Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio
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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.

head shot of Dana Nessel
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is proposing statewide changes to policing oversight, to reduce excessive use of force incidents.

She says the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards issues licenses for police, but needs more authority to take those licenses away.

"And I think it's one of the reasons why you see officers that have committed numerous acts of misconduct and they still have their license," says Nessel. "And also officers that get terminated by a particular agency, they're so easily able to just go to another agency because they still have their license."

Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

School districts are in the middle of a budget nightmare.

Balanced budgets are due to the state by June 30. But administrators don't know what the state's per pupil funding will be, because the state has postponed finalizing its budget until the fall.

They can't estimate how many pupils they will have, due to pandemic uncertainty.

And the state could also cut funding for the current fiscal year, because its own revenues are so uncertain.

Gary Jones stands at a UAW podium
United Auto Workers

UAW President Rory Gamble and U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider will meet at the end of this month to discuss ways to eliminate corruption in the union.

It's a last-ditch chance for Gamble to stave off federal control of the union, according to Erik Gordon, who's on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Gordon is skeptical the meeting will work. He says Gamble has balked thus far at the depth of reforms that are needed.

Photo inside a prison.
Unsplash

A federal district judge says it is unconstitutional for the state of Michigan to insist that the organizers of a proposed ballot initiative meet the usual state deadline for filing signatures.

Judge Matthew Leitman notes that SawariMedia, the organizer of an initiative to repeal Michigan's Truth in Sentencing law, was "well on its way to collecting a sufficient number of signatures (340,000) to place its initiative on the November 2020 ballot.....and then the world changed."

designer491 / Adobe Stock

Experts on Michigan's unemployment system say the huge number of claims due to the pandemic is shining a spotlight on glaring problems with the computer system that processes those claims.

Rachael Kohl is Director of the University of Michigan Law School's Workers' Rights Clinic. 

She says the state's computer system that processes claims was created during the Snyder administration, with the aim of  generating as many red flags as possible, in order to reduce the number of people who qualify for unemployment.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Tuesday's rally to inform protesters about what happened in a meeting with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan got off to a rocky start.

Joanna Underwood, an activist who helped organize the first Detroit protest against police brutality, screamed at, ranted, and angrily lectured the protesters, along with two other activists she accused of "hijacking," the movement she was leading.

Underwood said Tristan Taylor and Nakia Wallace, who'd met with Duggan, were not legitimate leaders of the movement, because they were relatively new to the protest scene, while she'd been working for justice in the city for 15 years.  

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Unemployment checks have stopped coming for some legitimately out-of-work Michiganders.

State officials say criminals are filing huge numbers of false claims, and that could cost the unemployment system in Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars, if not checked.

The state has flagged 340,000 claims as potentially fraudulent. But officials acknowledge many of those claims are valid.

Brian Jennings stands at the front of a crowd of protesters who marched through Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials told residents the city is commited to implementing changes to make policing more accountable, and safer for residents, in an online update forum on Friday.

Tracy Samilton

About 150 people turned out in the city of Howell for a protest against police killings of black Americans Thursday.

That's despite being urged by Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy not to show up. 

On his Facebook page, Murphy said rumors that he had invited open-carry gun advocates to the protest were not true, and that he had asked those groups not to come and counter protest.  

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton has released body cam videos showing Sha'Teina Grady El fiercely resisting arrest, including biting a deputy on the arm.

Grady El was arrested after she refused to move away from the perimeter of a probable crime scene. Prior to her arrest, Grady El was videotaping deputies investigating a shooting, and advising the occupant of a nearby home that they needed a warrant to enter.

MDOC

Temujin Kensu has been in prison for nearly 35 years, after being convicted of a murder that took place in Port Huron, even though multiple witnesses placed him in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula at the time.

Kensu's appeals have all failed, largely on technical grounds.  

The 57 year old Kensu, who changed his name from Fred Freeman after his conversion to Buddism in prison, has battled chronic health conditions for years, including an auto-immune disorder, according to his attorney. 

couple walking on a sidewalk
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

Child care businesses in Michigan are still shut down as part of Governor Whitmer's "Stay Safe, Stay Home" executive order, except for those caring for children of essential workers. 

Rebooting this industry will be essential for the recovery of the state’s economy.  But child care administrators say it will likely be a painfully slow process, and require the creation of a “new normal,” for kids, parents, and workers.

Ford Motor Company

Workers at Ford Motor Company's Dearborn Truck Plant are expected to return to work on Tuesday, after their local, UAW Local 600, filed a grievance over COVID-19 protocols at the plant.

The grievance was filed after two UAW members showed up for work last week, before learning the results of tests they'd received for COVID-19.  The tests turned out to be positive.  The situation sparked a brief walkout on Wednesday.

DTE's River Rouge plant
DTE Energy

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants what she calls "some shared sacrifice," from utilities to limit how much they get back from customers for pandemic-related costs.

AJ Mast / General Motors

Republican President Donald Trump will visit Ford Motor Company's Rawsonville Components Plant on Thursday.  He is expected to make remarks afterwards.

