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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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Southeast Michgian's Congressional districts post-2010 redistricting.
Michigan House of Representatives

Democrats in Michigan and a handful of other states need to win some statewide races by 2020. Otherwise, they risk ensuring Republican majorities for another decade--even if Democrats get more votes at election time.

After just a few months in office, Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has found herself in conflict with nearly every other branch of county government.

So she’s suing to clarify that she’s “the boss” of her office.

But Spranger now wants the entire Macomb Circuit Court to disqualify itself from deciding that case because of conflicts of interest.

Judge Kathryn Viviano today declined to do that. She disqualified herself, citing the “high and escalating” level of dispute between the clerk’s office and other county officials.

Macomb County Circuit Court
Macomb County

A Macomb County Circuit Court judge could decide Monday whether a case against embattled county clerk Karen Spranger will move forward.

County officials have accused Spranger of lying about her address when she filed to run for office last year. If the case proceeds, a judge will decide whether there's enough evidence to legally disqualify Spranger from office.

"If the courts come back and say 'Nope, everything's fine,' then so be it -- she's the clerk, and we'll have to deal with the challenges we face or have been facing," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.

Robert Bobb was the first in a series of emergency managers who ran the Detroit Public Schools from 2009-2016.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Does the state have to ensure that all Michigan students get at least a “basic education?”

That’s the question at the heart of a lawsuit filed on behalf of students at five Detroit schools, and that lawyers battled over in federal court on Thursday.

This “right-to-read” lawsuit argues that conditions at those five schools are so bad, they are unconstitutional. Those conditions include lacking sufficient numbers of qualified teachers, books, labs and computers; and where classroom temperatures range from freezing to over 100 degrees,” the plaintiffs say in their complaint.

duggan with tapscott posing for cameras
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In a ceremony at Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center on Wednesday, a small handful of Detroiters regained homes lost to property tax foreclosure.

The group of 60 was the second to complete the Detroit Land Bank’s “occupied buy-back” program. About 80 people completed the program last month.

The Detroit Land Bank now has close to 100,000 properties in its inventory, making it the largest property owner in the city. Around 4,000 of them are thought to be occupied.

detroit vs everbody t shirt with i voted sticker
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A race that usually flies under the radar is shaping up as one of the more interesting contests in Tuesday’s primary elections.

The race for city clerk in Detroit has drawn more attention, and candidates, than usual this election cycle.

Six candidates are looking to unseat three-term city clerk Janice Winfrey. The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the general election this November.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

We should know by Tuesday night which candidates will vie for Detroit mayor in this November's election.

The top two vote-getters will move on from tomorrow’s primary.

First-term incumbent Mike Duggan is seen as the heavy favorite right now. He’s running for re-election on a kind of “good start” platform.

Aubrey Pollard about a year before his death.
Courtesy Thelma Pollard Gardner / via Bridge Magazine

This Friday, the movie simply titled “Detroit” debuts nationwide.

It depicts the most notorious single incident of the 1967 Detroit rebellion — the brutal police killings of three black teens at the Algiers Motel.

The still-contested events of that night at the Algiers Motel have already been written about extensively. A surviving witness called it “a night of horror and murder” worse than anything he had experienced as a soldier in Vietnam.

But after multiple trials, none of the officers involved were ever convicted of any crime.


Detroit precincts will have new vote tabulators for the primary.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Despite receiving unfavorable national attention for some serious problems in last November’s general election, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey pledges that Tuesday’s primary election should run smoothly.

Winfrey says a combination of new voting equipment and improved poll-worker training should help avoid the problems that plagued Detroit precincts in November.

An aborted presidential recount found that votes couldn’t be “reconciled” in more than half of all Detroit precincts, meaning that voter poll books didn’t match the number of ballots cast. 

Picture of Collin Rose
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Charges have now been filed in the shooting death of a Wayne State University police officer.

Raymond Durham, 61, faces first-degree murder and three other charges in the fatal shooting of Sergeant Collin Rose last November. Rose was shot in the head while conducting a bicycle traffic stop near midtown Detroit.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office had to drop charges against another man accused of Rose’s murder last year. But Worthy says the case against Durham is different.

Karen Spranger
Screen grab taken from Karen Spranger's Facebook page

Macomb County leaders want a judge to legally disqualify its embattled county clerk from holding office.

The request is actually a legal counter-move on the county’s part, part of a lawsuit County Clerk/Register of Deeds Karen Spranger filed against it earlier this summer.

But County Executive Mark Hackel says as part of the county’s due diligence in that case, it has uncovered evidence Spranger lied about her address when she filed to run for office last year. He says that “false statement” is grounds for removal from office.

Students from Detroit's Neighborhood Educational Center Program in 1970.
American Library Association

In the wake of Detroit’s 1967 rebellion, and similar unrest nationwide, a group called the Kerner Commission dug into the underlying causes.

Their main finding was that America was heading toward two separate, unequal societies: one white, one black. One of the deepest inequalities was in education.

gordon park sign
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and there’s a party of sorts going on at 12th Street and Clairmount on Detroit's west side.

Exactly 50 years ago, the police raid that sparked the city's massive, deadly riots started right here. Now there’s a newly-refurbished park on that corner and a marker designating it a state historic site.

Walter P. Reuther Library: Wayne State University.

The 1967 Detroit uprising was a time of confusion and upheaval. Countless rumors and false narratives spread through the country, and some facts remain unclear to this day.

