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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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Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Joe Biden made one of his final appearances as vice president at the Detroit School for Digital Technology on Tuesday.

Biden was the public face of the Obama administration’s limited efforts to help the city through its bankruptcy and aftermath.

Biden says that after eight years of slow but steady recovery, he’s confident the country remains a place that “will never bend, never break, and always go forward.”

“And Detroit is the single shining example, if you were to pick any one place in America, to demonstrate that’s who we are,” he said.

Gov. Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at the Detroit auto show.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley took in the auto industry’s latest, at Detroit’s annual North American International Auto Show Monday.

“We’re leading the world here” in the “mobility industry,” Snyder said, noting the number of start-ups related to autonomous vehicle technology at this year’s show.

Snyder also hailed what he called “great announcements” recently that signal the “re-consolidation of the auto industry back in Michigan.”

That includes Fiat-Chrysler’s confirmation this week that it will invest $1 billion in two Detroit area plants; and Ford’s announcement last week that it will invest $700 million in its Flat Rock Assembly Plant as part of a plan to bring 13 electrified cars to market (all come attached to state incentives packages; so far no one will comment on the details of packages, and Snyder again declined to do so Monday).

Homes on Eberlein Rd. in Fraser were still restricted access on Friday. Most families displaced by the sinkhole should be able to move back next week.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has declared a state of emergency for Macomb County, following a sewer collapse and sinkhole in Fraser on Christmas Eve.

The declaration should open up more state funding for fixing the sinkhole, which will likely run into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Elaina Brown, left, and Kelly Williams sit in court during their preliminary examination on felony charges.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A judge has dismissed felony charges against two Child Protective Services workers, who were accused of failing to protect a three-year-old boy from his mentally ill mother.

Social workers Elaina Brown and her supervisor, Kelly Williams, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse.

The charges stem from the death of three-year-old Aaron Minor, who was found dead in May in the Detroit apartment he shared with his mother. His mother Deanna Minor, who had been missing, was found in a psychiatric hospital.

The sinkhole in Macomb County.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

A massive sinkhole in central Macomb County is “an incredibly large challenge” with a “potentially incredibly expensive fix,” Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said Wednesday.

Construction near the site of the sinkhole on the Fraser-Clinton Township border in Macomb County. Crews are now working on a temporary bypass around the collapsed sewer interceptor.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Temporary fixes are starting to take shape for those affected by a giant Macomb County sinkhole.

The sinkhole opened up in Fraser on Christmas Eve. It was caused by a collapsed sewer interceptor that serves more than 300,000 people in 11 Macomb County communities.

Fraser Mayor Joe Nichols says he’s “grateful there was no loss of life.” But there are three families who will lose their homes permanently, and at least 19 others that suffered damage.

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

We now know the contents of two federal subpoenas issued to the Detroit agencies running the city’s building demolitions program, but they don’t tell us much more than we already knew about an ongoing investigation.

The Detroit Land Bank and Building Authorities received the subpoenas in May.

They demanded the agencies turn over basically everything they have related to federally funded demolition contracts since the start of 2014.

Gov. Snyder speaks at United Shore Financial Services in 2013, when the company announced it was adding 600 new jobs.
YouTube screengrab

A Metro Detroit-based mortgage lender has reached a $48 million settlement with the federal government.

Troy-based United Shore Financial Services was certified to make direct loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance program.

But according to the U.S. Justice Department, USFS knowingly violated a number of FHA program rules, and signed off on hundreds of bad loans between 2006 and 2011—leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center / via Facebook

A $50,000 grant will boost an effort to welcome immigrants in some Michigan communities.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan awarded the money to the Welcoming Michigan initiative.

Welcoming Michigan fosters connections between new immigrants and longtime residents, helping to integrate them fully into receiving communities. The program also helps local governments and groups serve immigrant communities.

Trumbullplex Archives

The massive fire that killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship, an Oakland, California warehouse art space, has put similar venues under the microscope in cities nationwide.

