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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Energy
5:04 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Planned power outage leaves thousands without light, heat in Detroit

Households and businesses in one section of Detroit lost power for a few hours Wednesday morning.

That’s because DTE Energy was performing what it calls “routine maintenance” on some underground power lines.

Mid-morning, generators were still humming at Holbrook Auto Repair in  Highland Park. Manager Jeff Worthy bought them this week, when he found out DTE planned the temporary power outage.

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Politics
5:31 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Protesters make last-ditch effort to save one Detroit library

Yuba College Public Space / Flickr

Protesters in Detroit hope that staking out a recently-shuttered library branch will convince officials to re-open it.

Four Detroit library branches--Lincoln, Monteith, Mark Twain, and Richard--closed their doors for good just before Christmas.

But library defenders say they’ll stake out the Lincoln branch library, and try to stop any efforts to remove the library’s inventory.

Shanta Driver is with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which organized the effort. She says neighbors are watching the library, and they’ve organized a phone tree to bring in enough people to surround the library if and when moving trucks show up.

 “There’s so many people in the neighborhood who have been watching, and just keeping tabs on what’s going on here, that I think we can be here,” Driver says.

BAMN and other library advocates say the branches are a vital resource in their neighborhoods, and closing them would deal a devastating blow.

Detroit Public Library officials say it’s a necessary move to cut costs in the face of declining revenues, and cover staff shortages.

Arts/Culture
9:32 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

More art pops up in Detroit's vacant spaces

One mural by artist Marianne Burrows features a pheasant, a common sight in Detroit's vacant lots.
via Facebook

In Detroit, massive population loss has forced people to envision new ways of using space.

Urban gardens have gotten a lot of attention. But there’s also a movement afoot to use art in a similar way.

One group of people has done just that this year with a vacant lot in an industrial corner just north of Detroit’s Midtown area. It’s called the Lincoln Street Art Park.

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Politics
9:01 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Detroit's Chaldean community fears for Middle East Christians

Iraqi Christians mourn following a 2010 attack on a Baghdad church that killed dozens
AP Photo

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Arab Spring revolutions have meant a year of anxiety for Metro Detroit’s Arab Christian community.

Most members of that community are Chaldean, mostly Iraqi Catholics. Southeast Michigan is home to the largest Chaldean population outside Iraq.

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Offbeat
2:08 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Detroit dogs get a big gift to start the new year

Detroit Dog Rescue via Facebook

The Detroit Dog Rescue, an organization devoted to Detroit’s estimated 50,000 stray dogs got a huge boost to start the New Year.

Detroit Dog Rescue received more than $1.5 million from an anonymous donor.

Early this year, Detroit officials quashed an effort to make a TV documentary about the city’s stray dog population.

But out of that effort, the Detroit Dog Rescue was born. The group rescues abandoned dogs from the streets, then works to place them in permanent homes.

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Education
6:38 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Program keeps Detroit students well-fed through the holidays

A father and daughter pick up a food basket in Detroit
Detroit Public Schools

Some Detroit Public Schools are open part-time over the two-week holiday break.

The district’s Holiday Learning Fest program tries to keep kids engaged in fun academic activities. But it also aims to keep them well-fed.

On Thursday, volunteers handed out food baskets to parents as they picked up their kids. Gleaners and the United Way donated the fresh food baskets.

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Education
5:02 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

DPS program aims to keep kids learning over the holidays

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools is trying to make sure students stay up-to-date on their academics over the two-week holiday break.                                                              

The idea behind the Holiday Learning Fest is to keep kids learning part-time over the break.

18 schools have opted to participate in the program. One is Beard Elementary in southwest Detroit, which focuses on young kids from pre-K through first grade.

Teacher Ann Crowley says once her school found out about the program, they clamored to get on board.

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Politics
7:04 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Democrats seize on Romney Volt comment

Mitt Romney
Associated Press

Michigan native and GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is drawing fire from Michigan Democrats for remarks he made on a radio program this week.

At the very end of a radio interview Romney called the Chevy Volt “an idea whose time has not come.”

There was little context for the remark, but Democrats seized on it. They say it’s part of a pattern of Romney “rooting for the US auto industry to fail.”

