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.

Ways to Connect

via stjohnprovidence.org

Most nurse-anesthetists at two Detroit-area hospitals lost their jobs Thursday, after they refused to sign a contract outsourcing their jobs to a private company.

The nurses worked for Saint John Providence hospitals in Southfield and Novi.

In October, the hospitals gave them a choice: either sign a contract with a brand-new company run by a hospital anesthesiologist, or “voluntarily resign” their jobs.

After weeks of contentious talks, 66 decided on the latter.

flickr user Joe Gratz

A federal judge has given some Wayne County homeowners suing over alleged illegal foreclosures a partial, early victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy granted a temporary restraining owner protecting three families from eviction at least through mid-January.

The families are part of a larger federal lawsuit that alleges officials from Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs illegally “conspired” to seize their homes through tax foreclosure, and sell them off to private developers.

Family photo

A watchdog group is calling for a Michigan State Police investigation into a fatal police shooting in Detroit last week.

A Dearborn police officer, whose name hasn’t been released, reportedly tried to arrest 35-year-old Kevin Matthews on Dec. 23.

Dearborn police say Matthews escaped their custody after being detained for suspected larceny earlier that day. He was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant in a different city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Eighteen people are suing Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs, alleging their homes were illegally taken in a tax foreclosure process that amounted to a “thinly veiled scheme” for “private profit.”

All the homeowner-plaintiffs in this case had their properties foreclosed by Wayne County over back taxes.

And in each case the cities they lived in, exercising their “right of first refusal” under Michigan tax law, reclaimed the properties before they could go to auction. The cities then sold the homes to developers.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A campaign to end New Year’s gunfire in Detroit is still going after eighteen years.

Organizers say it’s successfully put a damper on the unofficial tradition, with celebratory midnight gunfire waning in recent years—at least anecdotally.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says that seems to be true in his Detroit neighborhood, but many Detroiters are still afraid to venture out for New Year’s.

“You still hear a lot of people say, ‘I will be inside when people start shooting around midnight,’” Napoleon said.

thetoad / Flickr

The woman who wrote and championed Michigan’s groundbreaking Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has died.

Daisy Elliott was a state representative from Detroit for nearly two decades.

Fellow lawmakers remembered her as a quiet, gracious woman who fiercely opposed discrimination of any kind.

Her years-long campaign for state-level civil rights protections finally paid off in 1977, when the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act became law with bipartisan support. It declared:

Wikipedia

Macomb County just had to give an armored military surplus vehicle back to the federal government.

But it’s about to get another, very similar one — from the federal government. And it may get a second one, too.

President Obama ordered local law enforcement agencies to return armored personnel carriers and other surplus military equipment received through defense department programs.

It was an effort to quell growing fears about militarized policing nationwide. But it sparked a fierce backlash from many local officials, including Macomb County’s.

Wikipedia

DTE Energy is taking its biggest plunge into solar power yet, with a Lapeer County project announced Monday.

According to DTE, that project will be the “largest utility-owned solar array east of the Mississippi.”

It calls for nearly 150,000 solar panels spread over about 300 acres, generating a combined 45 megawatts of power on two sites. That’s more than three times the company’s solar output right now.

David Harwood, DTE’s director of renewable energy, says that until now its renewable energy portfolio has favored wind power.

Wikipedia

Michigan now has a nationally-accredited training program for sign language interpreters.

Oakland Community College’s program received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education this month.

OCC offers a three-year associate degree in American Sign Language interpretation. The program graduates around 20 interpreters each year.

It’s the first program in Michigan to receive that accreditation.

user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

Local governments in Michigan are not happy about some last-minute language added to a bill that just passed the state legislature.

Senate Bill 571 is mostly about campaign finance issues.

But tucked in at the very end of the bill is a provision that cities and townships argue amounts to a “gag rule” on them.

Dominic Simpson / flickr

The Detroit City Council has voted to restrict where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate in the city.

The Council passed a new zoning ordinance Thursday night. It approved another ordinance with dispensary licensing and inspection regulations in October.

The new rules limit dispensaries to certain industrial and business zones. They also set spacing regulations, and with limited exceptions ban them within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, and other designated “drug-free” zones.

Sean_Marshall / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A group of cities has successfully challenged DTE Energy’s plan to charge it more for LED streetlights.

A coalition of cities took its case against DTE’s proposed rate change to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

DTE claimed that it was merely adjusting prices as it “gains more experience” with LED technology.

That angered cities that had installed LED streetlighting, which is more energy-efficient than traditional lighting, but also more expensive upfront.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder signed a bill Wednesday meant to alleviate the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

The new law allows some retired teachers to return to the classroom in certain “critical shortage areas,” without sacrificing pension or health insurance benefits.

It’s not yet entirely clear where those critical shortage areas are.

The law also instructs the state superintendent to make that determination, and post the findings online by April.

Just a few months after a state-declared financial emergency, Wayne County officials are trumpeting what they call “swift” and “substantial” progress on the county’s budget deficit.

After that declaration from Gov. Rick Snyder – which came at County Executive Warren Evans’ request –Wayne County quickly entered into a consent agreement with the state. That gave Evans substantial power to get concessions from county employee unions.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Dozens of Hamtramck Muslims and their supporters held an anti-terrorism rally in front of the city hall there Friday.

They called ISIS a group of “murderers and thugs” who represent “Islam’s biggest enemy.”