Luckily, many Detroiters have come forward to tell their personal accounts of the rebellion.

The historic marker in Gordon Park at 12th St. and Clairmount.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Fifty years ago this week, Detroit exploded in violent unrest that still marks the city to this day.

Now, the place where it all began is also marked as an official state historic site.

Jim Atkin
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More than 7,000 people were swept up in mass arrests during the 1967 Detroit uprising.

Jails and police stations were overflowing, so many people were held in makeshift detention centers, often in squalid conditions.

Jim Atkin was a member of the Michigan Air National Guard at that time. His unit was called up to try and contain the situation in Detroit, and his first assignment was guarding people taken into custody during the initial days of the chaos.

A house for sale on the Detroit Land Bank's online auction site.
Detroit Land Bank Authority

A new incentive program hopes to entice more Detroit educators to live in the city.

The Detroit Land Bank sells former city-owned properties through an online auction.

Now, Detroit school employees who bid on those homes can receive a 50% discount on the final sale price.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, wants more teachers who work in Detroit to live there too.

Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

On Thursday night, a federal judge in Detroit extended an order that puts a temporary hold on the U.S. government’s threat to deport some Iraqi nationals.

The Trump administration struck a deal with Iraq’s government earlier this year.

Since then, it’s moved quickly to start deporting up to 1,400 Iraqi nationals with criminal records.

Detroit Public Schools Community District sign
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Federation of Teachers members are set to start voting on a new contract agreement this week.

A courtroom
Bill Ledbetter / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal judge in Detroit has ordered the U.S. not to deport any Iraqi nationals for at least the next two weeks. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith’s ruling Monday night expanded a temporary restraining order he issued last week.

That order applied only to Iraqi immigrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up in the Detroit area this month.

A National Guardsman patrols a Detroit street during the July 1967 rebellion.
Tony Spina / Walter P. Reuther Library/Wayne State University

Fifty years ago next month, a police raid on a Detroit after-hours bar exploded into five days of violent unrest.

The city is still grappling with what happened in the summer of 1967.

Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The Iraqi immigrants arrested in a Detroit-area immigration sweep this month cannot be deported for at least the next 14 days, a Detroit federal judge ruled late Thursday.

More than 100 Iraqi nationals were swept up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids earlier this month.

The government says they all have standing removal orders and criminal records, and their deportations were imminent. Most had been living in the U.S. for years under ICE supervision.

The suspect in the Bishop International Airport stabbing, Amor Ftouhi.
FBI

Update Thursday, June 22, 10:45 p.m.:

The head of Detroit’s FBI office says investigators have learned how and when Fthoui entered the U.S., but still can’t say why he ended up stabbing a security officer at Flint’s Bishop International Airport Wednesday.

Members of the Homrich Nine before their initial trial in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After nearly three years, a judge has dismissed charges against nine defendants arrested for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs.

The so-called “Homrich Nine” were arrested in June 2014 for attempting to block trucks belonging to Homrich, the contractor the city uses to shut off water service to delinquent customers.

They were charged with disorderly conduct, a criminal misdemeanor. But the case was beset by numerous delays as city of Detroit lawyers, in the words of one defense attorney, “appealed every single ruling the judge made.”

An artists' vision of Little Caesars Arena.
Olympia Entertainment

A federal judge has knocked down an initial effort to stop the Detroit Pistons from moving to a new downtown arena unless there’s a public vote on financing the project.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith heard arguments in a federal lawsuit, filed by activists Robert Davis and D. Etta Wilcoxon. It alleges team owners and city officials didn't seek public approval before using public funds for the project, in violation of state law.

An early sketch of the proposed $32M development in Midtown Detroit's Sugar Hill historic district.
City of Detroit

Detroit’s already-booming Midtown area is getting another development boost.

This time, it’s in the form of a projected $32 million mixed-commercial residential development, designed by renowned architect Philip Freelon.

Freelon has designed several prominent buildings, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Freelon says this design is still very much in development stages. He wants input from the community before it’s finalized.

The attack occurred just outside this service center, that serves many of the area's homeless and mentally ill in Detroit's Eastern Market.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some Detroit activists and community members are outraged by what they see as a low-key response to an attack on a homeless man last week, one that seems to have been at least partly racially motivated.

According to the victim and witnesses, a white man suddenly beat and stabbed the homeless man, who is black, in Detroit’s busy Eastern Market district. They also said the attacker shouted racial slurs as he did it.

The mid-day attack happened outside the Team Wellness Center, which serves many homeless and mentally ill people in the area.

Desmond Ricks in court after charges against him were officially dismissed. He was exonerated after spending 25 years in prison for murder.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After spending 25 years in prison for murder, Desmond Ricks was officially exonerated Thursday.

Wayne County prosecutors admitted in court they simply don’t have the evidence to re-try Ricks for the 1992 shooting death of his friend Gerry Bennett outside a Detroit restaurant.

A bioswale
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Green infrastructure is the focus of a conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center this week.

The people behind it say it’s time to start thinking differently about how we handle storm water throughout the Great Lakes; but make sure we do it right.

Nikolai Vitti
via Twitter

Detroit’s new schools superintendent knows he’s taking on a tough job, but he’s also convinced the troubled district can turn around, and prove that “traditional urban public education works.”

Nikolai Vitti has started laying the groundwork for that. He took over as superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District last week.

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