Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio

Tracy Samilton

Energy and Transportation Reporter / Producer

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry 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 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.

Ford Motor Company

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order that bans the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles within 15 years.

Brett Smith of the Center for Automotive Research says the announcement from the largest car market in the U.S. will get the attention of Michigan car companies for sure.

"I think it means they have to double down or triple down on their investment and commitment to battery electric vehicles," he says.

A fast charging station for electric cars.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan's two largest utilities are committing to help build a network of fast charging stations across Midwest states - including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Fast chargers can partially recharge an electric car's battery in about 20 minutes, and fully recharge it in about an hour.

"Vote here" sign
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Michigan League of Women Voters is seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit in support of the Michigan Secretary of State, over alleged issues with Michigan's Qualified Voter File.    

The lawsuit, filed by a Republican-affiliated group, seeks to force the state to purge Michigan's Qualified Voter File, claiming there are too many registered voters in some counties, based on the last Census. And it claims that if ineligible voters cast ballots, that will "dilute" the legitimate vote by qualified voters in the November election.

Pixabay/creative commons

Update:  The State Senate Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to approve SB 431, a bill that would require townships to approve nearly all gravel mining permits, even if the mining operation would cause serious environmental consequences.

Republicans Tom Barrett, Kimberly LaSata, Roger Victory, Rick Outman  and Dan Lauwers voted yes;  Democratic sponsor Adam Hollier also voted yes.

Democrat Erika Geiss was the lone no vote.

Democrat Marshall Bullock and Republican Ed McBroom chose to pass on the vote.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is building a new factory, on the grounds of its Rouge Complex in Dearborn.

The new factory will build battery-electric F-150 trucks.

Current Ford COO (and soon-to-be CEO) Jim Farley  says the new truck will be able to haul materials to a work site, and then power all the tools with its batteries.

"This is no gimmick," says Farley. "It is a work horse, it's not a show horse, destined to a shiny garage filled with four luxury cars. It's for serious truck owners."

Farley will replace outgoing Ford CEO Jim Hackett next month.

Judge's gavel
Flickr user Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill that extends a court financing system that has been described as broken. But the alternative would have threatened Michigan courts with a loss of necessary revenue to continue operating. 

Michigan's courts are funded in part by assessments for a portion of court operating costs, such as for staffing, building maintenance, and technology, against people who plead guilty or are found guilty of crimes. That's in addition to financial penalties for the crime itself.   

Matthew Ansley / Unsplash

The state has temporarily relocated 236 inmates from an Upper Peninsula prison, after some prisoners took over a housing unit at Chippewa Correctional Facility Sunday night. 

The inmates did widespread damage to the unit, including broken windows and surveillance units and  ripped-out sinks, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Karen Woolstrum / Unsplash

The Autism Alliance of Michigan is setting an ambitious 10-year goal: for Michigan to be the first state in the nation to employ adults with autism at the same rate as neurotypical workers.

Alliance President Colleen Allen says that would mean placing roughly 101,000 people on the autism spectrum in jobs. She says reaching the goal will require the involvement of state agencies, the public education system, as well as employers.

Mat Reding / Unsplash

State health officials are urging people in nine Michigan counties to postpone, reschedule, or cancel outdoor activities and events that take place at dusk or after dusk, due to a spike in Eastern Equine Encephilitis (EEE) infections in horses.

EEE is a mosquito-borne illness which primarily affects birds, but it can also be transmitted to other mammals, including horses and humans.

The counties where EEE infections have been found in horses are Barry, Clare, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Oakland.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan has closed on a sale of $800 million in bonds to rebuild some of the most traveled highways in the state.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Warren.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, tore into Republican President Donald Trump at a campaign stop in Warren, Michigan.

That's after tapes revealed that the president knew far more about the dangers of COVID-19 than he told the American public.

Andrew Neel / Unsplash

June Teisan isn't a fan of national standardized testing for K-12 kids under the best of circumstances.

During a pandemic, when many school districts are offering remote instruction, she says it's unconscionable. But U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos says she will not grant waivers to states like Michigan that want to skip the testing this year.

post office vehicle
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

The U.S. House Oversight committee is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, after The Washington Post reported allegations by former employees that they were asked to make political contributions to Republican candidates DeJoy supported, and were later reimbursed by him.

That kind of arrangement would be illegal.

Democratic U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence worked at the Post Office for twenty years before running for public office. She says there were problems with DeJoy's appointment as Postmaster General from the beginning.

Michigan State Police

The Michigan State Police says it is working to improve transparency, racial equity, and its relationship with the public, with three new actions.  