Ford, in a partnership with General Electric, is building ventilators to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients who need help breathing.

The automaker's contract with the federal government under the Defense Production Act calls for Ford to produce 50,000 of the simplified ventilators by July, at a total price of $336 million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has set aside $130 million from its federal CARES Act funding to help child care businesses - both those that have remained open to care for the children of essential workers, and those that have been forced to close due to the state's stay at home order.

May 2020 Consensus Conference / Michigan House and Senate Fiscal Agencies

Michigan's state budget faces a more than six billion dollar shortfall this fiscal year and next, according to a consensus revenue estimate from the state House and Senate Fiscal Agencies.

Budget officials say it's twice as much as the decline in state revenues at the beginning of the Great Recession. The estimate may have to be revised downward again later in the year.

flickr/jobsforfelonshub.com

A federal district judge says an Iraqi man who was being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Calhoun County Jail should not go back into custody there.  

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy had ordered ICE to release Fawzi Zaya in April because his obesity and diabetes put him at great risk of "irreparable injury" or death from the coronavirus.

He was released despite a history of serious crimes, including a second degree murder charge in 2008, as well as ICE's contention that he is a flight risk. 

rollingroscoe / Morguefile

Two ICE detainees with medical conditions have been freed after a federal district judge ordered the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release them from the Calhoun County Jail.  

In her order releasing the two, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy said, "COVID-19 does not respect prison walls. The raging global pandemic outside of Calhoun County Correctional Facility and a confirmed case within the facility pose a serious risk to those inside."

Person in orange jumpsuit sitting behind prison bars
Lightfield Studios / Adobe Stock

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a growing toll on the lives of state prison inmates. 

As of May 10, 50 inmates have died after contracting the virus. 

The Michigan Department of Corrections is trying to release as many people as possible in response. But a state law called Truth in Sentencing means only some will benefit from that effort.  

green ooze
Michigan Dept. of Transportation

After a lengthy trial, Circuit Court Judge Hala Jarbou says the city of Madison Heights has the right to tear down most of the buildings on the site of Electro-Plating Services, owned by Gary Sayers.

Pollution on the site was responsible for a bright green spill of liquid onto I-696 in late December last year.

State environmental investigators found the "green ooze" contained high levels of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  

wayne county sheriff headquarters exteriors
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Attorneys on behalf of five inmates in Wayne County jails have sued Sheriff Benny Napoleon and jail officials over what they claim are unsanitary and unsafe conditions during the pandemic — exposing inmates to "an unconstitutional risk of substantial harm."

Utility Bill
Flickr

The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan (CUB), a consumers advocacy group, says low-income gas and electric customers "are poised to experience a crisis of service like rarely seen before."

The group says there could be an unprecedented surge of people losing heat and electricity, after the state's moratorium banning utility shutoffs to low income customers ends on June 1st. 

pxfuel

Updated: 4:30 p.m.

Legal and advocacy groups say time is running short in the effort to prevent a surge of COVID-19 infections in the Oakland County Jail. 

The groups are involved in a lawsuit against Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Curtis Childs, Corrective Services Commander, and the county over conditions in the jail.

Groups representing the five inmate plaintifss in the case include Advancement Project National Office, Civil Rights Corps, LaRene & Kriger P.L.C., Law Firm of Pitt, McGhee, Palmer and Rivers, Michigan Liberation, and the ACLU.

cell block in a prison
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The coronavirus is rapidly spreading in some Michigan prisons, especially Lakeland Correctional Facility, Parnell Correctional Facility, Cotton Correctional Facility, Macomb Correctional Facility, and the Women's Correctional Facility.

Forty-one inmates in Michigan prisons have died of COVID-19 as of April 30. 1,412 others have tested positive for COVID-19.

There could be hundreds, if not thousands, more who have been infected. 

Washtenaw County

 

It's not clear how many county jails are following the Michigan Supreme Court's urging to reduce the number of inmates, but the Washtenaw County Jail has been ahead of the curve, according to Sheriff Jerry Clayton.

Early in March, the jail implemented a system to control the spread of the coronavirus among the incarcerated population, with temperature checks and health screenings for incoming offenders, and access to testing for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections is testing every inmate for COVID-19 at its Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.

That's after tests of all the inmates at another prison, Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, found that 80% of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no symptoms at the time that they were tested (it's not clear how many of those were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic).

More than a million people - a quarter of Michigan's workforce - have filed for unemployment since Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued her first "Stay Home, Stay Safe," executive order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The severe downturn in the economy means many people could have trouble paying for basic needs - including  electricity and gas.

ICE

Advocates for immigrants lined up in their cars on Friday outside the Monroe County Jail to protest detentions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the pandemic.

There are 31 ICE detainees at the jail, according to ICE.

Rocky Coronado is with Rapid Response Detroit and says immigrants are housed at a dorm-style open room at the jail. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of inmates at one of Michigan’s prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. The number is expected to rise.

The Michigan Department of Corrections confirms more than 600 prisoners have tested positive at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater. In an email, spokesman Chris Gautz indicated not all results are in and the number will grow.

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