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. 

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.

People voting.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Russia has been accused of hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee. 

So, could Russia or some other country or group hack U.S. voting machines in some states in an attempt to change an election?

The answer, according to a group of determined computer scientists featured in a recent article by Ben Wofford of Politico, is yes.

Tracy Samilton

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver's first State of the City address was a positive speech, full of expressions of gratitude -- and one pointed rebuke.

Weaver took pains to look on the bright side, while acknowledging that the city will be dealing with its damaged infrastructure and the after-effects of lead poisoning in kids for decades to come. 

"We have seen incredible compassion from people and organizations all across the country," said Weaver, "who have sent money, bottled water, and other resources to Flint."

But not everyone has pitched in, said Weaver.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

UPDATED at 9:34 pm on 8/3/16

Some of the supports for Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac are not as close together as they should be, according to State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

That’s gotten the company into some hot water with the state of Michigan.

Supports help keep the pipeline stable as it is buffeted by the powerful currents of the Straits. 

Enbridge told the state in 2014 the pipeline has supports every 75 feet, as required by the state's 1953 easement.

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Great Lakes charter boat companies are pleading with Congress to approve bills aimed at keeping Asian carp out of Lake Michigan, by permanently separating the lake from the Mississippi River watershed, where the invasive species is numerous.

Denny Grinold owns Fish N' Grin Charters in Michigan.

He says if carp get into the Great Lakes, his business will be worthless, and he will  have nothing to pass on to his children and grandchildren.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It looks like Southeast Michigan voters will get a chance in November to vote on a tax to expand public transportation. The deal among Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county could end decades of stalled efforts. 

Last week, Oakland and Macomb county leaders voted no on a ballot proposal to levy a 1.2-mill, 20-year tax on tri-county residents for coordinated public transportation.

They feared they wouldn't have enough say in how the money was spent.  But a last-minute deal addressed the concerns, and the no votes became yes votes.   

Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and City Council members have called a truce in the city's trash war.

The two sides are fighting over which company gets a contract to pick up residents' trash. Weaver favors Rizzo Environmental Services; City Council favors the current contractor, Republic Services.

Weaver and the council agreed to a stipulated order allowing Republic to temporarily resume trash pickup until a court hearing on August 11.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The first thing you notice about the street in front of Walter Hicks' home is it's peaceful.  There are lots of trees, chirping birds, and most of the lawns are mowed.  

But then you see that the houses on either side of Hicks' home are boarded up. And there are lots of boarded up homes all down the street. 

That doesn't seem to put even a little dent in his pride of ownership.

cford3 / Wikipedia

Consumers Energy in April closed seven of its coal-burning units.

DTE Energy plans to shut eight of its coal-burning units by the year 2023.

Mark Barteau is Director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute.  He says eventually, coal is going away because natural gas, wind and solar are more cost-effective - as well as being better for public health and the planet.

Screen showing Line 5 on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has contracted with Det Norske Veritas to conduct a risk analysis of Enbridge Energy Line 5, two oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac.

A separate consultant, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, will study the alternatives to keeping the aging pipelines open.

Environmental groups say a failure of the pipelines would be a catastrophe for the Great Lakes.

Screenshot of Facebook post by Det. Nate Weekley
Detroit police department

A white Detroit police detective has been demoted for his reaction to the Dallas shootings last week.

Detective Nate Weekley blamed Black Lives Matter for the murders of five Dallas police officers in a Facebook post, although the killer was not actually part of the otherwise peaceful protest. 

Weekley called members of Black Lives Matter "racists" and "terrorists." 

He was demoted to officer and is being reassigned. 

taliesin / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State Senator Mike Kowall plans to introduce legislation called "Uniformed Lives Matter."  

The bills make it a hate crime to assault someone in law enforcement.

It's Kowal's response to the murders of Dallas police officers last week.

Kowall says he doesn't intend to upset people in the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/raidokaldma/12617680335
Raido / Flickr.com

The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns that hacking poses an ever-growing threat to car owners, as cars increasingly become computers with wi-fi on wheels.

"As more and more technology is incorporated, the vulnerability is huge," says the Bureau's Frank Scafidi.  "We're not seeing huge events like this or great numbers.  It is sporadic but it is something to be aware of."

A recent video caught a thief sitting in a car with his laptop, reprogramming a car to start, most likely using a new, blank key. A few minutes later, he takes off in the car.

NOAA

Scientists predict this year's cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie will be smaller than any year since 2010.

Cyanobacteria produces a dangerous toxin. In 2014 a large mass surrounded Toledo's water intake and shut it down for two days.

Last year, record blooms covered a huge area of Lake Erie with green slime.

Rick Stump is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says this year, a relatively dry June will prevent what happened in 2015.

Charles Pugh

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office says Charles Pugh will be extradited to Michigan Thursday.

The former Detroit City Council President faces six charges of criminal sexual assault. 

Pugh is accused of criminal sexual conduct with a 14-year-old boy in 2003. That's six years before he entered politics and was elected to city council. 

Pugh has been living in Manhattan, where he was arrested last month. 

The prosecutor's office says he will be arraigned via video conference once he arrives in Michigan.

Earth First

A group of Earth First activists held a rowdy protest at the Midland home of State Attorney General Bill Schuette to demand the immediate shutdown of an aging oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. 

A statement by Earth First issued after the protest says until Schuette shuts down Enbridge Line 5, he can expect more protests at his home.

Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely says protesters violently beat on the door and windows while Schuette's wife was home alone, and they defaced the property. 

Howard Lake/flickr

The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelets, urging all eligible donors to give now to replenish an extremely low summer blood supply.

The group says blood donations have fallen short of hospital needs for the past few months, resulting in about 39,000 fewer donations than what’s needed, as well as a significant draw down of the overall Red Cross blood supply.

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