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 budget approved last week by state lawmakers includes money to help prosecute some sexual assault cases. The $3 million allocation will go toward prosecutions that stem from testing old rape kits.

More than 11,000 unprocessed rape kits were found in an abandoned Detroit Police crime lab in 2009. Since then, Michigan State Police and county prosecutors have struggled to process the backlog. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office will get to divvy up those funds.

“The appropriation calls for us to develop a plan for how the money will be spent, and that’s what we’re working on right now,” said office spokeswoman Joy Yearout. Yearout said there was no formal deadline for submitting that plan, but the office is “fast-tracking” the process.

The current fiscal year’s budget included $4 million to help speed the process of testing those rape kits. “The next step will be investigation and prosecution that will result from that testing,” said Yearout.

A New York-based developer has agreed to buy the site of a disastrous movie studio project that pushed Allen Park to the brink of bankruptcy.

The downriver Detroit suburb bought the 104-acre complex specifically for the project known as Unity Studios.

But the developer walked away after a year –after Allen Park had issued $25.5 million in bonds to support Unity Studios.

That debt eventually led to the state taking control of the city’s finances.

Detroit is now home to a designated “innovation district.”

Mayor Mike Duggan and other officials announced Thursday that Detroit was joining the Brookings Institution national initiative to recharge metropolitan economies.

Backers say those districts are a way to “supercharge the innovation economy.”

A DWSD interceptor sewer line during construction in 2001. This line is north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials say they’re working to put the system on sound financial footing – including raising rates and shutting off service to thousands of households.

Water department officials briefed the Detroit City Council on planned rate hikes Tuesday.

They propose hiking the typical Detroit residential customer’s water bill by 8.7% to 10.4%.

The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is getting more help raising money for its share of the deal meant to shield its collection from possible liquidation.

The New York-based Mellon Foundation and Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Trust have committed a combined $13 million toward the “grand bargain.”

That proposal would direct more than $800 million to Detroit’s pension funds--sparing pensioners from severe cuts, while legally safeguarding the DIA’s assets from being sold to pay off city creditors.

The DIA needs to come up with a $100 million contribution to the grand bargain, this new commitment puts them more than 80% of the way there.

Getty Trust President and CEO James Cuno says the two foundations made a decision to contribute on their own.

“We jointly made the commitment,” Cuno says. “There was no conversation with the DIA about it, no request from the DIA.”

Cuno says the donation reflects the North American art world’s support for maintaining the DIA’s collection as a civic institution and public resource “in perpetuity.”

If put up for sale, the collection “would be lost to private individuals around the world,” Cuno says. “And the public of Detroit, and surrounding suburbs, would be deprived of a public resource they once had.”

Cuno says it’s “too soon to tell” whether the money will be disbursed to the museum as a lump sum upfront, or spread out over a period of years. Donors and museum officials are waiting for the larger grand bargain to be finalized.

Earlier this week, Detroit’s 3 automakers pledged a combined $26 million toward the DIA’s contribution.

Judge Steven Rhodes has set an Aug. 14 trial on Detroit's plan to get out of bankruptcy.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

GM shareholders meet today at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters—with protesters circling outside the Renaissance Center.

The protesters include family members of people who died in GM cars that have since been recalled.

GM has acknowledged 13 deaths as a result of faulty ignition switches. But victim’s advocates say that number is much higher, possibly more than 100.

Laura Christian’s daughter, Amber Marie Rose, died when the airbag in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt failed to deploy.

American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

via Detroit Institute of Arts

The city of Detroit moved to finalize its end of the “grand bargain” Thursday, as the Detroit City Council voted to transfer the Detroit Institute of Arts’ assets to a public trust.

This week, Lansing lawmakers approved $195 million toward the $816 million grand bargain – a linchpin of Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The conflict in Syria has faded from the headlines—but the country’s brutal war continues.

Protesters in Detroit and cities across the globe tried to get that message out Tuesday, by reading aloud the names of 100,000 people killed in the conflict.

Members of Michigan’s Syrian community and their supporters chose the Underground Railroad monument on the Detroit Riverwalk for their remembrance.

Jihad al-Harash is from Damascus, but has been living in Michigan since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

As “grand bargain” legislation sails through Lansing, the fate of Detroit’s water department could become the biggest issue holding up a speedy exit from bankruptcy.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr maintains the city needs to find some way to generate revenue from the system, which serves more than 4 million people in southeast Michigan.

Orr is still pursuing two different possibilities: spinning the department off to a regional water authority, or leasing it to a private operator.

There’s an effort underway to make sure kids who usually get breakfast at school don’t go hungry in the summer months.

This is the fifth year that nurses at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital have taken up a cereal drive for those at-risk kids.

The drive was the brainchild of Pam Taurence and her colleagues on the Professional Nurse Council.

Taurence says it started in 2010, when the group was trying to come up with an idea for a community service project.

The court ruling that put Detroit Congressman John Conyers back on the primary ballot is also a victory for voting rights advocates.

A federal judge recently declared a Michigan law that required petition circulators to be registered voters unconstitutional.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office has now opted not to appeal.

Helping Detroit teens get summer jobs could change their lives forever, and benefit whole communities.

That was Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s pitch for his new “TeenWork Initiative” at the Mackinac Island Policy Conference.

Duggan said too many Detroit teens feel like they’ve been “discarded” by society and the economy.

But he thinks that could change if they heard a different message.

“How powerful would it be if hundreds of companies came together and said, ‘We believe in you; we believe in your potential?” Duggan said.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is firing back at creditors who say the city should use the museum’s assets to pay them off.

