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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. 

Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical has agreed to pay $1.75 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission after failing to disclose perks it gave to its former CEO.

It's neither  illegal nor rare for a company to give its top executives perks like the ones Dow gave to Andrew Liveris: paying for a lavish private Superbowl party, for example, and personal travel on the company jet. 

But it is against Securities and Exchange Commission rules not to disclose the perks on proxy statements, as Dow did between 2011 and 2015.

Zelda Richardson / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Auto sales in June were higher than analysts expected, despite rising interest rates and rising prices for cars.  Sales are expected to slow this year compared to last year, but not by much.

But proposed import tariffs on cars would throw a monkey wrench into the works.  President Trump says he is considering imposing as much as a 25% tariff on all vehicles made outside the U.S. 

That would hurt all auto companies, including GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler, which make many of their cars in Canada, Mexico, and China, and import them into the U.S.

power lines in trees
Steffan Vilcans / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Customers who rely on alternative electricity providers are breathing a sigh of relief.  That's after state regulators set a rule that will likely let the providers keep operating at least through 2023, according to the Alliance for Michigan Energy Consumers.

Alternative electric companies, also known as electric choice, can serve up to 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers.  The lower rates offered by electric choice companies attract customers with big electric bills like school districts. 

MoGo

Detroit is trying a pilot project to encourage people to use bikes for the first or last short leg of a bus trip.  

Up to 2,000 people who buy bus passes in Detroit can get a free MoGo pass for the month.  MoGo is the non-profit bike share company in the city. 

Wayne County

Detroit has settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, alleging the city made it too difficult for residents to learn about, and qualify for, a property tax exemption based on poverty.

Thousands of Detroiters in poverty paid property taxes they didn't owe because they didn't know they were exempt, and the city didn't tell them.  Many lost their homes at tax foreclosure auctions when they couldn't pay the taxes.

Consumers Energy

Michigan would see a dramatic boost to the economy by reaching a 30% renewable energy target by the year 2027

That's according to a new study released by the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum -- a group of conservative political and business leaders who support renewable energy because it lowers energy costs for everyone, creates jobs, and is better for public health.

The forum's commissioned report says 30% renewable energy by the year 2027 would have an economic impact of $10.3 billion dollars, and create thousands of new jobs.

cford3 / Wikipedia

Leaders in Monroe County say what they thought was a negotiation with DTE Energy over a property tax reduction turned out to be anything but.

Without giving advance warning to negotiators, the utility has asked the Michigan Tax Tribunal to slash its property taxes in the county by nearly 60% over five years, because its coal-burning Monroe Power Plant and its nuclear plant, Fermi 2, have lost value.

Detainees being housed inside fenced rooms at a government facility.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and 50 female Democratic colleagues are pressing the Secretaries for Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to explain where the government is keeping the girls who've been taken from migrant parents. 

So far, the government has only released photos of older boys in make-shift detention centers.  The government has also sent some children to foster agencies in other states, including Michigan.

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Environmental groups haven't given up trying to stop DTE Energy from building a $1 billion natural gas plant.  

The groups are asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to reconsider the permit it approved for the plant. 

Margrethe Kearney is with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She says renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable every year.  

"And it just doesn't make sense for Michigan to say we're going to build a huge natural gas plant, which means of course we won't be building any of that other stuff," she says.

Wendell Brown teaching a group of Chinese people about American football
Courtesy of Antoinette Brown

In September, 2016, Detroit native Wendell Brown was having a drink with friends at a bar in China, when a drunk man threw a glass bottle at him, according to witnesses.

Brown, a former Ball State football star, was accused of throwing a punch and knocking the man down. He has denied he hit anyone.

His trial was last July. Brown's family has been waiting on a verdict ever since, but on Tuesday a decision was postponed yet again. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Lately, Detroit has more good news to report than bad. Its bankruptcy is in the rear view mirror, the streets have lighting again, and more businesses are moving downtown.

Detainees being housed inside fenced rooms at a government facility.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

The Trump administration's zero-tolerance border policy has meant some 2,000 migrant children have been taken away from their families.

Michigan Central Station circa 2018
Ford

It was a near thing, but Michigan Central Station has a new lease on life, thanks to its purchase by Ford Motor Company.

The historic building is in terrible shape, stripped of much of its glory by former owners, thieves, and vandals. So Ford has its work cut out for it.

But the automaker's plans (and finances) for the building seem much more firm than many of the pie-in-the-sky visions floated by other developers.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy plans to dramatically increase its use of solar energy by the year 2040.

It's a big part of the utility's first long-term energy plan, required by Michigan's new energy law.

CEO Patti Poppe says solar is clean energy, and the cost of providing it is likely to come down by 35% by 2040.

And she says solar is one of the best options for providing electricity at times of peak demand.

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In the past four years, Consumers Energy gave $43 million to a political lobbying group, Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy, according to research by the Energy and Policy Institute.

