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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. 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in Studio East at Michigan Radio.
Cameron Stewart / Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) says she agrees that the FBI should investigate a sexual assault allegation against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  

Kavanaugh is a U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

California university professor Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh tried to rape her when he was 17 and she was 15. Her attorneys say she is willing to speak with the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not prior to an FBI investigation.   

Stabenow says there's good reason for that approach.

Jacob Enos / Creative Commons

The city of Kalamazoo says it will disperse a group of homeless protesters who've been occupying a downtown park, starting Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m.

Marijuana
USFWS

Three-quarters of Michigan cities, townships, and villages have passed ordinances to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in their areas, according to a survey by the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Two years ago, residents of Alden Village, a small subdivision directly east of Ford Motor Company's Livonia Transmission, got a letter from the automaker.

It was not good news.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Thetford Township will have to return its federal military surplus - if it can locate it - to the government, if there are no other police departments that want it.

That's after Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny was arrested for allegedly embezzling from the program.  

Kenny acquired a large amount of federal military surplus since 2012 - nearly 4,000 items, with a retail value of $2.7 million. 

He was arrested in late August for allegedly pocketing the proceeds from selling some of it. 

Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill, introduced by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, that prohibits gag clauses on pharmacists.  

Kalamazoo, MI

A conflict between Kalamazoo and a group of homeless people has entered its third week.

Some people have been camping in downtown Bronson Park to protest the lack of shelter space and a long-term plan to help people find permanent housing.

The city tried to get them to move to two other places, but both were rejected, because of concerns about lack of safety or shade, among other reasons.

Jim Ritsema is Kalamazoo's city manager.  He says the protesters are violating a city ordinance by staying overnight in a park.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Four years ago, the city of Toledo told more than 450,000 residents to immediately stop drinking water out of the tap. 

That's after a toxin called microcystin was detected in the water. The toxin came from a bloom of cyanobacteria that had surrounded the city's water intake in Lake Erie. 

The incident caused panic among some residents, hoarding of water, even fights at bottled water distribution sites - along with a lot of unwanted national media attention.

And it taught the city some hard lessons.

What happens to the water Toledo takes from Lake Erie

Municipal water treatment is a painstaking and complicated process.

Kalamazoo, MI

The city of Kalamazoo has struck a deal with a group of homeless protesters who were refusing to leave a downtown park.

Transkohr / wikimedia commons

Wayne County has finalized a deal that will rid the city of Trenton of one of its worst eyesores - the long-vacant McLouth Steel plant.  

The buyer is Crown Enterprises, a Moroun family business.  The company will acquire the property for $4 million - the amount owed on unpaid property taxes after McLouth's last owner, Detroit Steel, went bankrupt.

Genessee County

Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny, age 45, has been arraigned on charges of embezzling funds from the U.S. military surplus program, as well as obstruction of justice. 

The Thursday arraignment follows his arrest Wednesday night. He has been released on $30,000 bail.

Thetford Township

The Genesee County Sheriff's department has arrested Robert Kenny, Thetford Township's police chief, for allegedly embezzling from the U.S. military surplus program, and obstructing the investigation.

Thetford Township is a small agricultural community of about 7,000 people north of Flint. 

Branch County Drain Commissioner

  

Update, 3:54 p.m. on 8/20/18:

The Branch County Drain Commissioner reports that repairs to the Blackhawk Dam continue Monday, and the repairs have returned the dam to normal flow and operation. 

The dam will be evaluated by engineers to establish a long-term strategy.  The Flood Watch issued by the National Weather Service for the Coldwater River and Pilot Knob area will expire August 20th.  

The risk for flooding has been reduced. Residents in the affected area should continue to monitor local media outlets and official messaging for the latest information and updates.  Branch County Emergency Management and the City of Coldwater will continue to monitor the situation.

Kathy Smith
Macomb County

Things are getting back to normal at the Macomb County Clerk's office, less than five months after Karen Spranger was removed from office.

Spranger's bizarre behavior and incompetence after she was elected in 2016 drove the department into turmoil and disarray.

Current Clerk Kathy Smith says a lot of people left because of Spranger, so the hardest part has been filling all the vacant positions and getting the new workers trained.

cafegulistan.com

The U.S. Dept. of Justice is appealing an immigration judge's ruling that protected Ibrahim Parlak from deportation.

Parlak is a West Michigan restaurant owner who fled Turkey 27 years ago, after being in a Kurdish separatist group.

The federal government started deportation proceedings against him in 2004, alleging he failed to disclose his involvement in the group when he applied for U.S. citizenship.

The government also says the group Parlak belonged to was a terrorist organization.

Tracy Samilton / NPR

Thetford Township is a sleepy-looking community of about 7,000 people, retirees and farmers, mostly.  

It was voted third safest in Michigan in a recent survey by the Michigan Township Association. 

Even so, it has its own police department, made up of one part-time officer, one full-time officer, and one police chief.

But township trustee Stan Piechnik thinks the chief has spent more time acquiring military surplus than protecting the community.

Here's some of the surplus - where's the rest?

