Author Archives: Amy Robinson

About Amy Robinson

I enjoy being an observer and reporter of issues related to education, the environment, the economy, (sometimes) politics and (always) human behavior, and I believe that nobody does news better than NPR.

Emmet county attorney charged with embezzling from elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease

An Emmet County attorney has been charged with two 20-year felony embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing money from a client who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Law enforcement officials say 67-year old Michael Kennedy of Petoskey illegally transferred money out of the victim’s account, beginning in 2006.  However the statute of limitations only allows charges going back to 2009. Continue reading

On the Map examines the European history of Sault Ste. Marie

SSM MI MapThe European history of the Sault starts in the sixteen-hundreds, when explorers arrived. 



Bernie Arbic is a long time resident of Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. We talked Sault history on the deck behind his home. He said an under-appreciated bit of history is the French influence. “The first European to be in this area, was a Frenchman, Etienne Brule, he was here, I give the date 1620 just because that’s such an iconic date in our history, give or take a couple years maybe, 1618, 1622, sometime this young Frenchman was this far in the interior.”

To give you a perspective on how early that was… ”This area was known to the French almost 50 years before they knew anything about the Detroit River,” Arbic said. “We tend to think everything comes from the south, I like to say the first man to visit Detroit made his travel arrangements with an agent here in Sault Ste Marie, ‘cause we do pre date Detroit by about 50 years in terms of the European knowledge of geography.”

Arbic said when the French discovered Sault Ste Marie, they were searching for the Northwest Passage. Because of the rapids, they had to stop. Since they were fur traders, they set up a trading post. They interacted with Native people, and then, as the story often goes, they tried to ‘save’ them.”First mission was established here in 1668 by Father Marquette, that’s, he’s perhaps the best known of the french explorers.”

Sault Ste Marie survived on the fur trade for many years. Then in the 1800’s the city took leaps forward. In 1822, Fort Brady was built.  Thirty years later, one of the Sault’s most famous attractions appeared. Although, Arbic said, the Soo locks of the mid-1800’s looked and operated differently than the ones tourists visit today. ” The first lock opened in 1855, and it was really, it was built by the state of Michigan, they charged tolls, uh, it was what’s called a tandem, a pair of locks really, now a days, ever since 1881, the locks is a single chamber, with a 20 ft lift, the first looks were two in tandem, with 10 ft lifts.”

But, Arbic said, the building boom of the 1800’s wasn’t done yet. in 1888, the railroad was built.  And that brought in tourists.”In the late 1800s folks that would run people down the rapids in a canoe. For some reason it seems to be mostly women that wanted to do it, that’s kind of interesting it, wearing hats and stuff, and here they are shooting the rapids with these two Native American river guides, taking them down the rapids, so, there were, there were those things; fishing and shooting the rapids.”

Sault Ste Marie had one more use for it’s precious river. In 1898, construction began on a hydroelectric power plant. Think of it as a sort of farewell to the 19th century. Work was completed in 1902, and the city began harnessing the power of the St Mary’s to light homes and businesses. Even today the plant produces power. 

Some of the notable industries in the Sault included Union Carbide and Northwestern Leather; both major employers for half a century. Fort Bradley was decommissioned; the property is now home to Lake Superior State University. In 1962 the International Bridge opened, linking Sault Ste Marie Michigan with its Ontario sister-city. 

Time has changed the city, but the river has provided consistency.  It is Sault Ste Marie’s past, present and undoubtedly it’s future. Continue reading

On the Map explores Sault Ste. Marie Native history

SSM Chippewa logoThe old adage says ‘history is written by the winners’. In this story, we’re going to let it be written by the survivors. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan was one of the first white settlements in the state.  But for centuries before, it was home to Native American tribes.  

When the French voyagers arrived, the ensuing culture clash devastated native peoples.  Continue reading

AMBER ALERT for missing Alpena boy

Missing child Keegan Elijah Waterman, and the suspect in his disappearance, Christina Marie Waterman.

Missing child Keegan Elijah Waterman, and the suspect in his disappearance, Christina Marie Waterman.

Police have issued an Amber Alert for 3-year old Keegan Elijah Waterman. He’s 4’3″ tall, 55 lbs, last seen wearing a diaper and sandals. He was last seen today at 2660 East Grant Street, Alpena, MI.

Keegan may be en route to Tennessee with his mother Christina MArie Waterman. They may be traveling in a 2000 tan Chevy Tahoe with Tennessee license plate; U4758V.

If you see Keegan, or Christina Marie Waterman, you’re asked to call 911 or contact the Alpena State Police post at 989-354-4101

Keeping pets safe and secure over the holiday weekend

4th - keep pets calmWhether your Independence Day celebrations will take place at home, on a beach or in a park. The busyness – and noise – of the weekend can be unsettling for pets.

Some organizations say more pets are lost during the Fourth of July period than any other time of year.

Jason is a Dispatch Supervisor with the Grand Traverse 911 Dispatch. He said it’s good to take basic precautions.
“Keep an eye on the pets. If you’re going to be distracted by a bunch of people coming to visit you, make sure they either in a fenced yard or on a leash or in a house. Somewhere where they’re not going to be able to run free when you look in the other direction”.

