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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. 

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.

Ann Arbor Police Department

The Ann Arbor Police Department is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of men who allegedly spray-painted racist messages in an alley off the 600 block of East Liberty Street.

The men are suspected of spray painting hateful messages on a mural in an alley.  The messages read "Free Dylann Roof," (the white supremacist who killed nine African Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015) and "I hate [n-word]."

Roymundo VII / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The number of homeless people in Michigan declined 9% last year.

That shows Michigan's approach is working, says Kelly Rose.  She's Chief Housing Solutions Officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. 

Rose says agencies now focus resources on those most in need, rather than first come, first serve.  And the approach is to get someone into housing first, then help them deal with problems like substance abuse or mental health.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Twenty-three Detroit neighborhoods could see their business strips revitalized and made more walkable under a plan proposed by Mayor Mike Duggan.

The plan involves selling $125-million worth of bonds to fix the roadways, add medians and bike paths, and plant trees, among other improvements.

Jevana Watson is opening a coffee shop, Detroit Sip, on McNichols road near Livernois on the west side of the city, one of the neighborhoods that would get a facelift.

She says the plan could help the neighborhood thrive and grow.

Tracy Samilton

Updated 10/4/17 to reflect comments from Ann Arbor VA

Ann Arbor VA Hospital employees rallied Tuesday to ask Congress for enough money to eliminate what they claim is 49,000 job vacancies at VA hospitals nationwide.  Similar rallies have been held at other VA hospitals nationally in recent weeks.

Ozzie James, Jr. is president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2092.  He says veterans need the expertise of VA doctors, nurses and other staff, because outside health care professionals don't fully understand veterans' needs. 

creative commons

Enrollment in Michigan K -12 schools will likely fall more than 9 percent by the year 2025, compared to the year 2013, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of  U.S. Department of Education.

The former McLouth Steel plant in Trenton in the early 1990s.
Transkhor / Wikipedia

Wayne County is selling the former McLouth Steel plant in Trenton to a company owned by Manuel "Mattie" Moroun.

Moroun is the owner of the Ambassador Bridge which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario.

The sale price for the tax-foreclosed property is $4 million. Crown Enterprises says it will tear down the current buildings and build an automotive center on the site. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Macomb County says its clerk and register of deeds, Karen Spranger, is not eligible to hold the office she won in November. 

Spranger sued the County earlier in the year, after she was not permitted to fire union employees in her office.

County attorneys filed a counter-complaint Tuesday, alleging Spranger lied about where she was living when she filed her application to run for County Clerk. 

The address Spranger claimed, under penalty of perjury, was her primary residence has had water and other utilities shut off since 2012.

GM Canada

Roughly 2,700 General Motors union members walked off the job nine days ago at the CAMI Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, which assembles GM's best-selling crossover, the Chevy Equinox. 

The strike is now affecting jobs in the U.S.

Engines for the Equinox are made in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and also in Flint, so now there are layoffs at those two plants. GM wouldn't say how many. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Many homes that go into tax foreclosure in Detroit are owned by landlords. The renters are often booted out once the homes are sold at auction.  

In a pilot project, Detroit has bought 80 of these homes where tenants have expressed interest in becoming homeowners.  The city used right of first refusal for the purchases. That means the city can buy the properties before they go to auction, paying only the county and state portions of the taxes owing, but not the city portion. 

Tracy Samilton

Just like last year, racist messages have been found scrawled on campus at the University of Michigan.

And just like last year, angry students confronted UM President Mark Schlissel at a meeting in the Michigan Union, with a frustrated Schlissel assuring them he was on their side, and everything possible was being done to find the perpetrators.

Police are "looking at video, they're interviewing people," he said.

But so far, just like last year, no one's been caught spreading the hate.  Schlissel asked the students for ideas on how to do more and how to actually prevent the incidents, as many of the students are demanding.

Some students, like senior Stephen Wallace, think video cameras should be installed in the residence halls and other places on campus to catch the perpetrators.

Michigan drivers are seeing changes in gas prices in 2017.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 90% of people say they could handle paying an extra 36-cent tax on each gallon of gasoline without feeling financially stressed.

That's from the latest survey by the University of Michigan's Energy Institute.

Researcher John DeCicco says that 36 cents translates to a $40 per ton carbon tax, that could be imposed to offset the environmental damage from carbon emissions.

