Sarah Hulett

Assistant News Director

Sarah Hulett became Michigan Radio's assistant news director in August 2011. For five years she was the station's Detroit reporter, and contributed to several reporting projects that won state and national awards.

Sarah considers Detroit to be a perfect laboratory for great radio stories, because of its energy, its struggles, and its unique place in America's industrial and cultural landscape.

Before coming to Michigan Radio, Sarah spent five years as state Capitol correspondent for Michigan Public Radio. She's a graduate of Michigan State University.

Contact Sarah Hulett at sarah@michiganradio.org.

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The state Board of Education has taken a big step toward hiring a new state superintendent. On Monday, it selected a search firm to find possible candidates.

The board still needs to iron out contract details with Iowa-based Ray & Associates. Assuming that goes smoothly, it expects to hire a replacement for retiring state Superintendent Mike Flannagan before May.

Board President John Austin says members have made clear what kind of candidates they are looking for.

You may have seen a flash mob on YouTube, or even experienced the phenomenon in real life: A group of people converge on a public space, seemingly out of the blue, for a recreation of, say Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Or Verdi’s Requiem – it could be anything. Now in Detroit, a group of Catholics has created a variation on that. The Mass Mob is a crowd sourced effort to revive urban churches … which have a lot of empty pews these days.

Have you ever watched a movie where a snarky young computer hacker wreaks havoc with civic infrastructure, and wondered if it could happen in real life?

Well, a team of researchers researchers from the University of Michigan had that same question. So they looked into a scenario like this one, featured in the remake of The Italian Job:

"Was that really possible?” said Branden Ghena, who was on the research team. “Could you actually change the light colors? Is that a thing that can really happen, or are these systems as secure as we hoped they were?"

Turns out, the answer is yes – it really can happen.

MCM Management Corp.

Detroit is in the middle of one of the most ambitious demolition campaigns the nation has ever seen, tearing down about 200 houses every week.

Many of the homes being razed are in neighborhoods where people still live. So Detroit officials sat down before the blitz to come up with some new regulations designed to keep people safe from dust, and from hazardous materials that could be in that dust – like lead, or asbestos.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Dozens of students, alumni and supporters rallied in front of Marian High School in suburban Detroit this morning to protest the firing of chemistry teacher Barb Webb. Webb is gay, and says she was fired after informing administrators at the Catholic high school she was pregnant.

Webb taught chemistry at Marian for nine years. She also coached volleyball and soccer. She says administrators felt her “non-traditional” pregnancy ran afoul of a morality clause that allows personnel to be fired for “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith.” 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

After weeks of criticism and international attention, Detroit is revamping the way it handles delinquent water accounts.

That plan includes waiving late payment penalties and turn-on fees, and beefing up staff and hours at customer service centers.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says there will also be more straightforward payment plans and financial assistance for low-income residents.

After a series of fits and starts, Detroit's M1 Rail project breaks ground today.

A short stretch of Woodward Avenue will be shut down today as construction gets underway.

The streetcar line will run 3.3 miles from downtown to New Center, and will have 12 stops.

More than a dozen private donors, led by Roger Penske, kicked in $100 million of the project's $140 million price tag.

The project's backers say it will help along the resurgence that's already underway in that part of the city.

Detroit Institute of Arts

A New York art investment firm says, on paper, works at the Detroit Institute of Arts could be worth as much as $4.6 billion. But the report by ArtVest Partners says the artwork could go for a lot less, if it's liquidated as part of the city's bankruptcy.

An earlier appraisal of the DIA's collections by Christie's auction house looked only at works bought with city money, and said selling those would bring in no more than $866 million.

Matt / Flickr

Problems keep piling up at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson.

Last week, maggots were found on the serving line in the prison's cafeteria.

Over the weekend, inmates started getting sick with a stomach virus.

And the problems have gotten worse. Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the number of sick prisoners is now up to 150, and the prison's been put under quarantine.

Brian Wybenga

All this week, Michigan Radio and the  Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at city services and quality of life issues in the city of Detroit. Michigan Radio's assistant news director, Sarah Hulett, is a Detroit resident and brings us this essay about living with crime. 

If you’re on the fence about staying in Detroit or moving out, there’s an absurd and irrational sort of calculus you do when it comes to crime.

Cameron Blaylock / Flickr

The government is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims fans of the band Insane Clown Posse have been unfairly labeled a criminal gang.

The FBI in 2011 put out a report that cited crimes committed by the rap duo's fans, known as Juggalos.

All this year, producer Zak Rosen has been reporting on the first year of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit. Whitney Walker is the office manager at school, which her daughter Zoe also attends. Whitney Walker is also a poet, and in this installment of the Boggs School series she offers a documentary poem about her transformative experience working at the school.

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

In spite of its nickname, the Motor City has well-known transportation problems.

A large proportion of Detroiters don't own cars, and buses are notoriously late and overcrowded.

Now, residents have a new option.

It's a website based on a platform used at colleges, called detroit.ridepost.com.

Debra Rowe heads the Detroit Green Skills Alliance, which works on sustainability issues.

She convinced the person who created the platform to donate it, and says it will be useful for all kinds of people.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers have committed to contributing $195 million to Detroit's bankruptcy settlement.

The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the bills to help protect retiree pensions and prevent the sale of city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“Today we are all Detroiters and we are all Michiganians,” said U.S District Court Judge Gerald Rosen following the vote. Rosen has been overseeing talks between Detroit and its creditors, and is considered the architect of the "grand bargain."

