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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. 

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Last year, when Michigan Technical Academy needed money for capital improvements and operations for its elementary and middle school, it turned to private bondholders for a loan.

The contract gave bondholders the right to all but 3% of the district's state school aid money in the event of default. 

So when Central Michigan University revoked the district's charter this spring, CMU got its 3% cut of the July and August school aid payments, and bondholders got the rest.

That left nothing for teachers. 

screen grab MDHHS

Michigan's so-called "Safe Delivery" law has resulted in 202 newborns being safely surrendered since 2001.

The law lets a woman give up a newborn, anonymously if she wishes, at police and fire stations and hospitals.

Nearly all of the infant surrenders have taken place at hospitals, and most of those were at the same hospital where the woman gave birth. 

Program consultant Jean Hoffman says it's often the most desperate and frightened new mothers who have not heard about the law. So publicity efforts focus on trying to educate others who could help her.

screen grab Ford Motor Company

For the second time in 20 years, Ford Motor Company has settled an investigation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over complaints of sexual and racial harassment at its Chicago Stamping and Chicago Assembly plants.

The EEOC says Ford also retaliated against workers who reported the harassment.

Ford has agreed to pay up to $10.1 million to victims, as well as institute training for workers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Arbor Arbor residents with deep front yards may soon be permitted to put solar arrays in them.  

The city's planning manager, Brett Lenart, says some people think ground-mounted solar panels are unsightly -- but others welcome them as a sign of environmental progress.

So the planning commission aimed to strike a balance when developing recommendations for an ordinance.

People with enough room in the front yard for solar panels will have to hide the back and sides with hedges or fences if that's what the public would see.

FLICKR USER PAHO/WHO / FLICKR

Vaccine education groups are asking parents to get their kids vaccinated before school starts.  

Veronica McNally is with the Franny Strong Foundation. Her baby girl died at age three months from whooping cough.

She says parents are also protecting babies and immune-compromised people when they vaccinate themselves and their children.

"Whooping cough, for example, would require several doses of dTAP (the pertussis vaccine) before an infant would get vaccine-conferred immunity," says McNally. "So it's important to give that infant the circle of protection -- vaccinating everybody around the infant. And the same is true of influenza."

DTE

DTE Energy is disconnecting customers who refuse to have their old analog electric meters replaced with smart meters.  The smart meters use a radio frequency transmission to report real-time electricity use by the customer.

Bob Sitkauskas is in charge of DTE's advanced metering program. He says customers can still opt out of the advanced metering program, but keeping the old meter is out of the question.

"We're still going to replace the meter with one of our advanced meters," says Sitkauskas. "But we will shut the radio off for that (opt-out) customer."

Karen Spranger
Screen grab taken from Karen Spranger's Facebook page

Macomb County officials say the county clerk's office is falling into chaos as supervisors and staff flee a hostile workplace of the new clerk's making. 

Courtesy photo / City of Flint

Long-time Flint City Councilman Scott Kincaid plans to run against Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in her November recall election.

Kincaid is already on the November ballot for his 9th Ward seat. He says he could potentially win both the council race and the mayor's race.

"If I win the mayor's race, then I would have to just resign from the city council," says Kincaid.  "And there'd be a special election and then we'd go through that process."

graph showing decline in mortality after vaccination initiatives.
Centers for Disease Control

County health departments are in their usual August scramble to schedule meetings with parents who don't want to vaccinate their children.

Ann Arbor skyline
Gsgeorge / goodfreephotos / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The primary election Tuesday could make a big difference in Ann Arbor's skyline — as well as its future.

The election pits two kinds of Democrats against each other: those who want to slow down the city's growth, especially when it comes to new high-rise development, and those who say continued growth is necessary.

karen weaver
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver will face a recall election in November over her support for a trash removal contract opposed by the city council. Executives at Rizzo, the trash removal company, were later indicted in Macomb County for bribery and fraud.

