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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David Stojcevski
Courtesy Photo / Stojcevski family

“The evidence does not support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.”

That’s what the government has told Macomb County officials after investigating the death of David Stojcevski.

Stojcevski died in 2014, after a 16-day stint in the Macomb County jail, where he had been serving 30 days on a reckless driving charge.

The cause of death: “acute withdrawal” from prescription drugs.

Harrowing video recorded in the run-up to his death showed Stojcevski behaving erratically and growing visibly emaciated during that time.

Longtime Macomb Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco.
Macomb County

A typically low-profile county office has become one of the most high-stakes political contests in Michigan this year.

It’s the race for Macomb County public works commissioner.

Republican Candice Miller is leaving her seat in Congress to challenge Democrat Anthony Marrocco, a longtime incumbent, for the post.

“This could be one of the most expensive races, if not the most expensive race, that happens on the state or local level this fall,” said Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

DTE Energy / via Twitter

Construction got started Friday on one of the largest urban solar farms in the country to date.

DTE Energy is behind the project, which will convert 10 acres of largely vacant, city-owned land in O’Shea Park, on the city’s west side, into a site that produces enough energy to power 450 homes.

U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz was on hand for the groundbreaking.

Teacher Anastasia Katapodis with her Montessori students at Maybury Elementary School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michgian Radio

This year marks a fresh start for the newly restructured Detroit Public Schools.

The district is unrolling some new, experimental programs for students. They’re meant to entice parents who might otherwise take their kids elsewhere.

After years of upheaval in Detroit schools, success isn’t guaranteed. But at least one school has high hopes they will.

Montessori: Learning together

Anastasia Katopodis has taught young kids in Detroit for 20 years.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than 3000 Detroit teachers are close to a new contract.

Detroit Federation of Teachers members in 94 schools approved the deal this week.

Union leaders say it’s good enough for now. For the first time in a decade, there are no concessions or cutbacks. Most teachers will get modest bonuses.

“We’re not jumping up and down, hollering that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Because I believe and I know that our teachers deserve more,” said DFT Interim President Ivy Bailey.

Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson.
Gary Johnson for President 2016

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson pitched his vision for the country to the Detroit Economic Club Wednesday.

Johnson is for limited federal government across the board — free trade, lower taxes, loosened drug laws, fewer immigration restrictions, and more judicious use of military power.

But Johnson says the government does have a role to play when it comes to providing basic protections for citizens.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Learning conditions in many Detroit schools are so bad, they violate students’ basic rights under the U.S. Constitution.

That’s what a new federal lawsuit contends. It was filed on behalf of students at five of the lowest-performing Detroit schools, including one charter school.

The suit cites an ongoing lack of basic educational resources, including teachers, that together deny children of their “constitutional right to literacy.”

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Oakland County, September 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The question of Syrian refugee resettlement has reared its head in the Oakland County Executive’s race--in an ugly and disputed way.

Some Oakland County residents reported getting a polling call on Sunday, September 11th.

They included Vicki Barnett, the Democrat running for Oakland County Executive. She faces longtime Republican incumbent L. Brooks Patterson.

One of the questions accused Syrian refugees of committing numerous rapes and murders in Europe.

From left: Michigan NAACP President Yvonne White, national NAACP President Cornell Brooks, and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan chapters of the NAACP met in Detroit for the group’s 80th statewide convention this weekend.

The historic group talked strategies to confront current civil rights challenges, that range from police brutality and criminal justice reform, to state laws that limit voting rights.

National NAACP President Cornell Brooks, who spoke at the Michigan conference, called 2016 a "critical year" for the modern civil rights and racial justice movements, as well as a critical election year.

MorgueFile /

Some old city power lines turned deadly in Detroit this week, prompting calls to finally get rid of them altogether.

Twelve-year-old K’Brianna Griffin was killed Wednesday night while playing in a neighbor’s backyard on Detroit’s west side.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After a summer of negotiating, Detroit teachers are preparing to vote on a new contract.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District — the new, restructured entity that replaces the debt-ridden Detroit Public Schools — and the Detroit Federation of Teachers announced a tentative agreement on Labor Day.

The agreement “provides members with some money in a number of ways,” DFT leaders said. “And for the first time in a decade, this agreement contains no concessions.”

Some highlights:

·        Pay increases for all teachers, based on seniority.

MyTudut / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The former school supplies vendor who led a conspiracy to defraud Detroit Public Schools received a five-year prison sentence Tuesday.

Norman Shy had pleaded guilty to running the years-long scheme with some Detroit school principals and an administrator.

They agreed to fix invoices so that Shy was paid for supplies he never provided. In return, they got a cut of his profits.

Charles Lews
Michigan Department of Corrections

A 59-year-old Detroit man convicted of murder at age 17 deserves a new sentence, his supporters argued Tuesday before a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Charles Lewis is one of 367 “juvenile lifers” in Michigan — prisoners who were sentenced to automatic life without parole as minors.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that unconstitutional in most cases, and ordered juvenile lifers a meaningful chance at meaningful parole. 

Detroit teachers protesting downtown on May 2, 2016.
Sarah Jardine

Detroit public schoolteachers start the new school year working with an expired contract — and bargaining for a new one.

After this summer’s restructuring, the Detroit Public Schools no longer exists, for practical purposes. Now, former DPS teachers now work for a brand-new entity — the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

And they want a new contract. Their old one was “imposed” on them by former DPS emergency managers, in the union’s view.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schools signaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuit this week.

