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.

cmh2315fl / flickr

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are asking a federal judge to invalidate a presidential permit that would allow the construction of a competing bridge a couple miles away.

The State Department last month gave the go-ahead to the New International Trade Crossing. That prompted this amended complaint to a long-running lawsuit in federal court.

Attorneys for the Ambassador Bridge say building a competing bridge would violate its perpetual and exclusive franchise to own and operate a toll bridge linking Detroit and Windsor. The complaint points to studies that say up to three-quarters of the Ambassador Bridge's truck traffic, and more than a third of its passenger traffic would be diverted to the new bridge. 

The complaint also says the new crossing is an unconstitutional agreement. It says the state of Michigan can't legally enter into an agreement with the Canadian government.

The new bridge has strong support from Governor Snyder. The Canadian government has promised to pick up Michigan's share of the two-billion dollar tab for building the bridge.

To read the complaint, click here.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. It’s also the day when throngs of people line the sidewalks of cities and small towns across the state to watch marching bands and politicians parade down the street.

Crystal Schonfeld watched the parade in Dearborn with her mother. Her brother, Army National Guard Sergeant Michael Derome, is scheduled to return home from Afghanistan on Thursday.

Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will not seek re-election.

Bing made that announcement after months of indecision. He frustrated reporters weeks ago when he pulled petitions for re-election, only to say he hadn't committed to running.

Then he called a press conference, and handed out pamphlets highlighting his successes in office.

Then he spoke for nearly 20 minutes about his achievements before announcing "that I have decided not to seek another term as mayor Detroit."

Bing said his political career might not be over.

NAACP

Michigan's controversial law that allows the state to take over the finances of cash-strapped cities is the subject of yet another lawsuit.

The Detroit branch of the NAACP filed the lawsuit in federal court today. It claims the state's emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

“It's fundamentally about our right to vote, and our right, as constitutionally guaranteed, to select and elect our own publicly elected officials,” said Detroit branch President Rev. Wendell Anthony.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

State officials announced over the weekend that they will lend money to Pontiac schools, and avert a payless payday there this week.

But there’s still no resolution in Buena Vista Township, where the school system abruptly shut down after running out of money a month before the end of the school year. So teachers, parents and students in the tiny school district near Saginaw are trying to figure out what to do next.      

“I hope the school district can work something out there,” Gov. Rick Snyder said late last week about a plan to educate Buena Vista’s 400 students.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The federal court that serves 32 counties in the eastern half of Michigan is changing its juror selection process in the hopes of improving jury diversity.

Judges on the bench say one of the main problems is a high rate of "undeliverable" mail in ZIP codes where minorities live. So starting this month, when mailings to potential jurors come back to the court, another mailing will go out to the same ZIP code.

morguefile.com

Royal Oak's city clerk has certified the signatures on petitions to force a referendum on a new gay rights ordinance in the Detroit suburb.

Fred Birchard submitted petitions Tuesday with 1,226 signatures seeking repeal of the law that Royal Oak's City Commission approved on a 6-1 vote March 4. The city clerk determined Wednesday that the necessary 746 signatures were valid.

The ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors. It was set to take effect last month. But opponents circulated petitions to try and block it.

Federal prosecutors say two people linked to Detroit's pension systems took part in a bribery and kickback scheme involving more than $200 million in investments for the funds.

The U.S. Attorney in Detroit says Paul Stewart, a former trustee for the city's police and fire retirement system, took thousands of dollars in cash, trips and entertainment from people looking for investments from the pension fund.

Can Detroit Be Saved?

Mar 2, 2013

Detroit is broke. On Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the state will take over the city's finances.

"It is time to say, we need to start moving upward with the city of Detroit," he said.

But the question on many people's minds is whether state intervention will be enough — and whether the more ominous and painful scenario of municipal bankruptcy can be avoided.

Adding Up The Debt

Just how far gone is Detroit? Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, sums it up like this:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

For years, the debate about using American Indian names and imagery for sports teams has centered on the question of whether they create a “hostile environment” for Native American students. Courts have been split on that question, and so has public opinion – even among American Indians.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Carl Levin and Michigan officials will host a meeting in Detroit tomorrow to talk about how tax breaks for historic preservation projects can help distressed cities.