That includes Detroit. The city has many informal, DIY spaces for creative people. And at least one of them, the Trumbullplex, was visited by a city fire marshal last week.

Wikimedia Commons

A broad group of civil rights advocates is cheering an Obama Administration decision this week to dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration system (NSEERS).

That U.S. Homeland Security program required visiting males from 25 countries—nearly all of them Muslim-majority countries--to register with the U.S. government, providing background and other information beyond what’s normally required for a visa.

Kevin Matthews
Family photo

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday she will not charge two Dearborn police officers with crimes.

The officers were involved in separate shooting incidents that happened about a year ago.

Kevin Matthews was shot dead by a Dearborn police officer in Detroit, after a brief foot chase just after Christmas last year.

About a month later, another Dearborn officer shot and killed Janet Wilson in her car outside Fairlane Mall. Both were unarmed.

Lamarr Monson takes notes in court during final arguments to overturn his murder conviction.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Lawyers made their final arguments in court Wednesday, but it will take more than a month for a Wayne County judge to decide whether Lamarr Monson deserves a new trial.

Monson confessed to the 1996 murder of Christina Brown, a 12-year-old runaway. The two lived and sold drugs together out of an apartment on Detroit’s west side, though Monson and others say Brown told people she was 17.

But Monson later said that Detroit police tricked and coerced him into confessing. And his lawyers say it bears the hallmarks of a false confession.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The small Detroit suburb of Eastpointe is looking for public input as it stares down a potential lawsuit.

The U.S. Justice Department warned the city last month that the way it chooses city council members violates the Voting Rights Act.

The government says voting for council members at-large denies the city’s growing black community a voice in government.

Between late 2013 and mid-2015, Michigan’s automated system for processing unemployment insurance claims flagged 53,633 cases of fraud.

But a new state review of some of those cases found that the system was wrong — 93% of the time.

That’s prompted U.S. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, to call for a full review of all the fraud cases auto-adjudicated during that period.

Public Lighting Authority of Detroit / via Facebook

Detroit is shining much brighter than it did just a couple years ago, and is now “a beacon” for cities nationwide.

That was the consensus at an event Thursday, as the city flipped the switch to celebrate 65,000 new streetlights.

Mayor Mike Duggan has made overhauling Detroit’s street lights a priority. An estimated 40% of them weren’t working when he took office.

A protest against the AICC's proposed Sterling Heights mosque in 2015.
Chaldean Nation / via Facebook

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sterling Heights, accusing the city of religious discrimination when it denied a permit to build an Islamic Center and mosque in 2015.

Renard Johnson appears in court for resentencing via videoconference.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has more than 150 juveniles serving mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences.

That’s by far the most in the state. And because of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, they all need to be re-sentenced.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants 67 of those people to stay behind bars for life. But a lot of people are wondering how she decided who deserves a second chance, and who doesn’t.

“He’s been gone so long”

Renard Johnson has been behind bars since he was 17 years old.

Flickr user sj carey / Flickr

Detroit is putting landlords on notice: Heat your rental units properly, or face some major fines.

David Bell, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety and Engineering Department, says inspectors are targeting 143 homes and buildings that received violation notices in the past year.

“They’ve got three days to reach out to us and call for re-inspection. We’ll get somebody out there,” Bell said.

“We know that you have outstanding violations, and we’re not going to let them slide. You have to do what is right by city code, and by your tenants.”

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More details about the nature and scope of a criminal investigation into Detroit’s massive demolition program should come out in court next month.

That’s when a Wayne County judge has ruled that a federal subpoena for Detroit’s land bank will be unsealed.

Detroit has demolished more than 10,000 blighted homes under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority has done most of those demolitions, using almost $130 million in federal funds so far.

Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC in 2011.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some Detroit leaders, clergy, and activists spoke out against Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General on Monday, denouncing him as someone who would “take us back to the Jim Crow era.”

They said Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, has a particularly bad history when it comes to African-American voting rights, and other civil rights issues.