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Consumers Energy is hoping to slash what it pays rooftop solar customers for the electricity they produce.

The utility wants to compensate those customers 46% less for their electricity than what it currently charges.

Motown31 / Flickr -

Detroit's public school system has reached a deal with its teachers' union to avert a strike over safety concerns.

The deal includes a provision that there will be no more than 20 students in a classroom, and teachers can choose to teach all online or in person. 

Teachers will also get a $750 hazard pay bonus for each semester they teach in person.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says life is hard enough for parents in Detroit, and the pandemic has added to the stress they experience.

Kids wearing masks at computers
Mediteraneo / Adobe Stock

Some school districts that are teaching online only are adding limited enrollment drop-off programs this fall to help ease the burden on working parents.

The students can be dropped off at school buildings, or in some cases, community centers, where they will be supervised by non-teaching staff as they attend online school, just like the students at home.

Fees typically range from about $30 to $60 a day. At Lake Orion Community Schools, the fee will be $40 a day for K-5 students.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and UAW President Dennis Williams

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams with conspiracy to embezzle union funds.

Polling station sign
user jaina / Creative Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted a motion for immediate consideration in a lawsuit filed by three Detroit residents, seeking to force the Michigan Secretary of State and Michigan Elections Director to train Detroit's city clerk and its election workers.

The lawsuit was filed after serious problems occurred in the city's August primary. The count in 46% of Detroit precincts did not match the number of ballots in poll books. That means they could not have been  recounted in the event of a recount. 

The Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions canceled their practice Tuesday to protest police brutality, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday.

Blake was shot in the back multiple times by officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He is now paralyzed.

Demostrators in downtown Detroit protest police-involved shootings that have killed African-Americans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Protesters say they will file a lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department over its response to a Saturday protest.

Organizer Tristan Taylor says the protest was against Detroit's acceptance of help from federal agents to crack down on gun crimes.  

More than 40 people were arrested when police moved in to clear them from an intersection where they had established their protest.

generic census form
comedy_nose / flickr

Detroit is mounting a final push to increase its all-important response rate for the U.S. Census.

The city's response rate right now is 49.3%, and the Trump administration has indicated the door-to-door phase of the census will end on September 30th.

The city has hired its own census workers - who will now continue their own door-to-door effort, in addition to federal census employees.   

firefighting foam
Adobe Stock

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed lawsuits against nearly three dozen companies that make firefighting foams, known in the industry as AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam.

AFFF contains PFAS, a family of chemicals used in many industries, including the firefighting industry. They can persist in the environment for hundreds of years and even longer, and build up in the tissues of fish, animals and humans. PFAS are also linked to illnesses including cancer. 

someone holding a clipboard while another person signs a petition
Svetlana / Adobe Stock

Michigan courts have upheld Governor Gretchen Whitmer's legal authority to unilaterally extend a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic - but that may be moot by the end of this year.

Organizers of Unlock Michigan say they expect their ballot initiative to be certified by the Secretary of State by the end of the year, and submitted to the state legislature for consideration.

The initiative seeks to repeal the 1945 law that lets governors extend a state of emergency without getting legislative approval. 

U.S. Postal Service retirees in front of post office
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan members of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday angrily denounced U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump for mail slowdowns in Michigan and across the nation.

U.S. Representatives Brenda Lawrence, Haley Stevens, Rashida Tlaib, and Dan Kildee held a press conference in front of a post office in Southfield, calling for DeJoy to resign. 

Ketut Subiyanto / unsplash

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has directed Michigan's unemployment insurance agency to apply for federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week to boost state benefits. 

The benefit is coming from FEMA's $44 billion disaster relief fund.

Livestream screenshot from selection process / MI SOS

The thirteen members of Michigan's new redistricting commission were randomly selected Monday, with the process livestreamed so all residents could watch.  

Voters approved the commission in 2018 to shift redistricting authority from politicians to citizens.

An advocate for special needs students says severely impaired children were left out of consideration in online education bills that are on a fast track to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's desk.

post office vehicle
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

New work rules implemented by new U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are significantly delaying delivery of the mail in Michigan, according to Roscoe Woods, Jr., President of Michigan Postal Workers Union Local 480-481.  

And Woods says the removal of several mail sorting machines at two of the state's mail distribution centers could cause problems closer to Election Day, when mailed-in ballots are expected to surge.

Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she will send out postcards to nearly four and a half million registered voters, starting next week, to inform them they are eligible to vote by mail, and explain how to do it.