In a statement, Secretary Salazar says the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program has been used for 70 projects in Detroit since 2000. He says he wants to talk about how that program can help revitalize the city.

The meeting will take place in the Odd Fellows Building, which was rehabbed in 2006 with the help of historic tax credits.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Researchers in Ontario will spend the coming months trying to get to the bottom of the noise and vibration known as the "Windsor Hum."

People in Windsor have complained about the low-frequency rumbling for the past two years.

Wolfgang Sauber / Wikipedia

Schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties will be closed tomorrow and Friday, amid threats circulated on social media.

From the Genesee Co. Intermediate School District Web site:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

There are parts of Detroit that have basically reverted to nature – the homes long gone, the grass tall, the pheasants outnumbering residents on some blocks.

One entrepreneur sees potential in all that empty, blighted space. But he’s not building new houses, or opening up a factory. Instead, he’s planning to plant thousands of trees.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A proposal to sell more than 140 acres of abandoned lots in Detroit drew hundreds of people to a public hearing tonight.

The vast majority were there to speak out against the plan.

Financial services entrepreneur John Hantz wants to buy more than 1,500 blighted city-owned lots and plant hardwood trees on them. Under the proposal, Hantz would pay $300 dollars per lot.

University of Michigan Provost Philip Hanlon will be the new president of Dartmouth College. Hanlon has served as provost since 2010.

"(Hanlon) has steered the University through some of its most fiscally challenging years, all the while advancing our academic excellence and impact," U of M President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement.

Hanlon started with the university in the mathematics department in 1986. He's a graduate of Dartmouth.

Greengobbler / Morguefile

Philanthropic organizations want to capitalize on the spending campaigns of "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday"  - and also flip the idea of consumerism on its head.

The idea behind "Giving Tuesday" is to take time to donate to charity, after two of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Eileen Heisman is the CEO of National Philanthropic Trust - one of the groups promoting the campaign.

"This is the first year, but I think it's going to continue," said Heisman. "I'm almost positive it is, and so I think in the following years we'll see a much bigger push and more visibility for people taking this time of year to give back in a more formal way on this day."

Charities report nearly a quarter of their annual donations come between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Center for Public Integrity

A new study links workplace exposure to plastics to a dramatically increased risk of breast cancer.

A team of researchers compared the work histories of women in the Windsor, Ontario area who had breast cancer against a group of women who did not.

They factored in things like smoking, exercise habits, and family history.

And they found that pre-menopausal women who worked in automotive plastics factories were nearly five times more likely to develop breast cancer.

Kate Davidson

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has reached a deal with the state Treasurer that will allow the city to tap the proceeds of a $137 million dollar bond sale, and avoid payless paydays.

Under the terms of the deal, Detroit has to meet certain benchmarks. They include hiring a firm to restructure the city's finances, and another firm to implement those recommendations. Outsourcing the city's payroll system and changing the way contracts are bid out are also part of the benchmarks.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers is suing the city's public school system on behalf of more than 400 teachers the union says were laid off improperly.

Detroit Public Schools used a new evaluation system this year, following changes to Michigan's teacher tenure law that allow districts to call back laid-off teachers without using seniority as the first factor.

The union says the system the district came up with is not fair or transparent. And Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson says on top of that, the school system didn't even follow its own rules when it came time to decide who would be called back to work.

Johnson says the lawsuit seeks any remedy available under the law.

"That would include reinstatement, it could include punitive damages, because there are some teachers who have had their lives literally turned upside down."

The school district did not comment directly on the lawsuit. But in a statement, it says the evaluation system ensured the most highly effective teachers would be placed in every classroom.

Sarah Hulett / Michgian Radio

After she signs her name on closing documents a few dozen times tomorrow, Tisha Friday will get a set of keys to her brand new house in Hamtramck.

Friday is part of the plaintiffs class in what some say is the longest-running housing discrimination lawsuit in the country. And with every closing, Hamtramck inches a little closer to closing an ugly chapter in its history.

