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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Residents in a Southwest Detroit neighborhood found what appeared to be eviction notices on their front doors Monday. The notices were actually flyers distributed by the group Americans for Prosperity in the city’s Delray neighborhood. The flyers warned residents that the state will seize their homes, if legislators approve a plan for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

The Detroit City Council has voted to override Mayor Dave Bing’s budget. The City Council added $50 million in additional cuts to Bing’s budget. By overriding his veto, they put those cuts into effect. Bing blasted the Council afterward, saying the cuts will lead to public safety layoffs. He also says their action could move the city toward a takeover by an Emergency Manager. City Council President Charles Pugh called that assertion “idiotic.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius toured facilities at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital Friday. Sebelius was there to promote the department’s Partnership for Patients initiative. More than 1500 hospitals have signed on so far. That program aims to save more than 60,000 lives over three years, by cutting preventable injuries and complications that result from hospital visits. Sebelius says about one in three Americans leave hospitals in worse shape than when they arrived.

The Detroit Police Chief admits the department left its former crime lab in deplorable condition. But Ralph Godbee also insists that no evidence that could compromise ongoing criminal cases was left behind there. The Detroit Police Department shuttered its crime lab in 2008, after investigations revealed numerous problems with testing and handling evidence.

The Detroit City Council has set up a meeting to override Mayor Dave Bing’s likely budget veto.

Bing said last week he’ll veto the Council’s budget proposal. He has until the end of this week to do so.

The two sides are at odds over the Council’s decision to cut an additional $50 million from Bing’s proposed budget.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Dearborn held its 87th annual Memorial Day parade Monday.

It’s the longest-running Memorial Day celebration in the state.

This year’s parade honored veterans of the Vietnam War. It’s been 50 years since the U.S. first became involved in that conflict.

The events included a funeral procession for several veterans, and a Remembrance Service.

Judy Carty watched the parade alongside her husband, a Korean War veteran.

Carty says as someone who protested the Vietnam War, she had “mixed feelings” about the proceedings.

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a “constitutional crisis.”

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced the report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems.”

It profiles 13 men who spent time in prison, even though there was evidence of their innocence.

User P.E.C. / Flickr

The American Federation of Teachers says its Michigan “Lobby Day” will “educate” legislators about the effect of state education cuts.

Teachers and school employees from all over the state descended on Lansing Tuesday for the Lobby Day, including a group from Detroit.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ended a controversial program targeting men from majority-Muslim countries.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) began in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The program required men from predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea living in the U.S. to be interviewed and fingerprinted by Homeland Security.

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools’ new Emergency Financial manager started the job Monday.

Former GM Executive Roy Roberts toured several Detroit schools and met with staff.

Roberts says the district must undergo a “cultural change” and reject a “Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality” for students to succeed.

Charles Pugh

The city of Detroit is ramping up efforts to cobble together a budget and a five-year deficit elimination plan. Detroit City Council members got a copy of Mayor Dave Bing’s deficit elimination plan Tuesday. The Council wants more cuts than Bing proposed. They say that’s necessary to avoid a possible state takeover of the city’s finances. Council President Charles Pugh says a Council work group believes the city should cut at least $120 million from the upcoming budget.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan will get just under $200 million to boost rail service between Detroit and Chicago.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the official announcement alongside state and local officials in Detroit Monday.

The federal money comes with no strings attached. Officials say it will let them upgrade a stretch of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Gary Peters say the government should do more to help the auto industry mass-produce fuel-efficient technologies.

The two Democrats were at Bosch auto supplier headquarters in suburban Detroit today to urge Congressional support for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.

The bill would authorize $300 million a year for private sector fuel-efficiency research.

Peters says "this is just the right thing to do" with Michigan gas prices at record highs:

 "You’re going to hear a lot of ideas about drilling and other types of ideas, but really the best idea is to push the technology," said Peters. "Push innovation. And that’s what we do here in the Detroit area better than anybody else in the world, and that’s innovate with vehicles and automobiles."

