landmark deal, especially for Michigan.

Charles Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University. "My advice to anybody talking about renegotiating NAFTA, if you have to use a scalpel, use a scalpel.  Please don't use a meat ax," Ballard said.

babeltravel/Flickr

GM is abandoning its 2015 plan to invest a billion dollars in India.  The automaker says it will continue to build cars at its Indian factories, but will export them to other countries.  Its brands will not be on the showroom floors of India.

The about-face makes sense to Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book.  She says the Indian car market is slowing, and Indian consumers rarely buy GM's most profitable vehicles - SUVs and trucks.  Instead, they tend to purchase very small vehicles, and GM makes next to no money selling those.

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Six people who were arrested at a recent Flint town hall meeting will not face state charges.

The Genesee County prosecutor has declined to file charges, but the protesters could still be prosecuted by the city for misdemeanors.

Attorney Greg Gibbs of the ACLU represents five of the six people involved.  

The meeting was held in a church, and the arrests happened after one of them complained that town hall meetings should not be held in churches.

Gibbs says the arrests were wrong.  

Smokestacks at a coal-burning power plant
Michigan Radio

DTE Energy will close its last coal-burning plant by 2040, and reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

The decision comes in spite of the Trump administration's decision to slam the brakes on the Clean Power Plan, which would have allowed the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the first time.

While the president and top administration officials continue denying the causal connection between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change, many corporations, including utilities like DTE, have accepted it as fact.

Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

Governor Snyder got one really good grade, two really bad grades, and a handful of middling grades on his environmental report card from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters this year.

The non-partisan group has Republicans and Democrats on its board.

The report card gives Snyder some credit for taking steps to ameliorate the Flint water crisis, but says the government-caused debacle remains a shameful failing of leadership on his watch. Snyder got an "F" in the new-this-year category of Flint water crisis.

Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sterling Heights that sought to avoid the city paying part of the estimated $70 million tab for repairing a massive sinkhole in Macomb County.

Sterling Heights is one of ten cities in the sinkhole's drainage district.

Candice Miller is head of the County Public Works Department. She says the lawsuit had stopped a crucial bond sale in its tracks. Now the sale can happen.

Eastern Michigan University
F. Delventhal / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Contract talks between Eastern Michigan University and its part-time faculty are already heating up. That's even though the current contract doesn't end until August 31.

Daric Thorne is President of the EMU Federation of Teachers union. He says there's been progress on some issues.

But he says Eastern will not drop its proposal to cut wages for newly hired part-time faculty by 25%. Thorne says even at the current wage, many instructors can't make a living teaching solely at EMU.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump's proposed budget calls for cutting money for cleaning up Superfund sites by a third. 

But the EPA's new head, Scott Pruitt, has told employees that he's going to make Superfund cleanups a priority.

Activists fighting for the cleanup of a Superfund site along the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan hope Pruitt will get some more money so he can keep the promise.  It's one of the most polluted Superfund sites in the state.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican State Senator John Proos says Governor Rick Snyder's proposed budget has some misguided priorities.

He says the budget allocates $100 more  per K-12 student for 2018 - and $1,480 more per prison inmate. 

Proos claims the extra prison money is essentially for overhead - covering the cost of empty beds as the inmate population shrinks.   Michigan's prison population is projected to shrink from approximately 42,333 in 2016-17 to 40,415 in 2017-2018.

Macomb County

Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has agreed to let a move of some of her departments take place -- but only after she was sued by the county. 

Spranger has been butting heads with Macomb County officials and getting into trouble ever since she took office in January.  

The former anti-government activist lost access to her county-owned computer for weeks, after she was caught letting friends, who were not county employees, use it. 

Tinker A.F. base

A civil rights group says it's unconstitutional for the Michigan Secretary of State to suspend the drivers licenses of people who are too poor to pay their fines. 

Screen grab taken from Karen Spranger's Facebook page

Macomb County's new Clerk is a political neophyte who has stumbled into controversy after controversy since she took office five months ago. 

A map showing cities sending a bus to People's Climate March.
Michigan Climate Action Network

Several hundred people from Michigan got on buses today to ride all night to Washington, D.C., to attend the 2017 People's Climate March.

Andrew Sarpolis with the Sierra Club organized the bus leaving from Detroit. He says many of the buses sold out early.

"Flint filled up almost a month ago," he says. "Our bus filled up a week in advance, and I believe the Ann Arbor bus as well, so all across the board, we're really seeing a lot of interest in going to this march."

This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

A group hopes to get a ballot question before voters that would ban Enbridge from transporting oil through its Line 5 pipelines, which run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Attorney Jeffrey Hank is with the group, Keep Our Lakes Great.

Hank says while there are other efforts underway, including studies assessing the risks of the pipeline and alternatives to it, "we can't dawdle. After Flint and all these other lessons, we've seen we can't just sit around. So if the state doesn't do something, we're going to put the question before voters."

pixabay

Two Michigan Senators plan to introduce bills to criminalize the practice of genital mutilation of minor girls under state law.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime under federal law.  The U.S. Justice Department this week brought the first-ever charges under the law against two Detroit-area doctors and a third person.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44,  Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, are charged with performing FGM on minor girls out of Fakrhuddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

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