Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

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The former Hudson's site, prime real estate along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit, has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson's building was demolished in 1998.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An iconic spot in downtown Detroit is one step closer redevelopment.

The former Hudson’s department store has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson’s building was demolished in 1998.

But officials with Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority gave the tentative go-ahead for a new high-rise development there Wednesday.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the deal still needs a few final approvals. The City Council still needs to OK elements of the deal, including the transfer of the parking garage to the developer for $15 million.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit will start shutting off water to residential customers behind on their bills next week.

23,000 households that have defaulted on payment plans could face service interruption.

This is the third straight year that Detroit is pursuing its controversial, aggressive shutoff policy. Just a little over 23,000 households were shut off last year.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After working more than a month without contracts, unionized Detroit News and Free Press employees have ratified a new, three-year deal.

Detroit’s two major newspapers have different owners. But their business operations are run jointly through a joint operating agreement, with Free Press owner Gannett media company holding almost all the purse strings.

Berrien County Sheriff's office / via Facebook

A recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling paves the way for using “support dogs” in courtrooms.

The ruling stems from the case of a Berrien County man, Jordan Conrad Johnson, convicted of sexually abusing his young niece.

During his trial, the girl and her brother both testified accompanied by a black lab named Mr. Weeber.

The dogs are trained to calm and comfort vulnerable witnesses, particularly young children, and help them testify.

Robert Bobb helps student with homework
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In Detroit, 12 public school principals are accused of taking kickbacks on supplies that were never delivered.

The charges, announced late last month, pose another blow to the long-troubled Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term state aid if it wants to see another school year.

Here's how the alleged kickback scheme worked: 12 principals, all working separately, gave contracts for school supplies to a vendor, Norman Shy, who then kicked back some profits to them.

DTE Energy

Michigan’s US Senators want the Environmental Protection Agency to step in if the state doesn’t act on a plan to curb Wayne County air pollution soon.

In a letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy Friday, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters urged “swift completion” of that plan.

In 2013, part the county was found to be in “non-attainment” with new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was supposed to submit a plan to fix that to the EPA in April 2015. But to date, MDEQ still hasn’t done that.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

 Michigan’s state superintendent has outlined his “vision” for student assessments, and it seems like students might be in for more big changes.

Brian Whiston addressed lawmakers from two State House education panels Wednesday.

The state currently uses the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) to measure student achievement.

This is only the second year for the M-STEP, which students take in the spring.

But Whiston, who took over as state superintendent in July, advocates a different approach.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit is tweaking bus service again as the city plugs away at revamping its notoriously bad transit system.

The latest changes kick in this coming weekend.

They include schedule modifications, some additional trips and other adjustments across eight bus routes, to “increase reliability” and “alleviate crowding.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

If you have any kind of affection for penguins – and really, who doesn't? – start making plans to check out the Detroit Zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

The zoo's biggest, most complex project ever is set to open its doors next week. 

The $30 million conservation center aims to be a state-of-the-art habitat for 83 King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins.

via Detroit Public Schools

Gov. Rick Snyder is a defendant in yet another lawsuit – this time, a federal lawsuit over the state of the Detroit Public Schools.

Members of Detroit’s elected school board and some parents filed the suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students who have attended DPS schools since 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that financial, academic, and other conditions in the district have declined so much they violate students’ civil rights.

Dearborn Heights Police

The Michigan Court of Appeals says a suburban Detroit man convicted of murder in 2014 deserves a new sentence.

Dearborn Heights homeowner Theodore Wafer was convicted of killing Renisha McBride, 19, on his front porch in December 2013, after she banged on his door in the middle of the night.

Wafer insists he acted in self-defense, and appealed on a number of grounds.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Wafer’s convictions for both murder and manslaughter. But it also found the trial judge made an error when sentencing Wafer.

Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The city of Detroit wants all its schools to test for lead in drinking water.

The Detroit Public Schools is already on board with the initiative, and has tested 60 schools so far.

But Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the Detroit health department director, says the city won’t stop there.

Andrey Belenko / Flickr

A Michigan advocacy group is suing U.S. government officials on behalf of people who found themselves on a government terror watch list.

The two lawsuits, filed in a federal district court in Virginia Tuesday, say the designation process for the terror watch list is arbitrary, secretive, and unconstitutional.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After 13 years, the Detroit police department is now officially free of U.S. Justice Department oversight.

The department had been under two federal consent decrees since 2003.

Those decrees stemmed from a host of unconstitutional policing practices, ranging from excessive use of force, to illegally detaining witnesses.

Federal judge Avern Cohn signed off on a full return to local control this week, after an 18-month transition period.

Police Chief James Craig says 13 years of federal oversight helped create a “constitutional” police department.

