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.

The Detroit Institute of Arts
flickr user Quick fix / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Board of the Detroit Institute of Arts has issued a statement of support for its beleaguered director, Salvador Salort-Pons.

Salort-Pons has come under harsh criticism by a group of former and current employees at the DIA, who say he has fostered a racially insensitive culture that pays lip service to the need for diversity and inclusion, without taking meaningful action.

Salort-Pons is also accused of sidelining the involvement of senior staff with decades of experience, many of whom are women. 

DIA

A group of former and current staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts say Director Salvador Salort-Pons should be removed from his post. 

State of Michigan

This is the last week that Michiganders getting payments from unemployment insurance will see an additional $600  weekly amount from the federal government.

More than two million people in the state have received unemployment checks since the coronavirus pandemic shut the state down in March, causing an overnight recession.

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

Some school districts are in the thick of work devising a plan to return students to the classroom for face-to-face instruction in the fall. 

Many of the plans will likely be a hybrid, two days in school, three days online, for example, in order to reduce class sizes and allow for physical distancing.

But the Lansing School District is taking a different approach.  The district will offer online-only instruction starting on August 26th.

School Board President Gabrielle  Lawrence says the coronavirus pandemic is not under control in Michigan.

public domain

Workers at five nursing homes in metro Detroit say they'll walk off the job today to protest working conditions.

Trece Andrews is a certified nursing assistant at Regency at St. Clair Shores. 

wikipedia

Fiat-Chrysler is no more.  Neither is PSA.

The merger between the Italian-American hybrid, Fiat Chrysler, and France-based PSA has taken another step, with the choice of a name for the new company:  

"Stellantis."  

Stellantis is rooted in the Latin verb "stello," which roughly translated means to brighten with stars.  

The choice of a brand new name puts to rest waggish speculation that the new company might be named some tongue-twisting combination of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. 

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The union representing teachers at Ann Arbor Public Schools says it's not safe to return to in-person instruction.

In a Facebook post, the Ann Arbor Education Association is demanding that school be online only in the fall.  

Union leaders say many things would have to be in place before teachers are willing to teach inside school buildings, including a 14 day period of time in which there are no new COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County. 

Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper, Tyronne Riley, and Garrick Johnson
City of Toledo

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has asked the Ohio Attorney General to suspend four city council members:  Garrick Johnson, Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, and Larry Sykes.

That's after the U.S. Justice Department charged them with accepting bribes in return for votes.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation

An environmental group says Nestle's water bottling operations in Osceola Township are drying up two creeks.

Peggy Case, President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says there are mud flats along parts of Twin and Chippewa Creeks, where people used to canoe.  She says surveys show that large trout are disappearing from the creeks.

"So at a time when the water is at high levels all over the state of Michigan -- drowning in water right now, rivers are high and lakes are high.  (But) Twin Creek and Chippewa Creek are not. They are quite low."

Empty classroom
Kevin Wong / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In just six to eight weeks, Michigan’s K - 12 students will be returning to school for the fall semester. 

Most districts appear to be planning for at least a limited number of days of in-person teaching.

But cases of COVID-19 are increasing in the state, and teachers are anxious about the risks for them, their students and their own families. 

U.S. Forest Service

Firefighting planes and helicopters have been deployed to Gaylord due to a very high to extreme risk of wildfires, especially in that region.

“Aircraft allows for the quickest attack with a larger delivery of water than a typical fire engine can carry," according to Eastern Region North Zone Aviation Officer Chad Runyan. "It also reduces the need for ground-based firefighting operations on initial attack.”

Officials say recent rains did not do much to reduce the risk of fire in the area, because the air and ground has been so hot, the water quickly evaporated.

MDOC

Corrections officers at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian are mourning the death of one of their own from COVID-19.

Randy Rumler worked at the facility for 24 years. His local union rep, Mike Lennox, says Rumler was a family man, who was always there to help when people needed help.  

Lennox says everyone who worked with him is shocked and upset.

Unemployment office sign
BYTEMARKS / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The state of Michigan says it has met an internal goal to clear out a serious backlog of claims that were filed between March 15 and May 1.

The state's Unemployment Insurance Agency is dealing with a historically high number of people filing for benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession. The agency is also dealing with large numbers of fraudsters using stolen identification to file false claims.

people signing petitions
Fraitag.de / Adobe Stock

The Board of State Canvassers will consider two petitions Monday, both related to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's use of emergency powers during the pandemic.

One petition is sponsored by a single individual, Michael Garabelli. It seeks to recall the governor for some of her actions during the coronavirus crisis, including an executive order that prohibited evicting residents from long-term care nursing facilities.

eglin.af.mil

In most Michigan communities, public pools are closed.  Libraries are closed. Public buildings are closed, due to efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

That means fewer places for people to go to cool off when it gets really hot - and the next nine or ten days will be really hot - with high temperatures around 90 to 95 in much of lower southern Michigan.

Fears of spreading the coronavirus to vulnerable residents have even caused groups in Oakland County that normally open up cooling centers to say, "not this year." 

wikipedia

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged four sitting Toledo council members and a local attorney in a scheme to take bribes in exchange for votes.

Bribery charges were filed against council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Gary Johnson, and Larry Sikes, along with attorney Keith Mitchell. 

They're accused of taking bribes in amounts from $500 to $5,000,  in exchange for favorable votes on rezoning to allow several new internet cafes – and a subsequent moratorium on internet cafes that would compete with them. 

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
State of Michigan

The state's much-anticipated pandemic road map for returning to in-person K-12 instruction was released Tuesday.

The plan includes requirements that all school districts must follow, along with recommendations.  Districts will be permitted to institute stricter measures if they wish.

pxfuel/creative commons

The state Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard more testimony on a controversial gravel mining bill on Wednesday. Committee chair Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) said he expects the committee will take action on the bill "in the not too distant future."

The bill would exempt gravel companies from township ordinances and regulations. 

Opponents fear the committee plans to vote to approve the bill while there is restricted access to committee hearings because of the pandemic.

rollingroscoe / Morguefile

Updated: 1:19 p.m., June 22, 2020

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing a case on Monday filed by inmates of the Oakland County Jail.

Inmates say they are denied basic sanitation items like soap and disinfectant to clean surfaces and shared items during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Some inmates say the jail uses transfers to a unit that has active COVID-19 infections as a punishment, for refusing job duties that might expose them to the coronavirus, or complaining about unsafe conditions.

Flickr/creative commons / Jeff Clark, BLM

Updated:  6/18/2020

Sixty eight people have died of COVID-19 so far in Michigan prisons, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

It's the second highest number of COVID-19 related deaths in a state prison system in the country, according to the non-profit Marshall Project, which is tracking the cases. Ohio is number one for COVID-19 related inmate deaths.

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.

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