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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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.

University YES Academy told parents and students this week that the high school was shutting down
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.”

NOAA

The state has unveiled the first part of a strategy to protect what it calls Michigan’s “globally unique water resources.”

The 30-year water strategy is a product of the state’s Office of the Great Lakes, which is part of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

It’s a vision for water stewardship that mixes social, environmental, and economic goals.

Davontae Sanford with family and supporters after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A young Detroit man who spent nine years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit says he’s ready to make a new life for himself.

Davontae Sanford was just 14 when he confessed to four murders.

But a hit man confessed to the same crimes just a year later. Advocates for the wrongfully incarcerated have fought to free him ever since.

This week, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, a judge vacated Sanford’s convictions and freed him.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
waynecounty.com

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her office’s handling of the Davontae Sanford case today.

Sanford confessed to four Detroit murders in 2007, when he was just 14 years old.

But a judge overturned Sanford’s convictions and freed him this week.

Worthy says that became possible only after a recent Michigan State Police investigation she requested found a Detroit police officer lied about key aspects of Sanford’s confession.

Questions about Sanford’s guilt arose as early as 2008, when a hit man named Vincent Smothers confessed to the same crimes.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

DTE Energy is the state’s largest utility. It provides electricity to more than two million people in southeast Michigan. Until very recently, DTE leaned on coal-fired power to generate about 3/4 of that electricity.

But that’s about to change dramatically.

The news came down this week that DTE will close three of its remaining coal-fired power plants between 2020 and 2023.

Two of those plants are just south of Detroit, in River Rouge and Trenton. The other is in St. Clair County.

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s fired police chief may face criminal charges for his involvement in the wrongful conviction of a Detroit teen nine years ago.

James Tolbert was Detroit’s Deputy Police Chief in 2007. That’s when 14-year-old Davontae Sanford supposedly confessed to murdering four people.

Sanford was convicted in 2008. But serious questions about the case arose soon after, when a confessed hit man named Vincent Smothers said he had committed the crimes -- and had never heard of Sanford.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

After spending eight years in prison, a Detroit man convicted of murdering four people has been cleared and ordered released.

Davontae Sanford confessed to the murders in 2007, when he was just 14.

But soon after Sanford’s conviction, a hit man confessed to the same crimes, and insisted Sanford was not involved.

Now, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan has vacated Sanford’s convictions, and ordered him released immediately. Prosecutor Kym Worthy had agreed to dismiss Sanford’s case Tuesday morning.

From left to right: Patrick Harris, Reginald Franklyn, Slytazion Sanders, and Dominick Williams.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

There’s a lot of talk these days about how to “fix” Detroit schools.

State lawmakers are trying to save the Detroit Public Schools from fast-approaching bankruptcy.

But little of that discussion has included the voices of DPS students.

Here, four students from Detroit’s Cody High School share their thoughts about just how bad things are right now.

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

A citizen’s group took Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey to court Friday, in an effort to get a proposed city ordinance on the ballot.

The ordinance would require the Detroit clerk to publicly post real-time election results.

Tom Barrow is president of the group Citizens for Detroit’s Future, which spearheaded the drive to make the ordinance city law.

Barrow says the group gathered more than enough certified petition signatures, and did everything by the book according to the city charter and state law.

DTE Energy

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has submitted a final plan to curb sulfur dioxide pollution in Wayne County to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA deemed part of the county, including southwest Detroit and some downriver communities, in violation of new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide in 2013.

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