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. 

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Arts & Culture
5:10 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Yankee Air Museum gets new home, name, and mission

This concept drawing shows how founders hope the National Museum of Aviation and Technology at Historic Willow Run will look.Credit Save the Bomber Plant.orgEdit | Remove

The former Yankee Air Museum is getting a new name, to go with its new home in part of the historic bomber plant at Willow Run.

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Families & Community
10:23 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Tricycles and crowdsourcing help Detroiters stay in foreclosed homes

The Tricycle Collective says many of the homes on Wayne County's tax foreclosure list are well-maintained because they are occupied. But once they become vacant, they quickly turn to blight
Credit Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr

Ten Detroit families still have their own roofs over their heads, thanks to the Tricycle Collective.

The group crowdsourced money so the families could bid on the homes they were living in at a tax foreclosure auction.

Michele Oberholtzer started the collective.

Oberholtzer says until she contacted them, the families had no idea they could buy their tax-foreclosed homes – often for as little as $500.

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Politics & Government
7:26 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Wild card candidate, negativity define race for 11th Congressional District

This attack ad against Trott has been called "brutal."
Credit macombpolitics.blogspot

An ad run by Democrat Bobby Mckenzie in Michigan's 11th Congressional District race won a dubious distinction recently.  The Washington Post called it "one of the most brutal attack ads you'll ever see."

"Foreclosure King David Trott has made millions foreclosing on Michigan's families," says a narrator, over a slightly ominous soundtrack.  "Trott profited from human misery as tens of thousands of Michiganders were evicted from their homes."

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Politics & Government
11:38 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Detroit acquires 77 Detroit Public Schools properties as part of blight fight

Detroit will acquire 77 vacant Detroit Public Schools properties, securing them, demolishing some, and maintaining the rest
Credit screen grab from HDNet clip

The city of Detroit plans to acquire 77 vacant properties from Detroit Public Schools.

In return, the city will forgive the district's $11,600,000 in debt.  From the city's press release:

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Environment & Science
5:26 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

U of M to move 250-year-old bur oak this weekend

A worker stands next to a 250-year-old bur oak tree, a day before its move to a new location near the U of M Ross School of Business
Credit Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is moving a 250-year-old bur oak tree this weekend to make way for an expansion of the Ross School of Business.

The $400,000 cost of moving the tree will come from a $100 million donation for the expansion from philanthropist Stephen Ross.

U of M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald says the project will save a piece of living U of M history, "and  provide a teachable moment where we can learn about this process, because we've – at the University of Michigan – we've never moved a tree like this before."

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Auto
2:37 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

GM: 50% of cars with bad ignition switches still not fixed

GM headquarters in Detroit
Credit Wikimedia

General Motors is redoubling its efforts to contact people who own cars with defective ignition switches and urge them to get the problem fixed.

The recall has given GM a black eye, after the automaker revealed in February that it knew about the defective switches for more than ten years.

A special GM compensation program has approved 29 claims, so far, for people killed or injured in accidents when the airbags did not deploy, presumably because the ignition switch moved into the "accessory" mode and shut down safety systems.

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Transportation
7:16 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

GM posts strong third quarter

General Motors HQ in Detroit
Credit Wikimedia

General Motors made nearly $1.5 billion dollars in the third quarter. That was better than many analysts expected. 

General Motors already put most of the costs of its many recalls on the books in the first and second quarters.  So the third quarter looks much healthier by comparison. 

Strong profits in North America boosted the automaker's performance, driven by increases in truck and large SUV sales. 

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Law
5:23 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Propane company refunds $500,000 to Michigan customers

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says Amerigas will refund $500,000 to 5600 customers in Michigan for overcharging them last winter.

"I think the message is real clear," Schuette said during a conference call.  "No rip offs of consumers are allowed in Michigan."

Schuette says Amerigas charged customers amount that were "grossly" in excess of what other propane companies in the state were charging. 

He says the Michigan Consumer Protection Act prohibits price gouging.

Law
5:02 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Detroit incinerator to pay $350,000, fix odor problems

Owners of the Detroit waste incinerator will pay fines, install technology after odor complaints skyrocketed
Credit Photo courtesy of Flickr user tEdGuY49

People near Detroit's waste incinerator will soon get some relief from its foul odors.

Joy Yearout is a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General.

She says the owners agreed to install technology to reduce the smell - and that will improve the quality of life for people in Detroit.

"More and more people are moving downtown," says Yearout.  "You've got a lot of creative business owners investing and helping it grow -- and if you want to attract more employees and businesses, you've got to have a healthy and pleasant environment to work and live in."

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Law
4:53 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Flint Township plans action on intersection panhandlers

Flint Township says panhandlers at intersections are creating a safety hazard for themselves and people in vehicles
Credit Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Asking for money from someone in a car could soon be banned in Flint Township.    Panhandlers - and their potential benefactors in vehicles - could be fined up to $500.

Jerry Preston is chairman of the township's Begging and Solicitation Committee.

He says panhandling in the public right-of-way is unsafe, both for the occupants of the vehicles, and the panhandler.

Preston says the problem is growing exponentially. 

Panhandlers are showing up regularly at intersections and roadsides throughout the township. 