But Rev. Paul Perez, with the Detroit conference of the United Methodist Church, says that’s not the only area of concern.

Protesters chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School, after reported incidents of race-based bullying there.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Some school leaders and parents are wrestling with how to respond to hateful incidents in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

There have been a number of such incidents reported in schools across Michigan since election day.

One happened at Royal Oak Middle School the day after the election, when a  group of students chanted “build the wall” in the cafeteria — an apparent reference to Trump’s pledge to build a wall across the Mexican border.

Alicia Ramon is the mother of the seventh-grade girl who took a video of that incident, which has since gone viral.

A demolition in Detroit.
City of Detroit / via Facebook

A federal investigation into Detroit’s demolition program under Mayor Mike Duggan seems to be picking up speed, and possibly widening in scope.

Federal agents visited the Detroit land bank Wednesday.

The land bank has used almost $130 million in federal money, originally allocated for foreclosure prevention, on demolitions as part of Duggan’s aggressive blight elimination campaign.

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A man sentenced to automatic life in prison as a juvenile could get that sentence reinstated, even though decades of his court files are missing.

That’s what a Wayne County Circuit Court judge has ruled.

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Charles Lewis was convicted of murder and sentenced to automatic life without parole in 1977, when he was 17.

That makes him a so-called “juvenile lifer.” And the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled all juvenile lifers are entitled to a shot at parole or re-sentencing, except in the “rarest” cases.

raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

There’s no sign that Detroit will change any of its immigrant-friendly policies as a result of Donald Trump’s election, according to one City Council member who has helped spearhead some of them.

Detroit is a self-designated “sanctuary city.” Those cities offer limited protections to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has pledged to cancel federal funding to all sanctuary cities during his first 100 days in office.

But Detroit City Council member Raquel Castañeda Lopez said there are no plans to change anything—yet.

Civil rights groups and clergy gathered at Detroit's Central United Methodist Church on Monday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Civil rights groups and faith leaders say they stand ready to oppose some of Donald Trump’s expected policies.

They displayed a united front and laid out plans for action in Detroit on Monday.

The plans range from rounding up attorneys and other volunteers to defend families facing deportation, to clergy pledging “sanctuary” for them.

Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant living in Detroit, says his community is “scared to death” right now.

Protesters also chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Protesters have taken to streets across the country to express their displeasure with President-elect Donald Trump.

That includes some who gathered to speak out and march in Metro Detroit last night.

In Royal Oak, the group gathered outside Oakland Community College was fairly small, but they did draw lots of supportive honks.

Some shared their anger over Trump’s election—and their determination to resist his policies.

Others spoke about fear of harassment and physical attacks against Muslims, immigrants and other targets of Trump’s rhetoric.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

There’s a big, coordinated push in Detroit for more and better early childhood services.

But first, its boosters need to come up with a plan.

The biggest boosters—and likely funders—of this “civic partnership” dubbed Hope Starts Here are the Kellogg and Kresge Foundations.

They’re rounding up groups and people with a role in Detroit’s early childhood services, from day care providers to pediatricians.

Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron says the idea is to come up with an “action plan” that lets everyone can claim ownership.

Refugee children play in Warren, MI in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What will happen to U.S. policy toward Syrian refugees when Donald Trump takes over as president?

That’s what Michigan’s refugee community, and the agencies that help to resettle them, are waiting to find out.

Trump repeatedly depicted Syrian refugees as terrorist threats on the campaign trail, and threatened to “stop Syrian refugees” from entering the country more than once.

A map outlining the proposed transit master plan for Metro Detroit.
Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

A millage proposal to fund transit improvements has failed in Metro Detroit.

It would have allowed the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority to implement an ambitious transit master plan, upgrading the historically dismal and fragmented transit systems in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

The millage would have raised about $3 billion over 20 years to build bus rapid transit systems, bolster and better connect existing bus lines, provide transit connections to Detroit Metro Airport, and other services.

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