User: ellenm1 / flickr

The Wayne State University Board of Governors is expected to vote Monday to establish a search committee for a new president. The university needs to replace Allan Gilmour, who plans to retire when his two-year contract is up in June.

Gilmour is credited with making the school's admissions standards more rigorous, after criticism that it admitted students who couldn't succeed. But his successor will still have some work to do. According to the Web site college results dot org, fewer than a third of Wayne State students graduate within six years.

Patricia Drury / flickr

The top ranks of Detroit's police department are getting reshuffled.

Mayor Dave Bing announced the plan today. He says the appointment of two new assistant chiefs, along with some high-level reassignments and promotions, will make the department more efficient and responsive.

"We're all concerned about the safety of the people here in this city and we've made these recommendation new leadership, and we think we're going to see results immediately," Bing said.

The department is struggling to keep a lid on crime as it deals with a string of internal sex scandals.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Some people hoping to avoid long lines tomorrow by voting absentee in person today found themselves waiting hours to cast ballots.

At least that was the story in Detroit, where Willie Ann Brown stood outside the Department of Elections still holding a number after nearly three hours of waiting to get a ballot.

"Actually I've been to two of the satellite locations, and they had, like four hour waits and I have to get to work, so I've been trying get to vote," said Brown. "I'm going to vote."

Michigan does not technically offer early voting, like some states do. But people can vote absentee if they provide a reason they won't be able to vote in-person on Election Day.

Calvin Trent took friends to vote at two locations in Detroit. He says the crowds looking to cast ballots early this election are much bigger than he's seen in previous elections.

"Well, the ballot is so long, and people think they're going to be in line forever tomorrow," said Trent. "So that's why people are trying to vote early."

Detroit voters face 18 proposals on the ballot, including questions from the city, the county and the state.

If you're planning to vote in tomorrow's election and you haven't done your homework, it's time to cram. The ballot questions facing voters are so complicated, some voters might wish they could consult an economist or an attorney to make sense of them. Vince Keenan is with the voter education Web site publius.org. He says many voters also may not know what groups are behind each question, "the sort of back story as to who's behind what is the sort of information that any staffer in the halls of the Legislature would have readily at their disposal, but voters don't." Voters can look at their ballots ahead of time at the publius Web site.  There they can also view video clips that analyze ballot questions, along with a few hundred candidate videos from districts scattered across the state.

A disability rights group says far too many polling locations in the city of Detroit have accessibility problems for disabled voters.

Chris Rodriguez is with Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service. He says the group visited 70 polling sites during the August primary, and found problems with almost all of them. Rodriguez says the problems at many sites were "egregious."

"When I say egregious I mean not just, you know, a sign might not be at the right height," Rodriguez said. "I'm talking about stairs... completely inaccessible locations to vote."

City officials dispute the group's claims. Rodriguez says in written correspondence, the city clerk has said it's found only seven polling sites were out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rodriguez says litigation could be the next step if the city fails to correct the problems.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Next week, voters will decide whether Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law is the right way for the state to make sure local governments avoid financial collapse.

A federal appeals court has upheld a suburban Detroit bus system's refusal to put anti-Muslim ads on its buses.

The ads read in part, "Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam?" And publicized a website called refugefromislam.com.

SMART rejected the ads as too political.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative sued on free speech and equal protection grounds, and a lower court ruled against SMART.

Lansing city hall.
MI SHPO / flickr

The city of Lansing faces an $11 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year.

City officials say the shortfall is due largely to a steep decline in property tax revenues. Rising pension, health care, and salaries are also to blame. The numbers take into account the extra money the city is taking in from a new tax levy voters approved a year ago, but the city has almost reached its constitutional limit on how much money it can raise in new taxes.  In a press release, Mayor Virg Bernero says the funding model for Michigan cities is "broken." 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A five-day strike by workers at the water department serving southeast Michigan has ended.

Officials with AFSCME Local 207 say the strike ended in victory.

Shanta Driver is a lawyer for the union. She says the agreement brokered with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department management calls for the 34 workers who received termination notices to keep their jobs.

"All of those people are certain not to get terminated," Driver said. "Everybody's termination has been rescinded."

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