That's a huge sum for a utility to spend on political activity -- as much as the entire electric utility industry spent on federal campaigns since 2015.

wikimedia commons

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has filed a formal complaint against 53rd District Court judge Theresa Brennan for numerous allegations of misconduct.  

The complaint says Brennan failed to tell people in cases before her that she had personal relationships with people on the other side of the case. One was an attorney who she'd described as her best friend, and the other was a man with whom she had a close personal relationship.

IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says some automakers are still struggling to pass a tough new crash test, but that many lives depend on them getting it right.  

The small overlap front crash test is done to see how well a driver or passenger is protected in a front crash when the side is clipped, either by another car, or an obstruction. 

The Institute's Russ Rader says the crashes are particularly dangerous. Of fatal accidents that happen in a front crash, 25% are small overlaps.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

After more than a quarter of a century, the Michigan Central Depot is changing owners. The Moroun family has sold it to Ford Motor Company.  

The once-thriving Beaux Arts gem became a symbol of Detroit's decay, after Amtrak sold it to the Moroun family in 1992. Matthew Moroun says now "the depot will become a shining symbol of Detroit's success and progress."

creative commons

Troubles are mounting for a Livingston County judge accused of unethical behavior. 

Theresa Brennan is being investigated by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission for, among other things, allegedly hiding her affair with the lead investigator in a murder case over which she was presiding.  

A retired judge, Daniel Burress, who before his retirement was the chief judge of the Livingston County District Court, has requested a grand jury to review her behavior.

She is being sued by a court administrator for harassment and retaliation.

creative commons

"I believe every Michigan kid has a birthright to a great public education," says Democratic candidate for governor Gretchen Whitmer, unveiling her campaign's plan for education on Friday. 

Whitmer says Michigan used to have one of the best public education systems in the country; now it's in the bottom ten. She says K - 12 schools have to  get more money, so first and foremost, the state needs to stop "stealing" money from the School Aid Fund.

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County

A long-standing jail problem in Wayne County may be resolved.

By a 14-to-1 vote, the Wayne County Commission has approved a deal with Dan Gilbert’s private development company, Rock Ventures, to build a new criminal justice center on East Warren Avenue near the I-75 service drive.

The Chevy Bolt plug receptacle.
GM

General Motors and Honda will collaborate to develop new advanced chemistry battery components, "to accelerate both companies plans' for all-electric vehicles," according to a press release from GM.

The battery will have higher energy density, be smaller, and faster to charge.

Once it has been developed, GM will produce the batteries for both companies, mainly for cars sold in the North American market. 

The joint venture is expected to save research and development costs as well as lower per-battery costs because of economies of scale.

wikimedia commons

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Tom Leonard have asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to issue an opinion on a controversial decision by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

The commission said last month it would consider housing, employment and public accommodation  discrimination claims by LGBTQ people under the state's anti-discrimination law (ELCRA) -- because the category of "sex" in the act should be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the more traditional understanding of sex.

V2V technology can warn drivers of many dangerous situations
General Motors

Despite being the first automaker to put vehicle to vehicle technology in a car in the U.S.,  it appears General Motors is not yet ready to match Toyota's April announcement that it will voluntarily put the life-saving technology in most of its vehicles by the mid 2020s. 

General Motors

Many people don't know about the life-saving potential of V2V (vehicle to vehicle), a wifi and GPS-based technology that allows cars to communicate with each other and with traffic signals.

Oakland County hopes to change that for its residents – and find out if they'd be willing to pay for it.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is advising people to avoid swallowing the foam that appears on top of the water in the Rogue River near Rockford, Michigan.

The foam is highly contaminated with PFAS, an emerging group of chemicals linked to reproductive, developmental, liver, and kidney problems. 

The agency says PFAS is not easily absorbed through the skin, so contact with the water is OK. But children who might accidentally ingest the foam should be kept from face contact with the water, or swimming.

Levi Hutmacher / Michigan Engineering, Communications and Marketing

The University of Michigan's latest self-driving vehicle research project isn't on its enclosed test campus, Mcity.

Launched on Monday, staff and students on the university's north campus can now catch a ride on a driverless shuttle, which will travel about a one-mile route between two traditional bus stops.  

Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has launched a two-year pilot program to mediate federal civil rights lawsuits filed by Michigan prisoners who represent themselves in litigation.

The project will encourage speedy resolution of legal disputes between prisoners and state corrections officials and lawyers to avoid costly, protracted litigation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Avoiding comment on his ongoing conflict with President Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions  says one of his main priorities is to uphold freedom of speech, especially for religious groups.

Sessions was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Michigan Chapter of the Federalist Society.

He says freedom of religion includes freedom of expression, which is under attack in the U.S. -- and that's why the justice department is intervening in cases like free speech on college campuses.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The state's energy regulating agency has issued some decisions that should relieve some of the financial burden on large companies that want to become greener.

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