4th - pets infographic

Trout Trails web tool helps anglers find new fishing destinations

If you don’t have a fishing buddy for the holiday weekend, the Department of Natural Resources says it’s got you covered. The state has released a new web tool to help anglers find just the right river or lake to fish for trout.

Trout Trails is a web-based map that gives information on waters that fisheries biologists say are good for trout. Some of the sites, the DNR says, are lesser- known, but outstanding trout fishing destinations.

Suzanne Stone is with the DNR Fisheries Division.

She said the web site is intended to make anglers feel like they’re going fishing with an old fishing buddy. A buddy who has a lot of information about the area, “Like how fast the water was, was it a stream or river, what was the best time to fish in any certain lake or the season, and then provide directions to the site, both written as well as a link that would take them to Google Maps”.

Stone said Trout Trails provides information on 129 trout destinations.

Trout Trails

Film screening tells the story of a woman who rescues children from Nepalese prisons

Pushpa Basnet

At public radio, we love good stories. When we heard about Pushpa Basnet (push-pah bas-net) we knew we had to share her story.

Basnet is a Napalese woman who – for hundreds of children – has become Mamu.

Waiting for Mamu – 1 It’s a slang term for mother. It’s like another mother. It’s not your real mother, not your biological mother, all the kids call her Mamu.

That’s Thomas Morgan, a CMU graduate and documentary film maker who has created the film “Waiting for Mamu” It tells the story of how Basnet rescues children from prisons in Nepal.

Thomas Morgan said he was blown away when he met Pushpa Basnet. What the young woman, now 30-years old, dedicated her life to is saving children from prison.

Morgan said in Nepal, if a parent is sentenced to prison, the children often go to prison with them. “It’s not that the government is trying to be punitive in dealing with these children, or in some way trying to imprison children, It’s just such a ridiculously poor country that they don’t have any social services. There’s no place else for them to go. It’s the street by themselves or it’s with the parents in prison. And so That’s the best option they have.”

Waiting for Mamu - photo2

Morgan said Basnet met a little girl in prison when she was there for a social work class. She promised the girl she’d come back for her. She did that and then some. Today Basnet cares for more than 40 children. Kids that she rescued from Nepalese prisons. “Her life would be a lot easier if she didn’t do this,” Morgan said. “She comes from a caste that’s not supposed to serve a lower caste, and so that, in and of itself, was one hurdle. And then to be a strong woman in Nepal is not something that’s typical. It’s usually very much a male-dominated society, and so she’s really amazing and to think that she’s just 30 and has been doing this for ten-years, it’s just incredible.”

With the help of supporters, Morgan said, Basnet finally raised enough money to build a care facility for her kids. A complex where they can live.It’s called the Butterfly House. But as the house was nearing completion, it was badly damaged by an earthquake that devastated Nepal in April. Basnet and her kids moved into tents in a field.

Morgan said the Butterfly house will be rebuilt.

“The house itself will actually be better. Because of the earthquake, they’ve gone back in and we were able to bring in earthquake engineers from the US embassy in Nepal and have them look at it and make suggestions, and now they’re going back and re-inforcing. It will be safer than any building standard that they’ve had in the past and will actually be better when it’s completed.”

Morgan describes Pushpa Basnet as an inspirational force of nature. She was named CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2013. Morgan said in the past decade Basnet has helped more than 200 kids. Today 100 are still in prison with their parents, Waiting for Mamu.

A screening of the documentary “Waiting for Mamu” is scheduled Wednesday night at 7pm in the Park Library Auditorium on the campus of CMU. It is free and open to the public.

MDOT continues to keep travelers safe with Mi Drive App’s first update

Looking to drive around Michigan? There’s an app for that The Michigan Department of Transportation has updated its MI Drive app.

Jeff Cranson, MDOT Director of Communications said the app uses cameras to notify users in real time. Users are also able to save their favorite cameras.

“Everything we do is about safe travel and trying to help people avoid congestion, avoid construction zones, anything that causes backups because it’s in backups that people get impatient and do things that can lead to crashes,” Cranson said.

Cranson said he hopes to see more cameras in rural areas.

The MI Drive App was originally released in November. The new version has faster loading speed and new map layers.

Cransons said it also helps cut down on pollution as well.

“It’s about the environment because any time you can avoid congestion and sitting stalled in traffic, you’re not idling, and you’re conserving fuel and cutting down on emissions too,” he said.

Transportation officials say they plan to continue updating the app as it receives feedback.

State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said the app has some 38,000 downloads.

Mi Drive App

Wildlife officials say bat die-off in Michigan likely to “get considerably worse”, before it gets better.