Weaver wanted the petition thrown out, saying that recall organizers didn't gather enough valid signatures. But Genesee County Clerk John Gleason says his review of the petitions found enough valid signatures to call the election.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The woman's husband is among the more than 100 Iraqi nationals living in Michigan who were arrested by Immigrations and Customs agents in June. 

Friday, she sat in the back row of federal district judge Mark Goldsmith's courtroom, listening as the government argued her husband and the others they detained should face immediate deportation, and the ACLU argued that amounts to a death sentence for many -- and is against both U.S. and international law.

She withheld her name, for fear of retaliation in her husband's case, but agreed to tell his story.

flickr

Michigan's tourism industry has a lot of trouble finding seasonal workers.

That's especially true for all the bustling hotels, fudge shops, and other summer-only businesses in northern Michigan.

Monday's announcement by the federal government that it will add more H-2B visas for temporary summer workers could help, at least, a little.

Sasha Kravchenko and Jessica Fry, MSU scientists
Michigan State University

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says proposed cuts to National Institutes of Health grants would be devastating.

He says the U of M could lose $92 million if the cuts go through.

The Trump administration is proposing to strictly cap the amount allowed for overhead, including facilities and administration costs.

A deployed airbag.
Bee Forks / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal judge has chosen a new "special master" to oversee Takata restitution payments. 

That's after the first proposed special master, Robert Mueller, was appointed to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  

Harvard University professor Eric Green will be in charge of disbursing nearly $1 billion in payments to people and companies harmed by Takata's defective airbags. From the court notice:

public domain pictures

It may be audacious, given the current climate in Washington, but U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., has introduced a bill to expand Medicare.

Levin says Medicare should cover vision, dental and hearing problems, which affect many seniors. He says many people don't even realize these conditions are not covered for the elderly, who are the most likely to need treatment for them.

Levin says it's important to improve and expand health insurance in the U.S., not limit it.

Solar panels on a roof
wikimedia commons

Solar roof customers are more than paying their share of maintaining the electric grid, according to a new study commissioned for the Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI).

Michigan's new energy law charges the Michigan Public Service Commission with devising a new rate to compensate people with solar roofs when their extra electricity goes onto the grid. 

A red Dodge RAM pickup
Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler is being sued for an alleged defect in the emissions systems of some trucks that can result in a 25% drop in fuel economy, according to a lawsuit filed by the firm Hagens Berman.

The lawsuit says Fiat Chrysler sold hundreds of thousands of 2013 to 2017 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks with faulty emissions systems. 

Owners who brought their trucks in for a repair of the systems found that the fix resulted in dramatically lower fuel economy.  

Michigan Radio

A new study from Harvard University concludes that there is no "safe" level of air pollution.

Researcher Qian Di and colleagues find that particulate matter and ozone kills thousands of people every year, even at levels below the federal standard.  

James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council says the message for the state is clear: DTE Energy and Consumers Energy should not delay shutting down their remaining coal-burning plants.

wikipedia/creative commons

Small liquor stores are urging the Michigan Liquor Control Commission not to repeal what's known as the "half-mile rule."

The rule has been in place for 40 years.  It keeps new liquor stores from opening within a half mile of existing liquor stores.

Rishi Makkar is a founding member of United Small Business Owners, as well as a liquor store owner in Grand Rapids.

He say the margin of profit on liquor sales is very low, under 15%, and out of that, stores must pay taxes, credit card charges, and other fees.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

President Trump's voter fraud commission has requested voter registration data from all 50 states, and many Secretaries of State are refusing, in full or in part.

But the commission will apparently get the information that is public from Michigan.

woman smoking a joint
miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Michigan voters could soon be deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana if a petition drive to get the question on the 2018 ballot succeeds. 

A new study released by the Governor's Highway Safety Association suggests the state should learn from places recreational pot is already legal.

Lesson number one: don't wait until it's legal to prepare for impacts on impaired driving laws.

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.

Karen Spranger
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.

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