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.

Ways to Connect

Matt Picio / Flickr

An ambitious plan to expand and upgrade regional transit in Metro Detroit might stall out because two key regional players aren’t on board.

Those two key players are Oakland and Macomb counties.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority wants to put a millage on the November ballot, that would raise about $3 billion (estimates vary) over 20 years to fund its proposed transit master plan.

The RTA board was supposed to approve the ballot measure this week, but ended up postponing the vote at the last minute.

Governor Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook Page

Fewer than half of Michigan’s local leaders are optimistic about the state’s direction, and more of those leaders have soured on Governor Snyder’s leadership.

That’s according to the latest results from a twice-yearly University of Michigan survey.

The feelings about the state’s overall direction are just slightly more pessimistic than a year ago, but down significantly from 2014, when 55% of local leaders felt good about the state’s prospects. Now, it’s 44%.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit program focused on boosting small business in the city’s neighborhoods has a year under its belt.

The Motor City Match program has awarded $2 million in grants so far. It awarded another $500,000 to 11 new or expanding ventures on Wednesday.

They include food and restaurant businesses, two child care centers, a beauty supply store, and a music center.

Michigan school boards are struggling to fill seats.
wikimedia user motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A former school supplies vendor who admitted defrauding the Detroit Public Schools will see his major assets seized by the federal government.

Norman Shy pleaded guilty to running a bribery and kickback scheme that defrauded the district of nearly $2.8 million, paying off principals and a district administrator with money he received for school supplies that were never delivered.

Shy’s plea agreement spelled out assets the government could seize to repay that.

A demolition in Detroit.
City of Detroit / via Facebook

Detroit’s sweeping campaign against blight under Mayor Mike Duggan marked a big milestone Tuesday, as the city demolished its 10,000th home in two-and-a-half years.

Duggan has dramatically sped up the pace and scale of demolitions, saying the city and its residents can’t afford to delay tackling neighborhood blight any longer.

Duggan says every time a blighted home goes down, it raises the quality of life for residents of that neighborhood.

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

Detroit Firefighters
City of Detroit Fire Department / Facebook.com

Most Detroit firefighters should get a pay bump as soon as next month,

Under a tentative deal struck by Mayor Mike Duggan and the fire union, firefighters who cross-train as medical first responders will get the 4% raise.

The city says that 26 of the fire department’s 46 companies are currently doing medical runs, and that’s helped bring average EMS response times down to around 8 minutes. That's in line with the national average.

Detroit's new Red Wings arena under construction.
Rick Briggs / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroiters may get to choose between two, competing ballot proposals in November.

Both lay out a process for negotiating community benefits agreements with developers of large, publicly-subsidized projects.

Community benefits can range from job opportunities to health and safety protections. Such agreements are sometimes touted as a way to make sure neighborhood residents see gains from big development in their midst.

A picture of Viola Liuzzo, in the park that bears her name.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is launching a two-year investment campaign in some neighborhood parks, starting with a park named for a murdered civil rights activist.

Viola Liuzzo was the Detroit activist and mother killed by Ku Klux Klan members near Selma, Alabama in 1965.

The northwest Detroit park that that honors her was dedicated in 1982, but had fallen into disrepair.

Now, it stands to get almost $1 million in upgrades, from new playscapes and picnic shelters to some functional landscaping.

Demostrators in downtown Detroit protest police-involved shootings that have killed African-Americans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A nationwide wave of protest against recent police-involved killings hit Detroit Friday night.

A rally dubbed “Black Friday” grew from a gathering in Campus Martius park to a large march through traffic in the surrounding streets.

Detroit police had a heavy presence, but the protest remained peaceful until the end.

Participant Lee Qualls said the murder of police officers at a similar event in Dallas was on everyone’s mind, even as they expressed anger and frustration over police treatment of African-Americans.

New Detroit police officers receiving their badges
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Eighteen new officers officially joined the ranks of the Detroit Police Department today, but the celebration was tempered by what their chief called a “troubling day.”

There was a mix of music, cheers and somber prayer during the graduation ceremony for the members of class “2016C.”

Chief James Craig said the sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers has put all law enforcement on a “heightened state of alert,” but won’t change how his department does business, or approaches dangerous situations.

East Detroit school and community officials blast plans for state CEO takeover.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For the second time, a Macomb County judge has issued a second restraining order to stop a CEO takeover of some East Detroit public schools.

And it’s apparently because of a legal decision made by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

Last month, the state school reform office appointed Gary Jensen as CEO, with a mission to turn around four low-performing East Detroit schools.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

A recent legislative overhaul to Detroit Public Schools is being challenged in court.

Governor Snyder signed bills that split the old school district in two last month, avoiding a potential bankruptcy.

But members of Detroit’s elected school board say there are a number of problems with those bills.

Thomas Bleakley, the board’s attorney, says one problem is the laws are written so that they only apply to Detroit — and the state constitution is clear about the process for passing “local acts.”

Nino / Morguefile

The city of Detroit has reached a settlement with a former animal control officer who alleged widespread wrongdoing.

Brittany Roberts filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, animal control and police departments in October 2015.

She made a number of claims, ranging from unsanitary conditions at the city’s animal shelter, to deliberate animal cruelty.

Roberts claimed she was retaliated against and eventually fired for raising concerns.

This week, the Detroit City Council officially signed off on a $63,000 settlement in the case.

Rod Hansen
via WJR

One of the great voices in Detroit radio journalism has died.

Rod Hansen was an investigative reporter with WJR-AM 760 from 1967 until 2005.

A tough and tenacious reporter mostly on the federal court beat, Hansen won a slew of prestigious awards over the course of his career.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposed Detroit city ordinance is facing a well-organized, but so far anonymous, challenge.

