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. 

Clarita / MorgueFile

Twenty-four Michigan hospitals will pay a penalty for having too many patients with infections they contracted while in their care.

That's up from last year, when 21 of the state's hospitals paid the penalty – which is 1% of the hospital's Medicare funding.

Laura Wotruba is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

She says the federal law unfairly punishes teaching and urban hospitals, which have sicker patients.


Eighteen-year-old Ellis Kempf is captain of his wrestling team, the Royal Oak Ravens.

He wrestles in the 152-pound weight class.

Kempf is also completely deaf without his cochlear implants, which he can't wear during matches. 

Most of the time, it's not an issue. Kempf has a sign language interpreter who signs his coach's instructions during matches.

But during state matches sanctioned by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA), Kempf's  interpreter was prohibited from moving around the wrestling circle to maintain eye contact with him.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Aptly enough, it was 60 degrees in Michigan, in December, the day that 195 nations agreed to take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Carbon dioxide from those emissions is heating the atmosphere, melting glaciers, and increasing sea levels.

In Ann Arbor, several hundred people joined a "Michigan Climate March," not to protest the accord, really, but to demand that governments go further.

At a rally following the march through city streets, participants held aloft signs bearing messages like, "I Love Clean Air," and "This is a Crisis." 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As 190 nations try to finalize a climate change agreement in Paris, activists around the world are planning marches and rallies in support of that agreement.

But it won't be enough, says Nicholas Jansen of the group, so named for a reduction to 350 parts CO2 per million that the group is pushing the world to achieve.

That's why his group, and others around the world, will immediately begin pressuring their governments to go far beyond what is agreed to in Paris.

Jansen says the U.S. needs to play a large role.

Ford Motor Co.

Hybrid and electric car sales right now are weak.  That's not surprising, given that the price of a gallon of gasoline is averaging under $2 a gallon in 41 states.

So why is Ford upping the ante on electrification?

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Coal is an abundant source of energy.  But burning it spews billions of tons of climate-warming CO2 into the air every year.

Much hope has been placed on a developing technology known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).  The idea is to extract the carbon before it’s emitted from smokestacks, compress it, and store it underground. 

That could allow humans to keep using coal, without further loading the atmosphere and oceans with more CO2.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has a prescription for Muslims in Dearborn who may be upset about anti-Muslim statements by his fellow Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump:

Do more to fight terrorism.

Photo by d.boyd, Flickr

State officials plan to remove hundreds of chemicals from a long list that requires companies to perform  modeling of smokestack emissions. 

The Michigan Manufacturers Association says each model can cost between $20,000 and $100,000, and removing the chemicals will make the process more efficient.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality agrees. 

Spokesman Brad Wurfel, in an email statement, said:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group that was unsuccessful at stopping a planned deer cull in Ann Arbor is now planning to try to recall as many as five city council members who voted for the cull.

Sabra Sanzotta, a resident of the city's second ward, filed recall petition language with the city clerk this week, seeking a recall election against Kirk Westphal.

Brian Teutsch / flickr/creative commons

A "barn burner." 

That's how Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, characterizes new car sales in 2015. 

Sales are expected to at least match the all-time record of 17.4 million set in 2000.


New research finds a surprising number of drivers around the world are open to trying a self-driving car.

Nearly 60% of respondents said they would be willing to travel in a fully self-driving car, according to a survey conducted jointly  by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group.

The number was slightly lower in the U.S. at 52%.

Whatshername / creative commons

A new study commissioned by the Governors Highway Safety Association finds that people are significantly less likely to buckle up in the back seat. 

And that means people are dying in traffic accidents that they might otherwise survive.

Researcher James Hedlund says of the 883 unrestrained rear seat passenger fatalities in 2013, more than 400 would likely have survived had they buckled up.

wikimedia / creative commons

The Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System has determined that a water main break was responsible for tiny "specks" of material found on and in cases that store sterile surgical equipment.

Nurses found the specks as part of a routine examination of the equipment prior to surgeries.

UAW President Dennis Williams chats with GM CEO Mary Barra at the kickoff of the 2015 contract negotiations
Jeffrey Sauger / General Motors

This summer, as contract talks with the Detroit Three kicked off, United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams warned that negotiations are "never easy."

He was right.

Last week, the union came within a hairsbreadth of having a contract with Ford Motor Company sent back by rank and file with a big "NO DEAL" stamp on its face. 

Flickr/creative commons

A statewide push to reduce homelessness appears to be working, especially among homeless veterans. 

Kelly Rose with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority says overall homelessness in the first half of 2015 is down about 10% compared to the same period last year.


Scientists say a toxic bacteria bloom in Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record, and produced a thick scum so big it could almost cover New York City.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the outbreak surpassed the record-setting bloom in 2011 that stretched from Toledo to Cleveland.