"The government is able to take people's property even though they might actually not have done anything wrong," Jarrett Skorup told us.
MI State Police

Rebuilding trust between many communities and their police officers will be a long, hard slog.

But everyone agrees it must be done. That was the message from a Congressional working group, which stopped in Detroit Tuesday.

The bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group is trying to advance that goal with a series of meetings around the country.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

All 94 school buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District meet federal standards for lead in water, the city’s health department announced Monday.

It had spent months screening tap water at all the city’s schools for lead and copper, to make sure they met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“And we’re now confident that children who are drinking water in DPSCD schools are drinking water that’s lead-safe,” says Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the health department’s director.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has made “enormous progress” on fixing crumbling school buildings, but there’s still more work to do.

More than 90% of the district’s 94 school buildings are now officially “up to code,” according to city and school district officials.

Detroit’s building department got involved in the situation early this year, after teacher protests that highlighted some decrepit building conditions, among other things, hit the news.

Detroit Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Terrence Martin says they deserve credit for that.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

This summer, Detroit Public Schools ceased to exist except on paper.

But there is a new district that has the same schools, teachers and students as the “old” DPS. It’s formally known, at least for now, as the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Why did this happen? The short story is that the “old” DPS stood on the verge of bankruptcy throughout the last school year. To avoid that, the state — which has controlled Detroit schools for most of the past 17 years — executed a bankruptcy-style restructuring, minus the actual bankruptcy.

A repeatedly sewage-flooded basement on Detroit's east side.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two recent cases of Hepatitis A in Detroit are sparking a larger public health response.

That’s because the people who tested positive for the virus had both recently dealt with basement sewage backups, which have plagued an area of Detroit’s east side during rainfall this summer.

It’s not entirely clear how they got Hepatitis A, but contact with sewage is a known path of transmission.

But just in case, the Detroit health department will offer the vaccinations for free or at low cost to all Detroiters affected by the recent flooding over the next week.

In their report, Mike Wilkinson and Chastity Pratt Dawsey call school choice Detroit's new white flight
flickr user frank juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state board of education wants more input on the fates of Michigan schools deemed “failing.”

That’s what some board members signaled in a statement released this week.

It called on the State School Reform/Redesign Office to work with the Michigan Department of Education “to provide assistance to local districts to succeed at turning around their own schools and to keep the public fully informed of decisions affecting their local schools.”

stevendepolo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The architect of a bribery-and-kickback scheme in the Detroit Public Schools deserves to spend almost six years behind bars, at the least.

Or, he’s a “compassionate” and “devoted” person who, “despite his greed-filled actions in latter years, was an honest, upright businessman for the bulk of his career,” and merits leniency.

Those are dueling descriptions of Norman Shy found in sentencing memorandums from both federal prosecutors and Shy’s lawyer.

Durene Brown's basement has now flooded several times. She has yet to hear back about a claim filed in May.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is about to process an “unprecedented” number of claims, although it’s uncertain what claimants can expect to get out of the process.

It’s the result of a July 8 rainstorm that caused sewage to back up into basements across a swath of Detroit’s east side. A similar, smaller event happened in the same area just last week.

DWSD has urged affected residents to file claims, and many have.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A program meant to help struggling Detroiters pay their water bills is accepting more applicants now.

There had been some confusion about how much money was in the pot for the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP).

The Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, which runs the WRAP for the Great Lakes Water Authority, said just this week that it wasn’t accepting new clients because it had already committed all its funding for the year.

Volunteers working in Detroit.
user Charlie Wollborg / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Detroit is one of three U.S. cities getting what’s called a “Chief Service Officer.”

It’s part of an initiative led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s non-profit, Cities of Service.

The goal is to “help improve citizen engagement,” according to a city press release.

Detroit’s new Chief Service Officer, Victoria Kovari, formerly headed up Mayor Mike Duggan’s Department of Neighborhoods.

MDOT / via Twitter

Major stretches of highway throughout Metro Detroit were flooded out Tuesday morning, after heavy rainfall Monday night.

That’s likely a “new normal” people will just have to deal with going forward.

Members of the so-called "Homrich 9" before their initial trial.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Why has a criminal misdemeanor case involving seven Detroit protesters been stalled for nearly nine months?

Those defendants and their lawyers want to know, and in a letter sent to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, they petition him to resolve the case “promptly.”

The defendants, part of the self-proclaimed “Homrich 9,” had briefly blocked contractors’ trucks tasked with shutting off water to Detroit homes.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroiters looking for help with their water bills are hitting some barriers, as a new aid program tries to get a handle on its funding situation, and navigate confusion between the different agencies involved.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) just launched in March. It was touted as a comprehensive solution to Detroit’s chronic problem with delinquent water bills, and the subsequent service shutoffs that have hit tens of thousands of households over the past three years.

A map shows the link between water debt and property tax foreclosures in Detroit.
We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective

New citizen-led research is drawing a link between two of Detroit’s biggest social crises: water service shutoffs, and property tax foreclosures.

The We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective gathered that data for its report “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit.”

Detroit’s aggressive and controversial water shutoff policy for delinquent households was ramped up during the city’s bankruptcy, and has continued with some modifications since then.

EAA chancellor Veronica Conforme.
via Education Achievement Authority

Does the Education Achievement Authority still owe the Detroit Public Schools about $12 million?

The two districts seem to have distinctly different ideas about that, in what’s become a very odd dispute between the two state-run school districts.

And for now at least, it seems the state is unwilling to step in and help resolve the dispute.

The EAA took over fifteen former DPS schools when it launched as an attempt at a stateside turnaround school district in 2012.

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