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 Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Environmental Protection Agency says it will conduct an inspection of Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the EPA confirmed plans to do a “performance inspection audit” next month.

“Staff from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality will also be involved in this audit, to assess current lab procedures and compliance with federal requirements under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program,” the statement reads.

Michigan’s second-largest county has come “roaring back” from the Great Recession.

That was longtime Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s message at his annual state of the county speech Wednesday night.

“The state of Oakland County is strong! Amazingly strong. Vibrant,” Patterson said.

He touted the county’s unemployment rate, which soared to nearly 15% in the depths of the recession. Now, it’s dipped below 5%.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers and parents had a “day of action” Tuesday.

It centered around a number of “walk-in” events at neighborhood schools throughout the city.

Those brief rallies were meant to show public support for investing in schools and educators.

They’re designed to complement the recent wave of teacher sickout protests that have drawn attention to deteriorating buildings and other crisis within the Detroit Public Schools.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

Detroit water department officials have a proposal meant to ensure everyone in the city can afford water.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) would give qualifying low-income customers a fixed monthly payment.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department director Gary Brown says data show that’s a key part of any utility assistance plan.

“When you’re economically disadvantaged, you need a fixed amount of payment to make any monthly payment,” Brown said. “So we hope to do that with this program.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Last week was the beginning of the end for the controversial Education Achievement Authority.

Republican state lawmakers announced the EAA would come to an end, in an effort to win Detroit lawmakers’ votes for bills to resolve the crisis in the Detroit Public Schools.  

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Flint’s ongoing water crisis, and the wider concerns it’s sparked about water quality throughout the state, was the subject of a town hall meeting in Royal Oak this weekend.

Speakers included Sue McCormick, head of the state’s new largest water supplier, southeast Michigan’s Great Lakes Water Authority; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who helped bring the city’s lead-in-water crisis to light; and Jim Nash, Oakland County’s water resources commissioner.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The Eastern Michigan University board of regents has voted sever ties to the Education Achievement Authority.

EMU, along with the Detroit Public Schools, was part of the inter-local agreement that made the EAA possible.

The EAA was Gov. Snyder’s key education reform initiative. Launched in 2012, it was supposed to serve as a statewide school reform district.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools barred independent health inspectors from investigating some school buildings Wednesday.

The American Federation of Teachers hired the industrial hygienists to look into alleged environmental hazards.

But, “The district banned all of our inspectors from any of the buildings,” said Bob Fetter, an attorney representing the Detroit Federation of Teachers in a lawsuit over, among other things, dangerous environmental conditions in DPS schools.

Detroit Public Schools

The controversial emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools will step down at the end of this month, Gov. Snyder’s office announced Tuesday.

Snyder faced growing pressure to get rid of Darnell Earley.

Calls for Earley’s resignation as head of DPS reached a fever pitch in the past several weeks, as teachers staged sick-out protests over the district’s crumbling buildings and finances, and the Detroit Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit demanding his removal.

Detroit Land Bank Authority

Most Detroit homeowners should see more relief on their property tax assessments this year.

The city has worked to bring tax assessments more in line with real housing values in the past couple years.

Now city officials say more than 90% of homeowners should see further reductions this year.

Karen Johnson-Moore lives in northwest Detroit, an area that should see up to 15% reductions in most neighborhoods.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers start hearings this week on Gov. Snyder’s plan to prevent the collapse of the Detroit Public Schools.

Lansing’s discussions start as the city of Detroit released another round of safety and health inspections of some of the district’s crumbling school buildings this past weekend.

user braun / Flickr

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, with support from the American Federation of Teachers, and several parents filed a lawsuit Thursday against Detroit Public Schools and its state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley.

The suit is asking the court to compel DPS and Earley to repair all existing building code violations, and for the creation of an appropriately funded capital plan that will bring schools up to "21st century standards."

City of Holland

Bills in the state legislature would change the process for designating local historic districts in Michigan.

A State House committee heard testimony on one of the bills Wednesday.

It would amend the 1970 Local Historic Districts Act, which provides for local district commissions with the power to review and potentially nix architectural and other design changes within the area.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Marathon Petroleum refinery in southwest Detroit is no stranger to controversy. But its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions has sparked a major backlash. The company has done a huge expansion of its southwest Detroit refinery in the past few years.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A judge has denied the Detroit Public Schools’ efforts to stop teacher sickouts.

The district says those sickouts amount to illegal strikes.

But Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens again declined to issue a restraining order today.

Stephens said the district needs to prove the sickouts are strikes. She also questioned whether the Court of Claims is the proper venue for the case.

But many DPS teachers say they have no other way to force action as the district spirals into decay and insolvency.

via Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools is suing many of its own teachers over repeated sickout protests, and there’s an important court hearing in that fight Monday.

DPS maintains these repeated sickouts, which teachers have sporadically held to highlight serious problems in the district, amount to illegal strikes.

DPS officials are asking a Michigan Court of Claims judge to issue a preliminary injunction and order the teachers back to work.

Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the district’s request for a temporary restraining order last week.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees have been suspended for their roles in the Flint water crisis.

In a statement issued late Friday, Gov. Snyder’s office only identified the employees as “DEQ officials involved in Flint water testing.”

“Michiganders need to be able to depend on state government to do what’s best for them, and in the case of the DEQ that means ensuring their drinking water is safe,” Snyder said. “Some DEQ actions lacked common sense and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint.”

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has lost an initial bid to stop frustrated teachers from staging repeated sickout protests.

Angry about classroom conditions, low pay and Lansing’s inaction in the face of near-insolvency, DPS teachers staged their largest sickout yet Wednesday, closing 88 schools.

The district, headed by state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, went to the Michigan Court of Claims to get a restraining order the same day.

Judge Cynthia Stephens has now denied that initial request.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some parents and community members in southwest Detroit plan to file a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

That’s after the Detroit Public Schools removed bilingual office staff from several schools with predominantly Spanish-speaking parents last month.

“It’s a safety issue. It’s a civil rights issue,” said Maria Salinas, head of the group Congress of Communities. “This is the beginning of many people who will come out and fight. We shouldn’t have to fight.”

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools wants to force teachers to stop ongoing “sickout” protests.

The district has asked the Michigan Court of Claims to stop the rolling protests that closed 88 Detroit schools Wednesday.

"DPS has requested the court's intervention in addressing the ongoing teacher sick outs that are plaguing the district,” spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement, adding: “There will be no further comment until we receive direction from the court."

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.

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