Peters says the legislation has support from both environmental and business groups.

The bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support last year, but it couldn’t get through the Senate.

Greening of Detroit

Detroiters who want a say in how the city manages its land gathered for an environmental summit last week. Activists and community leaders organized the summit so citizens could provide input on environmental aspects of the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project to deal with the city’s huge swaths of vacant land. Jackie Victor lives and owns a small business in Detroit. She says city planners need to look at Detroit’s land and natural resources as assets rather than liabilities.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed former GM Executive Roy Roberts to take over as the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager.

Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry.

Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a “successful businessman and team builder.”

The Detroit Public Schools is moving ahead with its controversial 2012 Renaissance Plan. That’s Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s plan to turn up to 50 current schools into charters, rather than closing them down. Bobb says 18 organizations have submitted bids to transform some district schools into charters.

Both the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing say this is a crucial week for getting the city’s budget in order. Detroit will end the fiscal year in June with a budget deficit of at least $180 million. Both Mayor Bing and the Council declare they’ll work together to avoid a state takeover of the city’s finances. Both say much of that will depend on whether city unions and pension boards will agree to concessions.

cell phone picutre via Associated Press

Two Michigan Congressmen are urging President Obama to renew—and strengthen—sanctions against the Syrian government. Livonia Republican Thaddeus McCotter and Detroit Democrat Hansen Clarke say they both support renewing targeted sanctions that lapse next month. Both Congressmen also support strengthening those measures to include freezing Syrian officials’ U.S. assets, and prohibiting business with American companies. Both say the sanctions should also be extended President Bashar Al-Assad’s, and other top official’s, families. Clarke says if the U.S.

Detroit Police held the first of what they say will be quarterly community meetings Tuesday night. Police Chief Ralph Godbee says the meetings are a way to share up-to-date crime data with Detroit residents. Godbee says it’s also a way for the police and citizens to exchange information, and start tackling the city’s crime problem honestly.

The Detroit City Council heard some advice about the city’s budget situation Tuesday. Council fiscal analyst Irvin Corley told them that Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed budget is “mostly reasonable.” But Corley also warned that Bing’s proposal contains more than $200 million in “soft” revenue that might not materialize. Corley says the Council should cut the Mayor’s budget further, and the two sides need to find an agreement that truly addresses the city’s fiscal problems.

Some Muslim and civil rights groups say Dearborn and Wayne County officials sent a bad message by prosecuting a controversial Florida pastor.

Terry Jones wanted to protest what he sees as encroaching “Sharia law” outside Dearborn’s Mosque of America last week.  But his plans were scuttled Friday, after a Wayne County jury found that his protest would “breach the peace.”

Michigan Attorney General's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says that office’s Child Support Division has passed an important marker: It has now collected more than $100 million in child support for delinquent parents.

The division launched in 2003. Since then, it’s used Michigan’s tough child support laws to enforce court-ordered payments.

Michiganis the only state that makes failure to pay child support a four-year felony.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and a top Obama Administration trade Official were in Detroit Tuesday, talking about how to boost U.S. exports. President Obama wants to double U.S. exports by 2015.  Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez joined Stabenow to trade ideas with local business leaders. Sanchez says the Obama administration is making progress on leveling the playing field for U.S. exports.

Detroit and Wayne County officials say they feel like Michigan State Police have “stabbed them in the back." That’s because State Police have backed off a plan to put a full-service crime lab in a former casino the city plans to turn into its new police headquarters. But the state later decided that wasn’t the best use of money. They say Detroit Police need more help handling and submitting evidence. John Collins.

user westsideshooter / Flickr

Gun rights advocates will gather at a Detroit restaurant Monday night for an “open carry” dinner.

Organizer Rick Ector runs Rick’s Firearm Academy in Detroit and the blog Legally Armed in Detroit.

Ector says the dinner is a “family-oriented” event meant to make “law-abiding” Detroiters aware of their right to openly carry guns in many public places.

