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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Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit’s “big four” leaders got together for their annual public chat before the Detroit Economic Club at the North American International Auto Show Tuesday.

This year, two big topics dominated the conversation: the Flint water crisis, and the impending financial collapse of Detroit Public Schools.

Each of the leaders — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan — said Gov. Snyder had mishandled the state’s response to Flint’s drinking water contamination.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

For three straight days this week, some Detroit Public Schools buildings were closed because too many teachers called in sick.

These rolling “sickout” protests have picked up steam in recent weeks.

They’ve drawn some major backlash — and attention to a district in free fall.


Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents say they’re angry about conditions in the city’s schools — and ready to do something about it.

Dozens of them packed a meeting led by the Detroit Parent Network Thursday night.

media.fcanorthamerica.com

 Fiat-Chrysler has introduced its new version of an old concept: the minivan.

The automaker unveiled the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show on Monday.

Chrysler says the “top-to-bottom” redesign features a sleeker exterior that’s much like the Chrysler 200, with dual-side sliding doors and added interior bonuses.

It will also offer a plug-in hybrid version that the automaker claims will get 80 miles to the gallon highway mileage.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

The Detroit Federation of Teachers spoke out Monday about what union officials called “third world” conditions in some Detroit Public Schools buildings.

The DFT has largely stood on the sidelines while its members have staged escalating “sickout” protests in recent weeks. More than 60 Detroit schools were closed Monday.

But the DFT is now denouncing what it calls “toxic” conditions in many Detroit schools.

Those range from health hazards—including black mold and rodent problems--to oversized classes and a lack of supplies.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two more Detroit Public Schools were closed for teacher “sickouts” on Thursday.

This time, it was Detroit’s Renaissance and Martin Luther King high schools.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Residents living in the heavily industrial area near southwest Detroit’s Marathon oil refinery are furious about a plan to increase emissions there.

And they let state environmental regulators know it at a public hearing Wednesday night.

Marathon wants to start removing sulfur, to meet new federal standards for cleaner-burning gasoline.

But to do that, it wants to increase local emissions — in the already-most-polluted ZIP code in the state.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A new report lays out the stark reality of how the Detroit Public Schools is rapidly sinking under its debt burden.

The report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan also details how the district accumulated its $3.5 billion debt load by mid-2015.

Almost $1.9 billion of that is “operational” debt – meaning it’s paid off by money that could otherwise be used in the classroom and for other day-to-day district expenses.

Friends School Detroit / via Facebook

A new online directory aims to give Detroit’s grassroots groups a higher profile.

The Detroit Community Organization Mapping project, or d[COM]munity map, went live in December.

It maps and profiles the city’s neighborhood associations, block clubs, and social service providers.

Detroit Public Schools

One of Detroit’s top public schools was closed Tuesday, after too many teachers called in sick.

It’s just the latest in a string of “sickout” protests at Detroit Public Schools.

Teachers at Cass Technical High School say they staged the sickout because it’s the only form of protest they have in the district, which is run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Cass Tech English teacher Dorothea Williams-Arnold says they’re protesting huge class sizes, stagnant pay, and skyrocketing health insurance costs, among other things.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Protesters shut down a busy stretch of Michigan Avenue in front of Dearborn Police headquarters Monday night.

They want more answers about the police shooting death of Kevin Matthews.

A Dearborn officer shot and killed Matthews, who was unarmed, after a car and foot chase that ended in Detroit last month. Matthews was reportedly wanted on a larceny charge.

The still-unidentified Dearborn officer says the two scuffled before the shooting.

But Matthews’ family says that’s only one side of the story. They maintain Matthews was mentally ill, but harmless.

Wikipedia

Attacking the science behind climate change effectively sways public opinion, according to a recent study by Michigan State University researchers.

MSU associate professor and sociologist Aaron McCright led the study of 1600 US adults.

McCright says messages that frame climate change as a public health or national security threat, or even through a “positive” frame like economic opportunity or religious obligation, seem to fall flat.

MacIntyre Family

Water issues are on the agenda for many state and local leaders in 2016.

A “blue-ribbon committee” has been investigating how to make water affordable for all Detroiters, and avoid the mass shutoffs the city has carried out since mid-2014.

Some people have called for a city-wide “water affordability” plan, with bills adjusted by income.

via stjohnprovidence.org

Most nurse-anesthetists at two Detroit-area hospitals lost their jobs Thursday, after they refused to sign a contract outsourcing their jobs to a private company.

The nurses worked for Saint John Providence hospitals in Southfield and Novi.

In October, the hospitals gave them a choice: either sign a contract with a brand-new company run by a hospital anesthesiologist, or “voluntarily resign” their jobs.

After weeks of contentious talks, 66 decided on the latter.

flickr user Joe Gratz

A federal judge has given some Wayne County homeowners suing over alleged illegal foreclosures a partial, early victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy granted a temporary restraining owner protecting three families from eviction at least through mid-January.

The families are part of a larger federal lawsuit that alleges officials from Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs illegally “conspired” to seize their homes through tax foreclosure, and sell them off to private developers.

Family photo

A watchdog group is calling for a Michigan State Police investigation into a fatal police shooting in Detroit last week.