The terror group has brutalized and killed far more Muslims than anyone else, said rally co-organizer Ibrahim Aljahim.

Aljahim said it was time for Hamtramck and Detroit Muslims to take a vocal stand against terror, and to make it clear that they consider the ISIS ideology both un-Islamic and un-American.

Lars Plougmann

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and voting rights advocates are denouncing a pair of election bills in the Michigan Legislature right now.

One is a state Senate bill that would restrict absentee voting hours, and ban absentee voting at satellite office locations.

Winfrey says Detroit is one of just a few Michigan cities to use satellite voting, and it’s been “very successful” there.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Seven Detroit Public Schools closed Thursday when too many teachers called in sick.

The “sick-out” is mostly a protest against Governor Snyder’s plans for the troubled district, which he wants to split in two and put through a bankruptcy-like overhaul.

detroitk12.org

A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted a former Education Achievement Authority principal, vendor and another person.

The indictment charges former Denby and Mumford High School principal Kenyetta Wilbourn-Snapp in a bribery and kickback scheme.

It alleges that Snapp granted almost $700,000 in after-school tutoring contracts to a company called Making A Difference Everyday (MADE).

The head of that company, Glynnis Thornton, allegedly then funneled money back to Snapp through a consulting firm run by the third defendant, Paulette Horton.

Eastern Michigan University
flickr user krossbow

Eastern Michigan University regents have decided not to decide on the Education Achievement Authority right now.

EMU is a partner with Detroit Public Schools in the interlocal agreement that created the state-run district for low-performing schools. Gov. Snyder’s education initiative was supposed to go statewide, but never expanded beyond an initial 15 former Detroit public schools.

Eastern Michigan University
flickr user krossbow

Gov. Snyder’s controversial Education Achievement Authority faces a key test at an Eastern Michigan University board of regents meeting Tuesday.

The EAA is Snyder’s signature education initiative. It was meant to be a statewide district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools, but has never expanded beyond 15 schools in Detroit.

The EAA never got legislative approval. It only exists because of a 2011 inter-local agreement between EMU, and the state-run Detroit Public Schools.

EMU’s involvement with the EAA has been condemned by many faculty and students.

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

The Great Lakes Water Authority is now more or less a done deal.

The final big hurdle was to get current Detroit Water and Sewerage Department bondholders to agree to transfer more than $5 billion in debt to the new Authority.

A majority did agree to that this week.

via d-rem.org

In an unusual move, a Wayne County judge has stepped in to halt a trial in progress in a lower court.

Two Detroit activists are on trial for disorderly conduct, a criminal misdemeanor, in 36th District Court.

They were part of a group of people arrested in July 2014 for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs.

The case was about to go to the jury, but city lawyers, unhappy with the proceedings, wanted a mistrial. District Court Judge Ruth Garrett denied the request.

Longtime Detroit community and civil rights activist Ron Scott has died of cancer.

Scott headed the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.

He left a big mark on the city’s police department, with his decades of activism against police misconduct and for increased transparency.

He was instrumental in securing a U.S. Justice Department consent decree against the DPD in 2003, at a time when Detroit police led the nation in civilian shootings. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit police officers should get a pay bump starting in 2016.

City officials announced Monday that officers will get  a 4% raise January 1.

It’s part of a deal that will extend the city’s three police unions’ contracts through 2020. That contract was negotiated and approved in 2014, during the city’s bankruptcy.

Police Chief James Craig says a pay boost is crucial to attracting and retaining officers, something the department is struggling with right now.

Physicians say button batteries are a potential hazard for small kids.
user Ubcule / wikimedia commons

An annual report from the Public Interest Research Group on potentially hazardous toys highlights some big safety improvements—and new dangers.

PIRG’s annual survey examined hundreds of toys for a number of potential hazards.

None of the toys this year tested positive for lead, but three did test positive for another restricted metal—chromium.

Dr. Jaime Hope, an emergency medicine specialist at Beaumont Hospital, says regulations are making some toy makers more creative.

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

Detroit’s water and sewerage department is about to do its last financing deal ever.

As of January 1, the DWSD will transfer operations of its treatment plants and infrastructure outside to the new, regional Great Lakes Water Authority, which emerged from Detroit's bankruptcy process.

At least, that’s the plan.

A majority of the current water and sewer bondholders still need to sign off on it.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two of Detroit’s self-proclaimed “water warriors” are speaking up about their court case.

The activists are on trial for alleged disorderly conduct during a July 2014 protest, when nine people attempted to blockade trucks belonging to Homrich, the company that does water shutoffs in Detroit.

Those mass water shutoffs are central to their defense, according to attorney Julie Hurwitz.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is paying to clean up the Delray neighborhood, the community that will host the U.S. side of a new bridge to Canada.

The money comes from the $1.4 million the city received when the state purchased Delray land for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

Residents hope it’s just the first of a number of investments in Delray as that project moves forward.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Longtime Detroit Congressman John Conyers quashed any speculation that he’s planning to retire.

On Monday, the 86-year-old announced he’ll seek a 27th term in the U.S. House.

Conyers is now the longest-serving member of Congress, a civil rights icon, and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Detroit Land Bank Authority

The city of Detroit has announced yet another partnership to rehab blighted homes.

Now it’s with the AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust, which uses labor pension fund money to finance a variety of housing projects.

Executive Vice President Eric Price says the HIT’s first priority is to get a good return on investment, and it now sees Detroit as a good bet.

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