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. 

screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, has introduced a bill that could force Enbridge Energy to replace its aging pipeline under the straits of Mackinac.   The so-called Great Lakes Oil Spill Prevention Act would require strict maintenance of any oil pipeline in the Great Lakes -- which means Enbridge's controversial Line 5.  The act would require pipeline operators to submit status reports regularly, and immediately report problems, to PHMSA, the federal pipeline safety agency, and requires that agency to keep the state informed as well.  The act also has a provision to require the replacement of pipeline materials over 50 years old.  Line 5 was built in 1953, so it is 64 years old now. 

wind turbine
Courtesy Consumers Energy

DTE Energy plans to move out of the state's reliably windy Thumb region for its next wind farm.

The utility has signed up 120 landowners so far in Branch County, which is in the middle of the state near the Indiana border.

Matt Wagner is manager of renewable energy development for DTE.

He says wind in Branch County can produce electricity about 37 percent of the time, as opposed to roughly 43 percent of the time in the Thumb.

But today's bigger engines and bigger blades can make up the difference.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The 2018 North American International Auto Show begins tomorrow, after Friday night's famous must-see and must-be-seen charity gala.

But the most exclusive event associated with the auto show was actually last week. It's a special show featuring ultra-luxury automobiles including the latest Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls Royces.

City of Ann Arbor

The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a company that polluted Ann Arbor's groundwater.

Gelman Sciences hoped its appeal would result in the removal of the city of Ann Arbor and a local environmental group as parties to an ongoing lawsuit over cleaning up the contamination.

Laura Rubin is head of that local environmental group -- the Huron River Watershed Council. She says having the city and HRWC remain in the lawsuit will get a better result. The parties are currently in settlement negotiations to see if a trial can be avoided.

U.S. Air Force

A new website lets people check on their hospital's track record, and compare it with the track record of other hospitals.

VerifyMICare.org includes rates of hospital-acquired infections, deaths, readmission rates, C-sections, post-op pulmonary embolisms, and other indicators of care quality.

Ruthann Sudderth is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. She says a pregnant patient might use the website to raise concerns with her doctor, for example.

Lake Superior
Helena Jacoba / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than three centuries of thriving marine commerce and those notorious storms in the Great Lakes have given Michigan a wealth of historic shipwrecks. There are nearly a thousand on the bottomlands of the state's 13 designated underwater preserves alone. But Michigan's mostly volunteer system of protecting the shipwrecks is showing signs of trouble. 

Tracy Samilton

The theme of this year's North American International Auto Show is trucks - with a new RAM from Fiat Chrysler, a new Silverado from GM, and a new Ranger from Ford.  

But Honda is showing off a prototype of something a lot more fuel efficient.

Tracy Samilton

A Chinese automaker finally appears poised to break into the lucrative American market.

That's after years of Chinese car companies showing not-ready-for-prime-time cars at the North American International Auto Show.

The Flint River is 142 miles long and flows through five counties.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In Flint, Michigan, hundreds of people have filed lawsuits over that city's lead water crisis. They're seeking damages that range from property value losses to brain damage in kids. 

Most of the lawsuits have been consolidated into one massive case. Thursday, a federal district judge in Ann Arbor ordered all the parties into mediation.

That could conceivably get money to victims much faster. 

One of the plaintiffs is 72-year-old Elnora Carthan.

Tracy Samilton

There was little disagreement about supporting President Donald Trump's agenda at last night's first primary debate among Republicans running for Michigan's 11th Congressional District seat. 

Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A group called Kalkaska for Peace will begin collecting signatures on Saturday to try to force a recall election of its notorious village president, Jeff Sieting.

Sieting's Facebook posts, which contain violent rhetoric against Muslims and other marginalized groups, have attracted national attention.  

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Macomb County's embattled Clerk and Register of Deeds, Karen Spranger, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a civil conspiracy against her, involving county officials, union officials, and members of the media.

Since taking office in January, Spranger has refused to hire new employees, and tried to fire a number of union supervisors and union employees. When she was told she could not fire employees under the protection of a labor union contract, she harassed and threatened employees, and refused to allow them to do the jobs for which they had been trained.

The State of the Takata Airbags

The largest automotive recall in history continues, and millions of cars with potentially deadly airbags are still on the road.

A federally appointed independent monitor overseeing the recall in the U.S. just issued a new report, entitled "The State of the Takata Air Bag Recalls."  You can find a link to that report here.

But first, a warning about that report if you're at all squeamish. 

The monitor, John Buretta, didn't hold back when describing the gruesome injuries of the 13 (now 14) known victims killed in the U.S. when the Takata airbags in their cars exploded, sending shards of metal at high speeds towards them.

Oakland CMH

The head of Oakland County's mental health authority could become the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority's next CEO after all.

Michigan Radio has learned that Willie Brooks, who withdrew from contract talks with DWMHA in October, is again one of the candidates being considered to lead the agency.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is under fire for wasting millions of its $730 million Medicaid budget on overpayments to subcontractors, which its board frequently chooses not to recoup.  

That means fewer dollars are getting to people in need.

But there's no question the authority still helps a lot of people with essential services that improve the quality of their lives. Eighty-thousand of them, in fact.

Wikimedia Commons

The state Office of the Inspector General is recommending new language be included in the next contract between the state and its 46 mental health authorities and community mental health agencies.

That's after a botched CEO search brought attention to the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority board's pattern of not recouping millions of dollars in over billing and waste from its subcontractors.

Tracy Samilton

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority can't seem to seal the deal with a new CEO.

The state's largest such authority is responsible for a more than $700 million Medicaid budget to care for 80,000 people with mental illness, developmental disorders, and substance abuse disorders.  

The decision by two consecutive CEO choices to pull out of contract negotiations with the authority is bringing long-overdue attention to the way the authority spends its money and manages contracts.  

