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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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%.

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.

Central Power Plant, Ann Arbor, MI
Press Release Distribution / prlog.org

A new study states that Michigan is one of five states that would see the most public health benefits from the EPA's proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. 

Tracy Samilton

Michigan Congressman Kerry Bentivolio is flying back to Michigan from D.C. to file with the Secretary of State as a write-in candidate.

Bentivolio lost the Republican primary to businessman David Trott in August.

Bentivolio says he's not running because he thinks he'll win. He's running to help out a friend – Republican Terri Lynn Land.

Land is behind in the polls against Democrat Gary Peters in the U.S. Senate race.

Bentivolio says many constituents have told him they don't like Trott, so they'll sit out the race rather than vote.

General Motors

Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. has long been a leader on the issue of climate change.

He was the first executive of a major auto company to call for global action on the threat, more than 15 years ago.

So it may come as a surprise that his company did so poorly on this year's CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report.

The group gives Ford a "D" for the actions it is taking to prepare for climate change. 

Here's another thing that may come as a surprise: 

Debtors' prisons were abolished long ago, but the ACLU of Michigan says some district judges in Michigan never got the memo.

ACLU attorney Sofia Nelson says a recent case shows just how wrong things can go for people who can't afford to pay their fines.

Victim went to jail instead of a domestic violence shelter

In September, Nelson says a Port Huron woman fled to her local emergency room after her boyfriend threatened her with a gun.   

Tracy Samilton

The virgin Astroturf is springy underfoot, and the neon yellow goalposts stretch up into the blue September sky. The Comets should be playing well.

They're not.

After seven years of away games, the football team at Cody High School in Detroit has its own field. The facility at Cody was in such terrible shape that they couldn't play there.

That changed Friday night. Unfortunately, the Comets'  homecoming did not start well.

Michigan State University

It sounds like science fiction - but robotic fish are here, and their high-tech capabilities are helping scientists pursue some vexing questions.

Michigan State University researchers have received funding for a new project using robofish, to figure out how native lake trout are rebounding, after decades of decline.

Xiaobo (pronounced shaw-bo] Tan is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

He says the robofish don't look like fish so much as they do gliders -- they have wings, and a tail --

Liz West / Flickr

Changes to a federal program often called "Heat and Eat" mean about 150,000 Michigan families will soon see reductions in their monthly food assistance benefits.

The cuts will average about $75 a month per family.

The Heat and Eat program offers higher food assistance benefits for families who live in northern states, where heating bills can be high.

But about 20% of the people enrolled in the program actually don't pay for heat. It's included as part of their rent.

University of Michigan football game
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The  football teams of the University of Michigan and the University of Texas have agreed – in principle – to play each other.

In 2024. So don't hold your breath.

U of M has racked up the highest number of total victories; Texas, the third highest.

From the Michigan press release:

The Wolverines will host the Longhorns at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 31, 2024. The return trip by Michigan to Austin will take place on Sept. 4, 2027.

General Motors

GM CEO Mary Barra will receive an Appeal of Conscience Award on September 23rd from the interfaith organization Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

Barra is being honored for her leadership in the wake of a shocking revelation in late January that General Motors had delayed a potentially deadly ignition switch recall for ten years.

The switches could be knocked out of the run position into the accessory position when the cars went over a bump.  That disabled safety features, including airbags.

General Motors

General Motors is adding a third shift to its Wentzville, Missouri plant to meet expected demand for the midsize trucks that are built there.

GM is introducing new versions of its midsize trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon.

The new shift is expected to start work in early 2015.

The automaker says dealers have ordered 30,000 Colorados already, "which is very high for early orders."

2007 Cobalt, one of the recalled models
GM

For months, General Motors has estimated 13 people were killed as a result of accidents linked to a faulty ignition switch in Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions, and some other small cars.

But it appears the estimate was low.

GM has established a special voluntary compensation program for victims or families of victims who can prove serious or fatal accidents were linked to the defective switch.

The program began taking claims on August 1.

Kalamazoo College

An analysis by the New York Times ranks Kalamazoo College 12th in the nation among elite colleges that enroll a large percentage of PELL-grant eligible students.

The eligibility for PELL grants is a strong marker for low-income status, since many students in families above the poverty level are not eligible for the grants.

West Bay Exploration, an oil and gas drilling company, found no deposits of oil or gas in its exploratory well in Scio Township. So the company is leaving the area – for now.

Scio Township trustees passed a moratorium against oil and gas activities, but the legality of the moratorium was questionable, according to the Michigan Township Association.

And West Bay did not honor the moratorium, according to Laura Robinson of Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan is one of only two states (the other being Iowa) that does not meet any of the minimum standards for disaster planning for schools and child care operators, according to Save the Children.

An annual report by the group says Michigan schools are not required to have a "multi-threat" disaster plan, which would include drills for active shooter events.

And the group says, while large child care centers are required to have disaster plans in place, family and individual day care operators are not.

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