Sandy Bihn is with Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc. 

She says states bordering Lake Erie have to dramatically reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that helps cyanobacteria grow.

wikimedia commons

Wayne County's wastewater treatment plant will soon have to reduce the amount of phosphorus it dumps into the Detroit River.

It's part of the state's plan to lower phosphorus levels in Lake Erie to control cyanobacteria blooms. 

Bill Creal is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the new permit for Wayne County will be the same as the permit given to Detroit Water and Sewerage last year, which was more successful at reducing phosphorus than anyone envisioned.

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Are you really doing the environment a favor by buying and driving an electric car? 

The answer may depend on where in the country you live.

New research indicates the impact of electric cars on the environment is much more nuanced than many people realize.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has discovered more "defeat devices" in vehicles with diesel engines made by Volkswagen.

In September, the EPA said it had discovered emissions cheating in 482,000 VW and Audi diesel cars, which were equipped with software that could detect when there was an emissions test happening.  The cars' emissions controls would turn on for the test, and turn off during normal driving.

Michigan would have many more of these under a 100% renewable plan proposed by a Stanford University professor.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A study by Stanford University professor Marc Jacobson says every state in the U.S. could get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2050 – and save money in the process.

In Michigan, most of that power would come from the state's most abundant renewable resource: wind. Forty percent of the state's electric needs could be met with on-shore wind power, according to Jacobson's analysis, and 31% from off-shore wind power.

UAW President Dennis Williams chats with GM CEO Mary Barra at the kickoff of the 2015 contract negotiations
Jeffrey Sauger / General Motors

The United Auto Workers has reached a tentative four-year contract with GM, averting the possibility of a strike for now.

The union had also set a strike deadline with Fiat Chrysler during a second round of negotiations, after the first tentative contract reached with that automaker was rejected by workers.

A strike deadline puts pressure on both sides, which view a strike as a failure of contract talks.

Neither GM nor the UAW are providing details.

Lance McCord

Blame "antigenic drift" for the failure of last year's flu vaccine to offer a robust protection against the illness.

The Centers for Disease Control says a series of small genetic changes in a flu virus can make it just different enough from the original variant included in the vaccine, that a vaccinated person's immune system won't recognize it.

And that person can get the flu even after getting the shot.

So, so unfair.

However, health department officials say all was not lost last year. 

John F. Martin / General Motors

GM's announcement that it will add a second shift to its Hamtramck facility is being warmly welcomed by the Detroit Economic Development Corporation.

Ken Chapa is Executive Vice President of Business Development for the group.  He says these are good-paying jobs that help boost Detroit's economy.

Fiat Chrysler

Members of the United Auto Workers union begin voting on a tentative new contract with Fiat Chrysler on Tuesday.  

Union leaders are being less passive after the rank and file rejected the first tentative deal in September. 

For the second tentative contract, the union hired an outside public relations firm and engaged with members on Facebook and Twitter to explain the terms. 

Voting on this contract will take place over two days, instead of two weeks, giving critics a lot less time to criticize and drum up resistance. 

Jerry Oldenettel / Flickr

"Who teaches kids to kill?"

That's the first sentence of one of the emails and leaflets being distributed by the Humane Society of Huron Valley after the Ann Arbor City Council voted 8 to 1 to approve a deer cull.  

The email continues,

Dan Bobkoff / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Nurses Association is supporting legislation that would mandate specific nurse-to-patient staffing levels in hospitals.

For example, an emergency room nurse, under most circumstances, could care for no more than three patients.

A pediatric intensive care unit nurse could care for only one patient at a time.

John Armelagos is president of the Michigan Nurses Association. He says having too many patients causes stress and fatigue for nurses, as well as the potential for mistakes.

wikipedia / creative commons

Grand Rapids Public Schools plans to test the drinking water in its schools  for lead.

The district will start with older buildings first. They are more likely to have lead pipes.

John Helmholdt is Communications Director for Grand Rapids Public Schools. He says the district had already planned to do the testing before high lead levels were found in some Flint homes and school buildings.

"This is all the more reason we should be doing it, having seen what our friends in Flint have gone through," says Helmholdt.

The Flint River.
Sarah Razak / Flickr -

The state plans to urge all schools to test for lead in the drinking water, after elevated lead levels showed up in the water in several schools in Flint.

Flint's situation is unique, in that the city switched to using more corrosive water from the Flint River last year.

Fiat Chryler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, and UAW President Dennis Williams.

Local leaders of the United Auto Workers have voted to approve a new, tentative four-year contract with Fiat Chrysler, after workers overwhelmingly rejected the first version last week.

Many workers were confused about the terms of the rejected contract, especially about the vague language describing a new health care co-op. 

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The two oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac are not unique.

The National Wildlife Federation says there are 5,110 locations across the United States where oil pipelines run through or under navigable waters.