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Religion
6:53 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Group reports uptick in anti-Muslim discrimination complaints

A scene from the show All-American Muslim
TLC

One national civil rights group says it’s seen an uptick in discrimination complaints from Muslims—especially in the past month.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says it’s received triple the number of complaints this December, compared with the same month last year.

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Libraries
6:41 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Library shuttering deals a devastating blow to one Detroit community

The Monteith library
Detroit Public Library

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will shut their doors for good this week.

Library officials say it’s just a reflection of fiscal reality. But that’s cold comfort to Detroiters who will lose their neighborhood branches.

One of those branches is the Monteith library, on the city’s far east side. Residents there say their library is one of the last community institutions they have left—and shuttering it will be a devastating blow.

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Libraries
7:26 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Despite last-minute outcry, 4 Detroit libraries to close this week

Yuba College Public Space Flickr

Four branches of the Detroit Public Library system will close this week, despite a last-minute push to keep them open.

Supporters of the four branches packed the Detroit Library Commission meeting Tuesday.

The Commission actually voted to close the libraries last month. But library advocates were hoping Commissioners would issue them a temporary reprieve, so they could try and raise money to keep the branches open.

But Commissioners refused to move the issue, meaning the branches will close as scheduled on December 22.

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Politics
1:22 am
Tue December 20, 2011

Troy rejects federal grant, cancels transit center project

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels

Officials in the Detroit suburb of Troy will return $8.5 million in federal stimulus money that was supposed to build a new transit center.

After a last-ditch attempt at compromise, the Troy City Council voted 4 to 3 to cancel the project.

The issue has been extremely contentious. Troy officials had worked on the project for more than a decade.

But Tea Party-influenced candidates recently won a majority on the Troy City Council. They saw the project as an example of wasteful federal spending.

Mayor Janice Daniels says her vote was a matter of taking a stand.

“One of the issues that we campaigned on was we were not going approve this transit center because we didn’t believe it was the right way to use the taxpayer’s money or to move this city forward,” Daniels said.

The Council’s decision came despite pressure from Troy’s business community and Governor Snyder, who see expanding transit as a way to boost economic growth.

William Cowger is with the Troy Chamber of Commerce.

“Basically…they decided on ideology before Troy. That they would refuse funds that would help us in the future, for our economic development. Bottom line is, they gave away our money,” said Cowger.

The money will be re-allocated for other transportation projects.

Education
6:08 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Education Achievement System looks to public

Leaders of a new statewide school district are looking for citizen input.

The Education Achievement System (EAS) is Governor’s Snyder’s plan to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools. The EAS held input sessions in Detroit and Kalamazoo Monday.

Plans for the EAS have been sketchy so far. It’s set to launch in 2012 with an unspecified number of Detroit Public Schools.

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Environment
5:12 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Detroit Green Garage looks for the meaning of "green"

The view inside the Detroit Green Garage
Detroit Green Garage via Facebook

People everywhere are trying to get a grasp on what “sustainability” and “green jobs” really look like.

That’s an especially urgent quest in a struggling industrial city like Detroit.

Some folks there have developed a building—and a community—that’s trying to find out. It’s called the Detroit Green Garage.                                                      

The Detroit Green Garage was a sort of garage at one point. It started off in 1920 as a Model T showroom just north of downtown Detroit.

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Transportation
4:36 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Bing: High-speed buses step toward "regional cooperation"

An artists' rendering of the now-canceled Woodward Light Rail project

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says plans for light rail in the city are being scrapped in favor of a regional rapid transit bus system.

Bus rapid transit is usually more efficient and faster than regular city bus services.

Years of planning and millions of dollars went into the proposal to run a light rail line up Woodward Avenue, from downtown Detroit to the city limits.

But Bing says he’s been talking with Obama administration officials, Governor Snyder, and other southeast Michigan leaders over the past several months.

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Politics
4:47 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Detroit City Council rejects member's proposal to slash budget

The Detroit City Council has rejected one member’s efforts to slash its own budget.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown wanted to cut the council’s roughly $13 million budget by a third.

Brown says that’s the same level of concessions city unions are being asked for to avert a fiscal catastrophe in Detroit —and the council should lead by example.

“That’s $5 million the unions don’t have to look for, that we don’t have to ask the unions and the lower-wage city employees to come up with," Brown said. "I think that’s leadership.”