Michigan DNR

The state of Michigan has implemented an immediate ban on baiting and feeding of deer in 16 counties, called the CWD Management Zone, to try to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease or CWD.   

ballot
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Last Friday, reporters from Michigan Radio's Stateside program were out asking people if they planned to vote in tomorrow's primary election.

One man's comment was particularly striking:

"My name is Eric and I'm from the great city of Ypsilanti, Michigan. I would love to vote in the primary election on August 7th. So unfortunately, I'm unable to vote because I am currently on parole through the Michigan Department of Corrections. And I honestly feel is unfair that we don't have the right to vote."

Beaumont Health

Beaumont Health will pay $84.5 million to settle long-standing lawsuits that allege improper contracts with referring physicians at three of Beaumont’s hospitals, in Royal Oak, Troy, and Grosse Pointe.

The lawsuits were filed by four former hospital administrators and physicians in 2011.  They claimed that three of Beaumont's hospitals were giving free office space and payments to doctors who referred Medicare and Medicaid patients to Beaumont. That's a violation of a federal anti-kickbacks law that bans such payments.  

MDHHS

The hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan has plateaued, but it's still an outbreak.

Eden Wells is the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Lean and Green Michigan

A program that offers companies a zero-down, affordable way to finance energy efficiency programs is expanding.

PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy.  PACE loans for energy savings project are paid off through an extra payment on the company's property taxes.  The energy savings are greater each month than the extra loan payment, so it pays for itself from the beginning.

Thetford Township

A small town official says his police department has acquired more than a million dollars worth of excess military equipment – but no one seems to know where it all is.

Stan Piechnik is a trustee of Thetford Township, a community of about 7,000 people just north of Flint.

He says he's not sure why the police would need it in the first place.

"Statistically, we're the fourth safest municipality in the state," says Piechnik, "and that came from the Michigan Township Association."

Takeout containers
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

There's a scene in the 1967 film The Graduate where a well-meaning friend of the family pulls Dustin Hoffman's character aside at his graduation party, and gives him this advice:

"There's a great future in plastics - think about it, will you think about it? ... That's a deal."

But back then, the downside of plastic wasn't apparent.

Airbnb
pixabay

It will be a little more expensive from now on to rent a room, apartment or house through Airbnb in Kent County.   

The county assesses a 5% hotel tax to pay for its convention center, but Airbnb users didn't have to pay it until now. 

Airbnb allows people to rent a room in their home to travelers, or rent their whole apartment or house. 

County officials say the deal levels the playing field for hotels, and will bring in up to $100,000 more a year in tax revenue. The county uses the hotel tax to pay off a bond that funded the construction of its convention center.

Cafe Gulistan

An immigration judge has issued a reprieve – possibly a very long reprieve – for Ibrahim Parlak, who has been fighting deportation to Turkey for 15 years.

Parlak, a Kurd, fled Turkey 28 years ago and was granted asylum in the U.S.  He married, had a daughter, and established a popular restaurant in Harbert, Michigan, near Lake Michigan.

But in 2004, the government arrested him and began deportation proceedings, based on the fact that he did not disclose his affiliation with a Kurdish separatist group on his application for citizenship.

Shutterstock

Magazine subscribers in Michigan have agreed to settle a privacy lawsuit against Hearst Communications.

The subscribers say Hearst sold their personal information to third-party data mining companies without their consent. The information was then combined with other data, like political donations and shopping behavior, and resold. 

The magazines include Cosmo, Oprah, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Road and Track, Country Living, Elle, Food Network, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, and Seventeen, among others.

pixabay

Michigan is one of only two states in the nation that does not require candidates for statewide office to file financial disclosures, according to state Rep.Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor.

Rabhi is one of 31 Democrats in the State House to voluntarily submit the documentation, in a show of support for bills spearheaded by Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids.

Rabhi says voters deserve more transparency in government.

Credit: NOAA derived image from EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite dat / NOAA

Researchers with Ohio Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say cyanobacterial blooms in Lake Erie will likely be smaller than last year.

The forecast relies on satellite imaging and computer models to predict the toxic blooms every summer. 

Christopher Winslow, Director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, says this summer's prediction is about 6 on a scale of 10. 

An electric car charger with a car in the background
Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Environmental groups say they welcome DTE Energy's proposal for $13 million in rebates to offset the cost of electric vehicle charging stations.

Some of the rebates will be for home chargers for individual EV owners. Rebates will also be offered for what's known as "level 2" chargers at businesses. The largest rebates will be for companies that install fast-chargers, which can charge an advanced battery to about 80% in 20 minutes.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In a filled-to-capacity federal courtroom in Ann Arbor Wednesday, attorneys for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, along with other officials and government entities, asked to be dismissed from a lawsuit over the Flint water crisis.

Others seeking dismissal include Flint's former state-appointed emergency managers Ed Kurtz, Darnell Earley, and Gerald Ambrose; former Flint mayor Dayne Walling; former State Treasurer Andy Dillon, MDHHS director Nick Lyon; and several officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

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