A Dearborn police officer, whose name hasn’t been released, reportedly tried to arrest 35-year-old Kevin Matthews on Dec. 23.

Dearborn police say Matthews escaped their custody after being detained for suspected larceny earlier that day. He was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant in a different city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Eighteen people are suing Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs, alleging their homes were illegally taken in a tax foreclosure process that amounted to a “thinly veiled scheme” for “private profit.”

All the homeowner-plaintiffs in this case had their properties foreclosed by Wayne County over back taxes.

And in each case the cities they lived in, exercising their “right of first refusal” under Michigan tax law, reclaimed the properties before they could go to auction. The cities then sold the homes to developers.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A campaign to end New Year’s gunfire in Detroit is still going after eighteen years.

Organizers say it’s successfully put a damper on the unofficial tradition, with celebratory midnight gunfire waning in recent years—at least anecdotally.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says that seems to be true in his Detroit neighborhood, but many Detroiters are still afraid to venture out for New Year’s.

“You still hear a lot of people say, ‘I will be inside when people start shooting around midnight,’” Napoleon said.

thetoad / Flickr

The woman who wrote and championed Michigan’s groundbreaking Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has died.

Daisy Elliott was a state representative from Detroit for nearly two decades.

Fellow lawmakers remembered her as a quiet, gracious woman who fiercely opposed discrimination of any kind.

Her years-long campaign for state-level civil rights protections finally paid off in 1977, when the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act became law with bipartisan support. It declared:

Wikipedia

Macomb County just had to give an armored military surplus vehicle back to the federal government.

But it’s about to get another, very similar one — from the federal government. And it may get a second one, too.

President Obama ordered local law enforcement agencies to return armored personnel carriers and other surplus military equipment received through defense department programs.

It was an effort to quell growing fears about militarized policing nationwide. But it sparked a fierce backlash from many local officials, including Macomb County’s.

Wikipedia

DTE Energy is taking its biggest plunge into solar power yet, with a Lapeer County project announced Monday.

According to DTE, that project will be the “largest utility-owned solar array east of the Mississippi.”

It calls for nearly 150,000 solar panels spread over about 300 acres, generating a combined 45 megawatts of power on two sites. That’s more than three times the company’s solar output right now.

David Harwood, DTE’s director of renewable energy, says that until now its renewable energy portfolio has favored wind power.

Wikipedia

Michigan now has a nationally-accredited training program for sign language interpreters.

Oakland Community College’s program received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education this month.

OCC offers a three-year associate degree in American Sign Language interpretation. The program graduates around 20 interpreters each year.

It’s the first program in Michigan to receive that accreditation.

user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

Local governments in Michigan are not happy about some last-minute language added to a bill that just passed the state legislature.

Senate Bill 571 is mostly about campaign finance issues.

But tucked in at the very end of the bill is a provision that cities and townships argue amounts to a “gag rule” on them.

Dominic Simpson / flickr

The Detroit City Council has voted to restrict where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate in the city.

The Council passed a new zoning ordinance Thursday night. It approved another ordinance with dispensary licensing and inspection regulations in October.

The new rules limit dispensaries to certain industrial and business zones. They also set spacing regulations, and with limited exceptions ban them within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, and other designated “drug-free” zones.

Sean_Marshall / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A group of cities has successfully challenged DTE Energy’s plan to charge it more for LED streetlights.

A coalition of cities took its case against DTE’s proposed rate change to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

DTE claimed that it was merely adjusting prices as it “gains more experience” with LED technology.

That angered cities that had installed LED streetlighting, which is more energy-efficient than traditional lighting, but also more expensive upfront.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder signed a bill Wednesday meant to alleviate the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

The new law allows some retired teachers to return to the classroom in certain “critical shortage areas,” without sacrificing pension or health insurance benefits.

It’s not yet entirely clear where those critical shortage areas are.

The law also instructs the state superintendent to make that determination, and post the findings online by April.

Just a few months after a state-declared financial emergency, Wayne County officials are trumpeting what they call “swift” and “substantial” progress on the county’s budget deficit.

After that declaration from Gov. Rick Snyder – which came at County Executive Warren Evans’ request –Wayne County quickly entered into a consent agreement with the state. That gave Evans substantial power to get concessions from county employee unions.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Dozens of Hamtramck Muslims and their supporters held an anti-terrorism rally in front of the city hall there Friday.

They called ISIS a group of “murderers and thugs” who represent “Islam’s biggest enemy.”

The terror group has brutalized and killed far more Muslims than anyone else, said rally co-organizer Ibrahim Aljahim.

Aljahim said it was time for Hamtramck and Detroit Muslims to take a vocal stand against terror, and to make it clear that they consider the ISIS ideology both un-Islamic and un-American.

Lars Plougmann

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and voting rights advocates are denouncing a pair of election bills in the Michigan Legislature right now.

One is a state Senate bill that would restrict absentee voting hours, and ban absentee voting at satellite office locations.

Winfrey says Detroit is one of just a few Michigan cities to use satellite voting, and it’s been “very successful” there.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Seven Detroit Public Schools closed Thursday when too many teachers called in sick.

The “sick-out” is mostly a protest against Governor Snyder’s plans for the troubled district, which he wants to split in two and put through a bankruptcy-like overhaul.

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