The DIA filed a formal objection to those creditors in bankruptcy court this week, just as city lawyers acknowledged an ongoing effort to put a price tag on the museum’s entire collection.

A new study suggests that Detroit is the most dangerous city in the Midwest for pedestrians.

The study comes from the National Complete Streets Coalition, a non-profit that advocates modifying streetscapes to accommodate more than cars.

It calculated a “Pedestrian Danger Index” that ranked Detroit the 11th most-dangerous metro area in the country—and the most dangerous outside the South.

via Wayne County

Struggling Wayne County will get a much-needed cash infusion, thanks to its own treasurer’s office—and the county’s auditor general thinks it should get even more.

Michigan’s largest county is in major financial trouble, running a deficit of at least $175 million and growing.

The state recently approved a deficit-elimination plan that includes steep cuts and possible asset sales. And there’s been lots of speculation about a possible emergency manager coming down the road.

wikipedia

If Congress has its way, it looks like the country’s fleet of A-10 warplanes will keep on flying for at least for another year.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly tried to retire the A-10 “Warthog,” an aircraft with origins in the Cold War era. The Defense Department says it’s now obsolete.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says he “completely supports” the Detroit aid package being debated in Lansing, despite the conditions attached to it.

The 11-bill package would put $195 million in state funds toward the $816 million “grand bargain:” a deal to smooth Detroit’s trip through bankruptcy by minimizing cuts to retiree pensions, and shielding the Detroit Institute of Arts’ assets from city creditors.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A group of Metro Detroit clergy leaders stood together Thursday to send a clear message: They support same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBT people.

They also strongly condemned some of their fellow Michigan Christian leaders who are fighting to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Last week, a group of about 200, mostly Michigan-based black pastors declared that “the fight is on” to protect “traditional” marriage.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are debating a $200 million aid package for Detroit as the city moves through bankruptcy. Until now, state lawmakers haven’t been willing to help it with anything that could be called a “bailout.”

While Governor Rick Snyder supports the current deal, many of his fellow Republicans appear to be balking, especially after a threat of political retribution from the Koch Brothers political network.

Detroit officials have been doing lots of talking in Lansing for the past week, lobbying hard for the state aid package.

en.wikipedia.org

Global financial giant JPMorgan Chase is bringing Wall Street money to the Motor City.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon formally unveiled his company’s plans to put $100 million into a range of targeted initiatives at a Detroit luncheon Wednesday.

Dimon called the effort a “long term investment” in a rebounding city.

“We believe in Detroit’s future, and we want to see the city recover its economic strength,” said Dimon.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As state lawmakers look to boost investment in Michigan's roads, transit advocates are calling on Lansing not to forget the state’s public transportation systems.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed legislation that would reconfigure gas taxes and add other measures to raise about $450 million a year for road repairs. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville said he wants to triple that amount to about $1.5 billion.

Detroit’s bankruptcy process has been speedy so far--but hit a few apparent stumbling blocks last week, as creditors filed a slew of objections to the city’s plan of adjustment.

They included representatives for some Detroit bondholders, who are upset about the proposed “grand bargain” to use more than $800 million to minimize pension cuts, and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts from possible liquidation.

via Michigan United

Immigrant advocates in southeast Michigan have launched a push to make more people US citizens.

The New Americans campaign is on the ground in eight U.S. cities, including metro Detroit.

The area is home to large numbers of people who are permanent residents, but haven’t taken the steps to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Diego Bonesatti, legal director for the pro-immigrant group Michigan United, says that’s in part because the immigration process has become a lot more complex in recent years.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A coalition of about 200 mostly Michigan-based black pastors says “the fight is on” when it comes to same-sex marriage.

A federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage earlier this year. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has appealed that ruling, and it’s now headed to the US 6th Circuit court of appeals.

The pastors condemned the ruling in an event at First Baptist International World Changers church in Detroit Wednesday.

user c braun / flickr

State environmental officials have agreed to update air quality permits for two of the state’s biggest and most polluting industrial facilities.

Dearborn’s Marathon oil refinery and Dearborn’s Severstal steel plants have had trouble complying with their state permits in recent years.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality now agrees with the companies contention that some of the old standards were too strict. The updated permits relax some emissions rules, while strengthening others.

Longtime Congressman John Conyers is about 400 signatures short of what he needs to be on the August primary ballot.

The Detroit Democrat is seeking a 26th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he’s the second longest-serving member.

But Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett has now released a report that finds Conyers only got 592 valid petition signatures – far short of the 1,000 needed to get on the ballot.

Garrett ruled that hundreds of signatures were invalid because the petition circulators who gathered them weren’t registered to vote at the time.

A mentally handicapped Dearborn man plans to sue the city for alleged police brutality.

28-year-old Ali Beydoun was stopped by police while riding his bike home from his job as a dishwasher in December.

A dashcam video shows that an officer approaches him, and asks a few questions.

But when the officer tries to pat him down for weapons, Beydoun resists. He’s then wrestled to the ground and kicked by officers.

Beydoun’s lawyers say that same video shows officers used excessive force.

Attorney Amir Makled says it also should have been obvious to officers that his client is mentally disabled.

Makled says the situation was complicated by the fact that Beydoun only speaks limited English. His family emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon six years ago.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 A civil rights group says the University of Michigan is discriminating against students from immigrant families.

The Arab American Civil Rights League has filed a class action federal lawsuit against the school.

It claims the university wrongly classifies some students from immigrant backgrounds as out-of-state residents.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two state lawmakers are calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in and help regulate a Dearborn steel mill.

State Representatives Rashida Tlaib and George Darany say the state can no longer be trusted to oversee and enforce environmental laws against the Severstal steel facility.

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