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Auto
3:04 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Gov. Snyder signs bill clarifying only franchised dealers can sell cars

You can buy this car online.....but not at a Tesla-owned store in Michigan
Credit Tesla Motors

Tesla lost a battle today in its bid to sell its vehicles directly to consumers.

Governor Rick Snyder signed HB 5606 today, after fierce lobbying for and against the bill, which clarifies the language in the state's law requiring auto manufacturers to sell their cars through franchised dealerships, and not through direct sales.

Electric car company Tesla wants to use a direct-sales model for its vehicles.

The Governor said it was already illegal for a manufacturer to sell its cars directly to customers in the state of Michigan.

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Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Failure to show up an issue in 11th District race

The three candidates running for Congress in the 11th District agreed on very little at a forum in Birmingham Monday - except the failure of the fourth candidate, businessman David Trott, to appear.

Bobby McKenzie, running as a Democrat, says he disagrees with many of the positions taken by  his opponents, "but showing up matters, and the three of us showed up. 

Mr. Trott was supposed to be here - didn't show up.  What kind of representative do you think he's gonna be?" he told a crowd at Seaholm High School.

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Environment & Science
4:58 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Lake Erie's toxic blooms spark new EPA grants

National Wildlife Federation President Collin O'Mara showing reporters a glass full of contamined lake water on a boat trip on Lake Erie near Toledo.
Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded grants to three states - Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana - to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie.

This summer, a toxic cyanobacteria bloom shut down the water supply to the city of Toledo.  Algae and cyanobacteria thrive in high-phosphorus environments.

Much of the phosphorus comes from farms surrounding the lake.

Jamie Clover Adams is Michigan Director of Agriculture and Rural Development.

She says Michigan has only about 15% of the land near Lake Erie, but the state has to do its part.

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Transportation
3:22 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Get ready for more potholes this spring

Get ready for more potholes this upcoming spring season.
Credit User _chrisUK / flickr.com

Last spring's potholes may be a distant memory.

But road officials warn Michigan residents to get ready for more. 

"If you're seeing patch on patch on your road, you're going to be seeing a lot of potholes this spring," says Brad Lamberg, President of the County Road Association of Michigan.

Lamberg says it wasn't just the harsh winter, but a failure to invest in road repair that has led to the current situation.

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Transportation
4:51 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Detroit Metro Airport settles bus stop lawsuit

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over bus stops at Detroit Metro Airport.

Disability activists filed the lawsuit when the airport moved the location of the bus stop at the McNamara Terminal.

The lawsuit said people in wheelchairs would now have to wait for buses in the cold because of the move.

Airport spokesman Michael Conway says the move was necessary because increased traffic had made the old location unsafe.  He says some buses were having to stop in the far left lane from the curb.

Auto
4:48 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Tesla's Elon Musk urges 1.1 million Twitter followers to call Rick Snyder

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a lot of Twitter followers.  1, 128,869 to be exact.

On Thursday, Musk sent a link on Twitter to a Tesla blog entry that urges people to ask Michigan Governor Rick Snyder not to sign a bill that requires cars to be sold through franchised dealerships.

Tesla wants to sell its cars directly, in company-owned stores.

So, has the Governor's office gotten many calls?  "Only about 900,000," quipped a spokesman.

The spokesman also says the Governor has "a bunch" of questions about the bill and is doing due diligence.

Auto
6:01 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Don't worry about what happens to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2018

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has run Fiat since 2004, Fiat and Chrysler since 2009, and the combined companies since 2014.
Credit FCA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its New York stock exchange debut on Monday, beginning trading at $9 a share, and closing at $9.02.

Not bad, for a tumultuous day on Wall Street, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell a full 1.6%.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and FCA Chairman John Elkann rang the closing bell together - after giving a joint press conference.

Most of the questions and answers were in Italian.  So, it looks like I'm going to have to learn Italian if I want to continue to cover FCA.

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Politics & Government
5:14 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Wayne County rules out Mound Correctional for its next jail

The incomplete Wayne County jail site at Gratiot in Detroit
Credit Wayne County

Wayne County commissioners voted Thursday to reject one option for the next jail:  moving the courts and the jail to the former Mound Correctional Facility.

Commissioner Richard LeBlanc says the $750 million price tag was far too high.

But LeBlanc doesn't like any of the remaining options either.

That includes the one favored by many of his fellow commissioners:  restarting the halted jail construction project at Gratiot in downtown.

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Economy
1:47 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Home equity loans rise 60% in metro Detroit

Credit Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr

 

The Detroit region may still have plenty of housing woes.  But a new report issued by RealtyTrac indicates that for a good number of people living in the area, the housing market is recovering.

RealtyTrac issued its first-ever report on home equity loans this week.   Consumers take out loans using their home equity as collateral.   Typically people spend the money on home remodeling projects.

Nationally, home equity loans rose nearly 21% in the past year.  In Detroit, home equity loans rose 59.3%.

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Auto
2:31 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

AAA says voice command systems in cars too distracting

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tests subjects for cognitive distraction while using voice command systems
Credit AAA

"Hands on the wheel and eyes on the road" is the rule of thumb often touted by U.S. automakers as the best way to stay safe on the road.

But the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says people's minds have to be on the road, too, and the often complicated, hands-free voice systems in many cars are too distracting.

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