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

For a lot of people, Jamie Dimon will forever be linked to the mortgage crisis that hit Detroit as hard as any city.

But there was no mention of that at yesterday's announcement, of course. Instead, there was a plated lunch - chicken and salad, with cupcakes - an uplifting video, and a standing ovation led by Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit's police chief has been getting a lot of attention for his advocacy of people using deadly force to defend themselves.

The stance has put James Craig at odds with many big-city police chiefs, and now it's landed him on the cover of the NRA magazine, America's First Freedom.

At a press conference today, Craig said he does not advocate violence, “but I am an advocate for when faced with a dangerous situation, one that presents an imminent threat to life, or great bodily harm, that one protects themselves."

buildingdetroit.org

A new experiment meant to fill some of Detroit's vacant city-owned homes appears to be paying off.

City officials plan to announce an expansion of the online auction today.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority started putting one house up for auction on a website each day last week. Bids started at $1,000, and all five drew high bids between $30,000 and $42,000.

So far, 6,000 people have signed up to bid.

Nuclear Regulatory Agency

Federal regulators are holding a private meeting with officials from DTE Energy today to discuss a security issue at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan.

Details are scarce, due to security concerns.

But Viktoria Mytling with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says an issue was discovered during a security assessment that showed vulnerability.

“Specifically, this vulnerability would have allowed unauthorized or undetected access into the plant – to the protected area of the plant,” Mytling said.

Penn State / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder wants more households in Michigan to recycle their waste. He's announcing a plan today to make that possible.

The plan will focus on four key areas – including developing markets for recycled products, and helping communities make recycling more convenient for residents.

The Michigan Supreme Court says a Wayne County judge should be removed from office. It says Wade McCree faces a six-year suspension if voters reelect him in November, and ordered him to pay $11,645.17 in costs.

You might remember Wade McCree's name from a now-infamous quote he gave to a TV reporter about texting a shirtless picture of himself to a sheriff’s office worker.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the spring of 1973, Ray Robinson left his wife and three young children in Bogue Chitto, Alabama to support the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

He never came home.

davelawrence8 / Flickr

The most notoriously broke city in America is on a hiring spree.

The city of Detroit hosts a job fair today and tomorrow.

"There are more than 350 positions that are open at the city right now,” said Lisa Howze, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Duggan. “A great number of them are for police officers, bus drivers, mechanics, and various other departments have put out postings as well."

The city is looking to cut overtime costs and improve services as it works its way through bankruptcy.

More than 1,500 applicants pre-registered for the job fair.

dugganfordetroit.com

City buses that pick you up when they’re supposed to. Parks that are open to the public, where the grass is cut and the trash is picked up. And car insurance that doesn’t cost more than your car.

Sound like modest proposals? Maybe in most cities. But Detroit is not most cities. And those are some of the promises made by Mayor Mike Duggan, in his first State of the City address tonight.

waynecounty.com

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano is asking commissioners to approve a plan that calls for cutting pay and benefits for county employees, and spinning off its sewage treatment plants, among other things.

The county has a running deficit of at least $175 million. And it continues to spend more than it takes in.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Ice formed on the Great Lakes early this year, thanks to the arctic temperatures we’ve been experiencing.

And that should be good for lake levels, which have plummeted in recent years. Right?

Well, it turns out the answer to that question is a bit complicated.

Lake levels are affected by a number of factors, including temperature, precipitation, evaporation and ice cover.

5 Gyres

Ever seen a commercial for a face scrub or body wash that promises to “polish” your skin with “micro-beads?”

Or maybe one of the hundreds of these products already sits in your shower.

Ever wonder what those little beads are?

Chances are pretty good they’re plastic. And once they circle your drain and go down your pipes, chances are also pretty good they’re not going to get filtered out by your city’s sewage treatment plant.

Millions of tiny beads that look a lot like fish food

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The rap duo Insane Clown Posse has filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI. The group says the government’s designation of its fan base as a “hybrid criminal gang” is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the suit on behalf of ICP and four of its fans, who call themselves Juggalos.

The ACLU says the gang designation has made Juggalos targets of harassment by law enforcement, and that the designation violates Juggalos’ First Amendment and due process rights.

Hundreds of snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes and Northeast as part of this year's "irruption." / toddraden

Every year, some snowy owls make their way south from their Arctic homeland in search of food, and some of us here in the Great Lakes region have been lucky enough to spot these magnificent birds on tree branches, or poles, or … near airports.

Airports have wide open treeless spaces, and can look a lot like home to snowy owls. And for wildlife specialists who work at airports from the Great Lakes to the Northeast, this has been a busy winter.

Eight owls trapped in one week at DTW

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to seize people's assets if they have not been convicted of a crime.

Right now in Michigan, law enforcement can seize your car, your house, or other things you own as part of an investigation, even if it results in no criminal charges.

The bill’s sponsor says that runs afoul of the basic things we learn in grade-school civics.

“Innocent until proven guilty, unreasonable search and seizure, due process, all of these core constitutional principles are evoked when you're talking about a process where the government is taking a citizen's assets and there is no finding of any guilt,” says State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

According to a Michigan State Police report, asset seizures brought in $22.4 million for state and local law enforcement agencies in 2012.

A spokeswoman for the state police says the department is reviewing the legislation and has not yet taken a position on it.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

  In a case being watched nationwide, a federal bankruptcy judge in Detroit today ruled that the city is eligible for Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy protection.

Judge Steven Rhodes also surprised some when he ruled that the city’s pensions can be cut.

The word spread quickly among a group of protestors outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

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