“There’s a significant percentage of people that do open carry in Detroit. But primarily when you hear about open carry, it’s done outside of the city limits. And for those individuals who are really specifically inside of Detroit proper, I wanted to be the voice out there sharing this information.”

Michigan law doesn’t explicitly permit open carry, but doesn’t forbid it either. Those carrying openly must have a registered weapon “clearly displayed,” be at least 18 years old, and stay out of designated “pistol-free zones.”

The Bluepointe restaurant on Detroit’s east side is hosting the dinner, which Ector says he initially thought would draw about 50 people.

But he says the event has gotten so much attention he now has “no idea how many people will show up.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

With immigration reform bogged down in Congress and perennially on the back burner, the Obama administration is pushing a more aggressive deportation agenda. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to deport a record number of people this year.

If the agency has their way, one of them will be Ola Kaso, an 18-year-old girl from Sterling Heights. She’ll be forced to leave just days after she graduates high school as one of the top students in her class.

Some people got locked out of today's Detroit City Council meeting, where Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was laying out a 5-year budget plan that called for cutting employee pension and health care costs.

Council security told citizens and several reporters that they couldn't come in because the hearing room was "filled to capacity."

That escalated into a dispute between security guards and the people who demanded their right to enter under the state's Open Meetings Act.

Detroit resident and volunteer organizer Felicia Sanders wanted to hear Bing's presentation.

"If you get up and you're willing to attend a meeting to fight and speak out for your city, you should be allowed to participate in the meeting."

Sanders and others questioned why the City Council didn't hold the hearing in a much larger public auditorium just across the hall.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools held the first in a series of parent meetings about a radical plan to close some schools and turn others into charter schools.

Detroit schools’ Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, proposes closing six schools and making up to 45 others into charters.

18 of those schools will close this summer if no charter operator takes over. 27 others will have the opportunity to go charter, but would stay open as public schools if that doesn’t happen.

Bobb says that’s a better option than a state-mandated deficit-elimination plan, which would close 40 schools outright.

Most parents who attended the first meeting at Priest Elementary school in southwest Detroit expressed concern and even anger about Bobb’s plan. Many worry what it will mean for their neighborhood schools, student transportation, and special needs students.

Danielle Clark’s eleven-year-old daughter attends the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. Bobb’s plan calls for that school to close.

“This should not be an option, to close the only deaf school in Detroit. I drive 40 miles one way because this is my daughter’s culture and her environment and this is the place where she needs to be.”

District spokesman Steve Wasko says concerned parents will have a chance to make their case directly to Bobb in other meetings this month.

“We may learn something about a school…that it’s not a good candidate for closure or charter. In some cases we may learn that a school that we thought was a candidate for charter just simply has no interest from a charter. And if it’s on the list of 18, it would indeed close. If it’s on the larger list it would remain open.”

Bobb and the Detroit School Board will also hold two town meetings about the plan on April 12th and 13th.

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians say they’ll return to the stage for rehearsal on Thursday.

DSO officials have announced a tentative agreement that would end a bitter six-months-long players’ strike.

Detroit Symphony officials canceled the whole concert season in February, when it seemed like feuding Orchestra players and management just couldn’t agree on a new contract. The two sides had deadlocked for months over issues ranging from pay to musicians’ outside teaching obligations.

But under mounting political pressure and after a marathon weekend bargaining session, the two sides hammered out a tentative work agreement.

Musicians’ union President Gordon Stump wouldn’t talk specifics. An official ratification vote will wrap up on Friday.

Stump says musicians are happy the strike will end even though they’re “not crazy” about parts of the agreement.

“I’m sure the management wasn’t crazy about it either. But most of the things that we had a problem with are gone. In that sense, I think it was a resolution we could all live with.”

Stump says the strike was “a long, protracted struggle, and it’s going to take a long time to heal.”

The strike cost the Orchestra some musicians, including its whole percussion section.

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