"In spite of how much everyone will say how much they they hate higher taxes, a $40 carbon tax would leave more than 90% in their comfort zone," says DeCicco.

Tracy Samilton

In 2015, the city of Detroit foreclosed on 6,400 owner-occupied homes.

This year, that number was down to 786 -- an 88% reduction.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says a new law that knocked down the 18% interest rate for back tax payment plans to 6% helped, as did a media blitz by Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree and scores of groups and volunteers who got the word out.

"Our neighbors went out and knocked on the doors of homes that were in danger of foreclosure, and person to person said, 'There is help available," said Duggan.

GM Canada

More than 2,700 union workers at GM's CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario walked off the job early Monday morning.

The plant builds GM's best-selling crossover, the Chevy Equinox.  GM also builds the Equinox in Mexico. 

pixabay

The state's utility regulator says it will require electricity providers that compete with DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to generate some of their power in Michigan, but the requirement will be implemented after 2021.

The so-called "Local Clearing Requirement (LCR)" is in addition to the requirement in the state's new energy law that those providers also prove they have access to their own generation capacity four years out.  That means they can no longer rely largely on buying electricity at auction from year-to-year to serve customers.

Enroll Michigan

The Trump administration is cutting funding for Enroll Michigan by 90%.

Enroll Michigan funds 30 subcontractors who help people obtain insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

ACCESS, a social service group in Dearborn that focuses on the Arab American community, also helps people obtain insurance under ACA. It will see its federal funding for those activities cut by 36%. 

Executive Director Dizzy Warren says people could have a lot more trouble getting the right kind of insurance now.

Tracy Samilton

Nikolai Vitt, the new superintendent of Detroit's public school system, says he expects the district to be fully staffed with teachers at the beginning of the school year in 2018.

This year, the district had to begin classes despite being 250 teachers short. 

Vitti spoke to a capacity crowd at an event in Detroit sponsored by the Citizen's Research Council. 

He says he's starting with a base of loyal long-term teachers who've stuck with DPS even when they had other choices.

Tracy Samilton

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced new voluntary guidance for developers of self-driving cars, along with guidance for state legislatures in responding to the rapidly developing technology.

Chao made the announcement at Mcity, Ann Arbor's driverless car test track.  She says the federal government needs to stay out of the way of developers of a technology that has the potential to save thousands of lives a year.

Tracy Samilton

The future of medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan could be decided tomorrow, when the state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board meets again to discuss whether current dispensaries should be able to get a license.

At the last meeting, one member said dispensaries should have to close their doors until the application process opens – or risk not getting a license at all.

The state’s licensing department will make a recommendation on the issue at the meeting.

Protesters in Detroit supporting DACA recipients.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some immigration attorneys are going to be working long hours to help people in a soon-to-expire program that defers deportation for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

That's after President Trump announced this week he's ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program.

Those attorneys are especially eager to counsel people eligible to renew their protection, so they don't miss the deadline to do so.  

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

A teacher is suing Detroit Public Schools for allegedly retaliating against her after she reported unsafe water at her school, John R. King Academy. 

According to the lawsuit, in the spring of 2016, Detroit Public Schools shut down water fountains in more than a dozen schools after high levels of lead or copper – or both – were found in the drinking water. 

John R. King Academy had too much copper. 

BasicGov / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Michigan's "Hardest Hit" program for homeowners is winding down.

Hardest Hit is the federal program to help people keep their homes after the Great Recession.

Mary Townley is vice president of Step Forward. That's the name of the state's Hardest Hit program.

She says Michigan has received $761 million from the federal government since late 2010.

A little more than half has gone to blight demolitions, and the rest to homeowners in distress.

a chevy bolt
General Motors

The U.S. House will vote on bills after Labor Day that would let automakers test self-driving cars in every state, replacing the current state-by-state patchwork of regulations, and allow cars without steering wheels and other human-operated controls.

Two Michigan members of the House, Democrat Debbie Dingell and Republican Fred Upton, helped draft the bills.

kids in classroom
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Kids in charter schools in Detroit performed twice as well as those in traditional public schools on the M-STEP test. However, both groups still had extremely low scores on the state's yearly standardized assessment.

Only 23.6 percent of charter school students were proficient in English language arts, compared to 10.6 percent in traditional public schools.

In math, it was 12.7 percent versus 6.1 percent.

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