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

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward on a new rule to cut air pollution in part of Wayne County.

The rule will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from two US Steel facilities. They’re in southwest Detroit and two downriver suburbs deemed in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Barb Rosenbaum is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division.

She says the agency is still working on a larger sulfur dioxide attainment plan for that area, after getting feedback on an initial draft.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Employees at Detroit’s two major newspapers are working without a contract.

Detroit News and Free Press staffers held an “informational picket” near the papers’ downtown headquarters Wednesday.

The Newspaper Guild of Detroit is trying to negotiate a new contract with Gannett Media Company on behalf of both News and Free Press employees.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

The Detroit Public Schools now officially has enough money to stay open through the end of the current school year.

Gov. Snyder signed a $48.7 million dollar supplemental budget bill into law Tuesday.

DPS officials had said that without state aid, the district likely faced payless paydays by early April.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Fourteen people face federal charges for defrauding the Detroit Public Schools in an alleged bribery-and-kickback scheme.

Those charged include 12 current and former principals, one district administrator, and a school supplies vendor.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit State Senator Virgil Smith started a ten-month jail sentence Monday, as part of a plea deal he struck after violent domestic dispute with his ex-wife.

The democratic lawmaker pleaded guilty to one count of malicious destruction of property, for shooting up his ex-wife’s car. He had initially faced four counts, including a firearms charge that carried a mandatory prison sentence.

But Smith is still a state legislator, and Wayne County prosecutors are now unhappy with that deal.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After months of highly unusual legal maneuvers, two Detroit protesters still don’t know if a jury will ever decide their case.

They were part of a group, dubbed the “Homrich 9,” arrested for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs in the summer of 2014. They had tried to block trucks that were charged with carrying out the shutoffs.

Two defendants, Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman and Marian Kramer, had a two-week trial on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges in November.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with students at the Detroit Promise Zone scholarship announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is joining the list of Michigan communities offering “promise zone” college scholarships.

The program, enacted by state lawmakers years ago, but never implemented in Detroit until now, guarantees any Detroit high school graduate two years' tuition at five Metro Detroit community colleges.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

As the clock ticks down toward possible payless paydays in the Detroit Public Schools, the Detroit Federation of Teachers is trying turn up the pressure on state lawmakers.

DFT leaders are also trying to tamp down on a faction within the union that is pushing for more radical action to force Lansing’s hand.

The district needs state money in the short term to avoid running out of cash early next month. It also needs a longer-term rescue package to help shed crippling debt and reorganize as a new district.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The water crisis in Flint and the financial crisis in Detroit Public Schools appear to be taking a toll on Michigan’s credit outlook.

Standard and Poor’s, one of the three major credit ratings agencies, revised Michigan’s outlook for general obligation debt down a notch, from “positive” to “stable” this week.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal religious freedom lawsuit filed against the Dearborn Police Department has been resolved.

But the two sides give different versions of how and why the case was settled.

Maha Aldhalimi  sued the city of Dearborn and its police department last year. She claimed that after police arrested her for unpaid parking tickets in 2014, officers forced her to remove her headscarf, known as hijab, for a booking photo.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some metro Detroit families and faith leaders are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court next month, to take part in a national rally supporting President Obama’s immigration policy.

The Court is set to hear arguments on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) plan, which Obama created via a 2014 executive order.

It would protect many undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children from deportation.

Last night, the Farmington School Board voted to close or consolidate three district schools, including Harrison High School, over the next four years.

Board members in the suburban Detroit district called that a tough decision, but a necessary one in light of declining enrollment – a common situation statewide.

screengrab/YouTube

A U.S. House committee held a second hearing on the Flint water crisis Tuesday, taking testimony from some key players in that disaster.

Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former mayor Dayne Walling, former EPA official Susan Hedman, and Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards – whose independent research team helped reveal the high levels of lead in Flint water late last year – all testified.

But the hearing was defined largely by blistering criticism leveled at the U.S. EPA for failing to step in sooner.

A Wayne County judge sentenced Detroit state Senator Virgil Smith to ten months in jail Monday – but the court saga isn’t over just yet.

Smith had initially been charged with several felonies, after a violent domestic dispute with his ex-wife in May 2015.

But Smith cut a plea deal with prosecutors. He ended up pleading guilty to just one count, malicious destruction of property, for shooting up his ex-wife’s Mercedes.

Gov. Snyder speaks at a Flint news conference.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some high-level decision-makers behind the Flint water crisis will answer to Congress this week.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee has hearings scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday.

SpecialKRB / flickr

A new study suggests when it comes to childhood obesity, kids benefit from having a younger sibling.

And that link is surprisingly strong, according to an analysis of data from nearly 700 U.S. children.

Dr. Julie Lumeng, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital, was the study’s lead author.

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