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome (inset) at a mine opening in Keweenaw County. Photo courtesy of Gina Nicholas

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome (inset) at a mine opening in Keweenaw County. Photo courtesy of Gina Nicholas

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources say they have received the first reports this winter of bats in Michigan dying from White Nose Syndrome.
The bats were found near the opening of a copper mine in Keweenaw County in the UP. Continue reading

Putting a face on poverty

WHWH Square logo
We’re into the final day of our Warm Hearts, Warm Homes campaign. Tuesday, we’ll be done raising funds and back to our usual programming. But for the people who need the funds that we generate, the “winter campaign” is just beginning. They’re strategizing ways to keep the car running, buy Christmas gifts for loved ones and keep their homes warm, through December, and for four-or-five more months.

Amy Robinson spoke with a woman who says she has needed heating assistance before, and likely will again. Amber said she wanted to talk with us to help put a face on poverty. She said this is her way to help give back

Amber is one of the people you might pass on the street or know know as a casual friend, and you’d have no idea that her family is struggling. You know the term “working poor”? Let me introduce you to someone who fits the description. “I work 40-hours a week in an assisted living home making minimum wage. I love the work, Amber said. My husband is currently unemployed, but is looking, which makes life more difficult.”

Amber earns about $300 a week for a family of four. She has a lot of experience in juggling small amounts of money to meet large problems. “Your car can break down and that can take hundreds of dollars, and that would be money that maybe you had to put toward your electric bill. sometimes it comes down to, do I pay my electric bill? Do I pay my car insurance? Do I go without a phone? It’s not cut and dried, it’s not black and white. You have to make choices every day and with children you have to say, ok what needs to my kid need met?”

Amber lives in a rural area. That means transportation is a constant concern. She said her most recent vehicle died, so she bought a car from a cousin. She’s making small payments until she can pay it off with her tax return. Unfortunately bargain basement vehicles can come with a host of mechanical problems “Come to find out that it needed a new fuel pump so my dad is working on the fuel pump and putting in the power steering pump, and then I should be back on the road.” At least until something else breaks. That’s the thing with old cars…

Amber said she has needed heating assistance before. Last winter, of course, was a bad one. She said she doesn’t think her family would have made it through without the help of Eight Cap, that’s the community action agency that serves Gratiot, Ionia, Isabella, and Montcalm counties.

Despite the help Eight Cap has been able to offer, Amber said she has had her heat shut off. The propane tank went dry. When that happened, she says she relied on small electric heaters. She described her family as fortunate because they had a heater in each room. Amber said some of her happiest memories were made in cold rooms; In the middle of a Michigan winter with an empty propane tank, and an electric heater struggling to keep up, snuggled under a blanket, watching a Christmas movie with her daughters. If you’re getting the impression that this lady is irrepressibly positive, you’re right. “Just because you can’t afford to pay your utilities, it doesn’t mean you’re less of a person”, she said. “If you can find any way to make your family happy and create happy memories”

Amber said that’s her game plan: Keep her daughters safe and happy, and work hard at her job. There is nothing glamorous about working in assisted living. But Amber said she’s come to really care for the residents. She said she’s gotten better lately at mindfulness, living in the moment. and it helps. “In my line of work, I see a lot of vulnerability. I see complete helplessness. I see sadness. And, it’s not something you want to focus on. If I can take five-minutes to realize that I am sitting here with a friend in a coffee shop. You know, everything is not the end of the world. I have two beautiful daughters that I have to take care of , so I have to find a way to get to Mt Pleasant to get heating. That’s ok. Because I’m not the only one and I do have a happy life”.

Of course, “happy” can take on a new meaning during the holidays. Caring and togetherness, is great. Trying to arrange for gifts and a meal for your family; not so much. Amber said friends have stepped up to help with her Christmas, and she’s grateful. She’s made the choice to be happy. And not just for the holidays. “I can either look at it as ‘woe is me, my life is horrible, I can’t afford anything. Or I can think… I try to pay it forward. Try to put all of the love that people show me into my work and I hope it comes through”, she said.

Amber said her dreams for 2015 are that the car runs, her husband finds work and their finances stabilize. She said she would like to become Certified Nursing Assistant, but her daughters come first. And she said she won’t give up her job. It’s near her home and she really likes her co-workers and the residents. Her other hope for the new year is that people who are able will help out. “If you do see somebody asking for assistance or you do know somebody who needs help with heat, or Christmas, or something, I can tell you that even if it’s a small $5 gift or a kind work, offer that to them, because they might be smiling, but it’s not very easy to live in poverty.

Surviving in a Michigan winter when the heat goes off

WHWH Square logoCMU Public Radio is partnering with Consumers Energy, Michigan Community Action and listeners to support heating assistance in central and Norther Michigan. It’s one thing to understand there’s a problem, it’s quite another to experience it. “Louisa” fell into poverty last year, and last winter, during the record-breaking cold, she learned what it’s like when the heat goes off. Continue reading

Bill Ballenger, Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, shares thoughts about August primary election.

2003-503-32-Ballinger,-BillTuesday, August 5 is D-day for many political races. It’s the date of Michigan primary election, or, as political watcher, Bill Ballenger calls it “the most important election of the year”.

Ballenger is the Editor of “Inside Michigan Politics”. CMU Public Radio’s Amy Robinson spoke with him for an overview of the primary. The first thing he said, important or not, expect low-voter turnout. Continue reading