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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Clifford Freitas
via LinkedIn

An FBI probe into Macomb County municipal corruption has netted another local elected official, and forced a major garbage company founder to resign.

Macomb Township trustee Clifford Freitas is the second local government official charged with bribery this month.

Frietas allegedly demanded more than $40,000 in bribes to help a waste hauler, Rizzo Environmental Services, get a favorable contract.

That happened despite the fact that Freitas worked for Rizzo, and was supposed to remove himself from any government business involving the company.

Ajamu Baraka at Wayne State University.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It’s time to reject the “politics of fear,” and embrace third-party alternatives in American politics.

That was the message Ajamu Baraka had for an audience at Detroit’s Wayne State University on Tuesday.

Baraka, a longtime political activist who founded the U.S. Human Rights Network, is the Green Party candidate for vice president. He and running mate Jill Stein will appear on the ballot in 45 states, including Michigan.

Baraka says he and Stein represent an opportunity to “break the two-party monopoly” on government.

Pence spoke to a packed house at the Macomb County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have “weakened America’s status in the world” with their policies.

But a President Donald Trump would boldly reverse course, Indiana Governor and Vice Presidential hopeful Mike Pence told a crowd of Macomb County Republican loyalists Monday night.

Pence fired up a sold-out crowd at the Macomb County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Pence said Clinton “literally personifies the failed status quo in Washington D.C.” He accused her of being the “architect” of policies that have led to a “weakened America and a stifled economy.”

Under Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit has used federal anti-blight funds for an aggressive demolition campaign.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s rapid-fire demolition campaign under Mayor Mike Duggan was rife with questionable bidding practices and lacked major internal controls, according to state and federal reviews of that program.

That revelation emerged Monday, as the city announced the U.S. Treasury had released another $42 million in federal funds for the program.

But that funding had been suspended for two months, as the treasury department reviewed a Michigan State Housing Development Authority investigation.

Vice presidential candidates Republican Mike Pence (L) and Democrat Tim Kaine (R).
wikimedia commons

Both major party candidates for the next U.S. vice president plan campaign stops in Michigan this week.

Donald Trump’s running mate is up first. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is scheduled to headline a dinner hosted by the Macomb County Republican Party tonight.

Traditionally blue-collar Macomb remains one of Trump’s few bright spots in Michigan, where most recent polls show Hillary Clinton regaining a healthy lead, though none has her topping 50% of the total vote.

Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Time Kaine, will pay a visit to Detroit Tuesday.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes Water Authority put $1.3 billion worth of bonds on the market last week.

It’s the first bond offering for the new regional authority, which emerged from Detroit’s bankruptcy process. It now provides wholesale water and services to millions of people across southeast Michigan.

About $1.1 billion of that will be used to refinance existing debt at a lower interest rate, says Nicolette Bateson, the GLWA’s Chief Financial Officer. She says that should produce almost $310 million in savings over the life of the bonds.


Carfentanil-laced heroin is showing up in Michigan.

That was confirmed last week, when public health officials in Wayne County definitively linked at least 19 deaths since July to the powerful synthetic opioid.

They were on the lookout for carfentanil after it appeared in nearby states this summer — particularly Ohio, where a late-summer surge in fatal overdoses was tied to carfentanil. There was also a suspected case in Kent County last month.

Dean Reynolds
via Facebook

An elected official from suburban Detroit faces a federal bribery charge, in what is apparently the first prosecution to emerge from a “long-running” investigation into alleged corruption in Macomb County.

Dean Reynolds is a Clinton Township Trustee. He’s accused of taking between $50.000-70,000 in bribes from a businessman who had a contract with the township.

user jdurham /

According to data from the Michigan Secretary of State, 7,481,074 people statewide are registered to vote in the November election.

That’s a very slight uptick from the 2012 election cycle.

Nearly everyone of voting age in Michigan is registered to vote, due in large part to the state’s motor voter law. But not everyone votes. Only 63% cast ballots in the 2012 election.

Some local clerks kept their doors open late on Tuesday, which was the deadline to register.

Charles Lewis at a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man sentenced to life without parole for a 1977 murder is entitled to a new sentence.

But efforts just to start that process have stalled again because of missing court files.

Charles Lewis was only 17 when he was convicted in the robbery-murder of an off-duty Detroit police officer.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in two recent cases that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional, except in the “rarest” cases.

Lewis is one of more than 300 Michigan “juvenile lifers” now awaiting re-sentencing, which should mean at least a shot at parole.

sign saying a high quality school
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit Public Schools Community district fell just shy of its budgeted enrollment goal for the year.

The district counted 45,265-45,365 students at the state count day last week. That’s about .5% shy of what the district had budgeted for. 

But coming off a tumultuous year that saw the district almost go bankrupt, district leaders see the numbers as a victory of sorts.

Steven Rhodes
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A new community center will soon open up inside a Detroit school.

The Ford Resource and Engagement Center is at Fisher Upper Magnet Academy, on the city’s east side.

The Ford Fund, the Ford Motor Company’s philanthropic arm, is sponsoring the $5 million project. It’s part of a $20 million commitment to community causes in Southeast Michigan.

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A potent synthetic opioid is showing up in Michigan’s illicit drug supply, and is now linked to at least 19 deaths.

Carfentanil is used as an elephant tranquilizer. It can be mixed with heroin, or pressed into pill form.

It’s said to be 100 times more potent than its cousin fentanyl, and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. It’s been linked to a spike in overdose deaths around the Midwest over the past several months.

cop car
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man is facing a terrorism charge for making threats against police officers on social media.

Nehru Gowan Littleton, 40, made a series of threats against police officers on Facebook in July, according to Detroit Police. They included statements like “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!”

That amounts to a “terroristic threat” under Michigan law, according to state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is bringing the charges.

One of the signs at the anti-Gilbert protest in downtown Detroit Monday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Donald Trump’s fundraiser at a Dan Gilbert-owned Detroit building raised some eyebrows last week.

It also drew a small group of protesters to the mortgage-and-real-estate tycoon’s downtown headquarters Monday.

The Reverend William Wylie-Kellerman was one of them.

Kellerman says Detroit is facing a “corporate takeover,” facilitated by the city’s bankruptcy and led by Gilbert’s mass real estate acquisitions in and around the city’s downtown.

U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Jay Williams, right, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at the LINC Logistics facility.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s efforts to “re-industrialize” are getting a boost from the federal government.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is giving $4.1 million to the city of Detroit and its quasi-public economic development arm, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

A little over $3 million will be used to build up infrastructure in and around the long-stalled I-94 Industrial Park.

That site has mostly been vacant for more than two decades, after the city cleared a large swath of land  on its east side for the project in the 1990s.

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 /

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

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.