But most of Brown’s colleagues rejected the measure. They said 30 percent was an “excessive” cut that would damage the council’s ability to function.

Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. says the council has already cut its budget about that much over the past three years, and additional cuts could damage the council’s ability to do its job.

“What it really comes down to is, you can do cuts that are responsible for the sake of sharing the pain, or you can do cuts that are really all about trying to score political points,” Cockrel said.

Cockrel says if it wasn’t for Council’s diligence, the depth of the city’s fiscal crisis might never have come to light.

Members ultimately voted the measure down 6-2.

Politics
9:35 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Looking to Lansing for action as Detroit transit systems shrivel

Lawmakers in Lansing are working out details of legislation that would create a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan.

Governor Snyder has called for such an authority to coordinate Metro Detroit’s bus systems, and provide funding for them and future mass transit projects.

Detroit has a city-run bus system, and a regional bus system that serves both city and suburbs. But despite mounting troubles for both, past efforts to merge them have always failed.

Megan Owens, President of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, said it’s unrealistic to expect those systems to merge or go away.

“And actually it’s not necessary," Owens said. "A lot of cities have multiple transit providers. But what they have that we don’t is one agency that can actively coordinate and oversee them from a regional level.”

Owens said prior efforts to create a regional authority have always stumbled over issues of "power and money"--whether any party would have veto power, for example, and how money would be divided between municipalities. Those issues are being hammered out behind the scenes in Lansing.

A spokesman for State Senator Tom Casperson, chairman of the Senate Transportation committee, said he expects legislation will be introduced as early as this week or immediately after the winter recess.

Courts
7:50 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Judge agrees with lower court, tosses charges against Detroit mother in standoff case

Maryanne Godboldo

A Wayne County judge says a lower court was right to dismiss criminal charges against Maryanne Godboldo.

Godboldo is a Detroit mother who allegedly shot at police when they came to remove her child last March. Social workers thought Godboldo’s daughter needed psychiatric medication, but Godboldo refused to administer it, saying it made the child’s condition worse.

That dispute led to Godboldo’s standoff with police when they tried to remove the child. But two courts have now found there’s not enough evidence that Godboldo shot at police, and the order to remove her daughter was invalid.

Godboldo’s attorney Allison Folmar said no judge ever read or approved that order.

“This was a due process constitutional flaw and violation, to come into someone’s home by force and remove their child without any authority from the court,” Folmar said.

“Before you take a person’s house or car, you have a right to come to court and be heard. How much more of a right do you have when they come to take your child?”

Folmar said Godboldo is “relieved” the charges haven’t been reinstated, and to have custody of her daughter again—but both have lasting psychological trauma from the ordeal.

Wayne County prosecutors said they plan to appeal the decision again.

Politics
12:08 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Rep. Levin on unemployment extension: "It must be done"

Sander Levin

Michigan Congressman Sander Levin says Congress should cancel its winter recess if members can’t reach a deal to extend unemployment benefits.

Right now, the federal government supplements state unemployment programs to offer assistance for the long-term unemployed--up to 53 weeks of emergency benefits since the country slid into recession in 2008.

But those benefits will lapse January 1 if Congress doesn’t act this month.

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Auto/Economy
11:56 pm
Sun December 11, 2011

Emergency food providers stretched thin in suburban Detroit

Gleaners Food Bank

People on the front lines of food insecurity in suburban Detroit say things are grim: demand is growing as federal and state food programs are cut.

In Macomb County, anti-hunger advocates are overwhelmed with need. The number of people needing emergency food assistance has almost doubled between 2008 and 2010.

John Kastler is with Gleaners Community Food Bank. He said those funds, particularly from the federal government, “really did make it a lot easier to stock the pantries and put food on the table.”

“And when you talk about these programs being cut and the funding disappearing…it really does put people in crisis,” Kastler said.

Sue Figurski, coordinator of the Macomb Food Program, said the state’s recent decision to implement an asset test for food stamp applicants has put even more strain on food pantries--and proved a degrading process for many seeking help.

“Do you think anybody really and truly wants to be on food stamps? Not be able to take care of their family? Not the people we talk to,” Figurski said.

Last month, Macomb County officials started a Food Policy Council to deal with the problem of growing hunger and declining resources.

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