New Center Community Services

Joy Calloway has withdrawn from contract talks to lead the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority (DWMHA) as CEO.

The move came after Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, who appoints six members of the authority's board, wrote two letters to board chairman Herbert Smitherman asking that the offer to Calloway be rescinded, because of a conflict of interest.

Calloway is CEO of New Center Community Services, an agency that receives funds from the DWMHA.  An audit recently found that New Center may have overbilled DWMHA by nearly two million dollars.  But the board decided to settle the matter for $95,000, the amount found in a 5% sampling of New Center's claims.

Calloway wrote an impassioned letter to two members of the board on the search committee, in which she said she was retracting her acceptance because "it is abundantly clear that I am not the candidate the

Spranger before she was elected as Macomb County Clerk.
Macomb Daily

Here’s a pop quiz for you. What’s the name of your county clerk?

County clerks play a critical role in keeping government operations on track, but they’re not usually in the spotlight. That is, unless you live in Macomb County. Since taking office this year, Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has been caught up in one controversy after another. 

Warren Evans
Warren Evans on Instagram

  The state's largest mental health authority has selected Joy Calloway as its next CEO, but Wayne County Executive Warren Evans says the board should resolve a conflict of interest before hiring her.

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is currently in contract negotiations with Calloway. 

The authority has a budget of over $700 million, and cares for 80,000 people with mental health and substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities in Detroit and Wayne County.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A circuit court judge has issued a temporary restraining order directing Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger to reinstate key employees, give them the resources and staff they need to do their jobs, and allow them to perform their duties.

The TRO was issued after the Macomb County circuit courts, the county treasurer and sheriff, and the county itself sued Spranger for an unprecedented situation: an elected official who seems hell-bent on destroying the functioning of her own office.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state task force has issued recommendations for the regulation of unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) in Michigan. There's hardly an industry in Michigan today that doesn't have a possible use for drones.  They could do crop inspections for farmers, bridge inspections and wildlife surveys for the state, traffic enforcement for police, and help real estate agents sell homes.  But they may not be safe or desirable everywhere.   Mackinac Island probably won't want drones spooking the horses, for example.   So the state may need a law that allows special exemptions. Mike Trout is with the st

Consumers Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission has set new "avoided cost" rates for small, renewable energy companies that provide electricity to Consumers Energy.

The rates compensate the producers for the electricity they provide, which allows Consumers Energy to "avoid" having to produce that amount of energy itself.

The new rates are seen as deeply unfair by some types of renewable energy producers, like hydro and waste-to-energy.

Tracy Samilton

The University of Michigan is negotiating with white supremacist Richard Spencer on his demand to speak on campus.

U of M President Mark Schlissel says Spencer's views are abhorrent. Spencer thinks whites should pursue what he calls a "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to remove minorities from the U.S.

"However, as a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech," Schlissel told a jeering and angry crowd of students at a hastily-called regents meeting Tuesday night.


A final state-commissioned report on alternatives to Line 5 is out.    People are looking for those alternatives because the pipeline runs under the straits of Mackinac, and a spill could be catastrophic.   The highly technical report from Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems claims the overall risk of a spill from Line 5 is very small.  Most people worry about the pipeline losing its protective coating, or metal fatigue caused by stresses from the strong currents, but the report claims the greater threat is a ship anchor striking the pipeline.    The alternatives considered range from an expensive $2 to $3 billion new pipeline that avoids the Great Lakes altogether to constructing a new section of the pipeline across the Straits in a trench or tunnel. That alternative would cost between $30 to 150 million, according to the analysis.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Eastern Michigan University's faculty unions are running ads to try to stop an online degree initiative.

The university has a contract with Academic Partnerships, a for-profit company, to recruit students for online degrees. AP gets 50% of the tuition for the students it enrolls in EMU online degree courses.

A "No Trespassing" sign hangs outside the Handlon Correction Facility.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Drone technology is quickly becoming more sophisticated and affordable. While that's great for people who want a drone under the Christmas tree - it's a nightmare for prison officials. 

Criminals are using drones to try to smuggle in drugs, cell phones, and other contraband.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Enough is enough, Macomb County Commissioners say.  It's time for County Clerk Karen Spranger to go.

Before she was elected, Spranger was a political neophyte known for odd forms of protest, such as showing up at a Warren City Council meeting wearing a silver track suit, sunglasses, and two hats, to protest DTE smart meter installations.

It's not clear why Macomb County voters chose someone with no qualifications as their next County Clerk, but most county officials believe she was elected solely by virtue of straight-party ticket voting, and won the office on Donald Trump's coattails.

Spranger's tenure has been a whirlwind of one scandal after another, with lawsuits, employee grievances, a car wreck, allegations of perjury, and chaos in the day-to-day workings of a crucial county department that touches the lives of citizens, businesses, and the courts.

"She refuses to hire new employees," says County Commissioner Robert Leonetti, "so now we're down 11 or 12 employees, in her department, not to mention the ones that are on administrative leave because of harassment."


More people were sickened this week, and another person died in the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan.

495 cases have been reported since the outbreak began in the summer of 2016. 416 of those cases involved hospitalization. 

The numbers continue to rise despite public health efforts to vaccinate those at higher risk, and to educate people about how this virus strain is being spread -- person-to person, via lax hygiene and close contact.

Updated: 11/9/17

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners has once again said "no" to the county clerk's request for money for a private attorney.  Karen Spranger asked for $15,000 for a private attorney earlier this year, and she asked for $100,000 on Tuesday.

Spranger is involved in so many lawsuits it's hard to keep track. 

She's being sued by two former employees that she fired after they allegedly blew the whistle on her ethics violations. She's being sued by one of the unions that represents her employees. And she's being sued by the county.