A coalition gathered more than 5,000 signatures in favor a community benefits ordinance.

The ordinance would require large-scale developments that receive public money or use public land to return some benefits to surrounding communities.

cash money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The powerful credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded two sets of bonds issued by Detroit Public Schools.

The agency also expressed doubt about a new arrangement that splits the school district in two.

On Friday, new state laws took effect splitting the Detroit Public Schools into “old” and “new” districts.

The old one exists solely to pay off debt with tax revenues, while the new one receives state aid payments to educate students.

Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree.
Wayne County

Some breaks for Michigan homeowners struggling to pay property taxes have expired.

Governor Snyder signed laws in 2015 that reduced interest and other penalties on delinquent taxes. They also reduced back taxes for some homeowners who owed much more than their properties were worth.

That was largely meant for Wayne County, and especially Detroit, where tens of thousands of properties enter the tax foreclosure process every year.

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ board of education met for the final time ever on Thursday.

The board has very little to do now as part of the "old,” debt-ridden DPS.

It will be replaced by a “new” district, run by a “transition manager”—currently the district’s last emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes.

Gov. Snyder just signed bills setting up this bankruptcy-style restructuring just last week.

Detroit officials announce Paradise Valley redevelopment plans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More upscale development is coming to downtown Detroit.

These new plans are part of what’s being dubbed the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District.

It aims to revive the area’s past as a vibrant center of African American culture. The original Paradise Valley left a huge imprint as a hub of blues, jazz and vibrant entertainment culture on early 20th-century Detroit.

Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority bought five buildings in the current Harmonie Park area in 2006.

Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A long-awaited, state-sponsored study has put a minimum price tag on what it takes to educate the average Michigan public school student.

The Michigan Education Finance Study set out to answer a simple question: How much money does it take to educate a student that’s proficient by state standards, every year?

Finding the answer, it turns out, is complicated.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan police officers can never be criminally prosecuted for statements they are compelled to make during internal investigations — even if those statements turn out to be lies that amount to perjury or another crime.

That’s what the Michigan Supreme Court decided this week, in the case of three Detroit officers charged with obstructing justice.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

At a public meeting Thursday, Detroit Public Schools leaders tried to reassure still-nervous teachers and parents there should be a “seamless” transition to a new school district in the city.

Governor Snyder signed bills splitting the old Detroit school district in two this week.

Those bills create an “old” district, which will remain a legal entity solely to pay off existing debts; and a new, yet-to-be-named entity that will take over running schools and educating children.

striking UAW workers
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers is threatening a strike at Sakthi Automotive Group.

The India-based auto parts supplier has more than 200 employees at two Detroit facilities. It makes safety components for automakers including GM and Ford.

The UAW says Sakthi has engaged in a number of unfair labor practices at its Detroit plants, starting prior to the union organizing workers there in 2015.

Those practices continued as the UAW and Sakthi began collective bargaining in January of this year, says UAW Local 600 Vice President and lead negotiator AJ Freer.

an e-reader on top of a stack of books
Tina Franklin / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you’re an e-book fan, you should check your online accounts for new credits this week:  Apple might owe you a refund as part of a price-fixing settlement.

Thirty-three states, including Michigan, sued Apple and five e-book publishers in 2012 for federal anti-trust violations.

They were accused of fixing e-book prices between 2010 and 2012.

Gary Jensen
State of Michigan

For the first time, Michigan’s State School Reform/Redesign office has appointed a CEO to take over some low-performing schools in one district.

That’s despite an ongoing lawsuit by district officials to stop the state intervention.

Gary Jensen will take control of four “chronically underperforming” East Detroit Public Schools. The district has seven schools altogether.

Jensen was named Michigan’s Principal of the Year in 2014. He’s credited with leading an academic turnaround at Lakeview High School in Montcalm County.

A demolition in Flint.
Genesee County Land Bank

A new Special Inspector General’s report says a federal program that funds blight removal lacks key safeguards against waste and corruption.

Michigan has received more than $381 million in blight removal funds from the US Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund – by far the most of any state.

The HHF was originally intended to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Starting in 2013, Treasury allowed some of the funds to be diverted to blight removal, mostly in the form of demolitions.

A tribute wall for Gordie Howe outside Joe Louis Arena.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Red Wings fans and former hockey greats alike lined up at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday to pay their last respects to Gordie Howe.

The legendary player known as Mr. Hockey died last week at age 88.

Howe’s family and the Red Wings organized a day-long public visitation for him from 9 am-9 pm, honoring his iconic number.

Howe’s pro hockey career spanned five decades, making him one of the most durable and greatest players of all time. He spent most of that career with the Red Wings, leading the team to four Stanley Cup championships during the 1950s.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
(Courtesy of the Michigan Attorney General's office)

The U.S. Supreme Court has stymied the Michigan Attorney General’s second bid to put some new air pollution rules on hold.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette spearheaded a case, Michigan v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that challenged the EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Those rules limit mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants.

In 2015, the Supreme Court handed Schuette a victory when it narrowly ruled the EPA didn’t properly consider the cost to polluters when making the rule.

Ella Marx cries at a candelight vigil in Ann Arbor for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings. She says her LGBT sister lives in Florida. “It’s really close to home for me,” she says.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

Members of Metro Detroit’s LGBT community and allies are mourning the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.

A group held a vigil for them at Ferndale City Hall tonight.

Julia Music is the chair of Ferndale Pride.

She called the attack an act of “hate, terrorism, and ignorance.”

But Music urged the group to keep welcoming Muslims, who she says have just started to join Detroit’s LGBT community “in visible numbers.”

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