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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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The Metro Detroit man who’s become the face of about 200 Iraqis fighting deportation was allowed to walk free on bond after an immigration judge’s ruling on Thursday.

Usama Hamama, better known as Sam, has been in jail since he was swept up in immigration raids last June. Those raids centered in Metro Detroit, and targeted Iraqi nationals with prior criminal convictions.

Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj's younger son, Eric, speaks on his father's behalf outside ICE offices in Detroit Wednesday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Supporters of a Metro Detroit man scheduled for deportation this week rallied on his behalf outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Detroit on Wednesday.

With his deportation imminent, Ded Rranxburgaj and his family sought sanctuary in a Detroit church last week.

Rranxburgaj entered the U.S. illegally in 2001 and has faced deportation orders before. The government granted him stays because his wife, Flora, is seriously ill with multiple sclerosis.

The "Big Four." From left: Mark Hackel, L. Brooks Patterson, Mike Duggan, Warren Evans.
Detroit Economic Club / via Twitter

This year’s gathering of Metro Detroit’s “Big Four” political leaders highlighted more points of division than unity.

Those leaders are Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

A spirit of regionalism did not prevail at this year’s event, held annually at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. And the future of regional transit was a major source of contention.

A neighborhood in Detroit
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s plan to get all city rental properties up to code launches at the start of next month.

Landlords in certain parts of the city will have 90 days to register their properties, and another 90 days to comply with a city ordinance.

Detroit updated and strengthened its rental ordinance last year, after letting it largely go unenforced for years.

Detroit Medical Center / Detroit Medical Center

The Detroit Medical Center is still trying to reach a new contract with some unionized workers at its five Detroit hospitals, after service and maintenance workers overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract agreement earlier this month.

Those workers, who range from janitorial staff to equipment technicians, say the first deal offered by the DMC’s for-profit owner, Tenet Health Care, was simply “inadequate.”

Willie Brooks
Oakland County

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority has named Willie Brooks its new CEO.

This is actually the second time Brooks has been offered the job as head of the state’s largest community mental health services provider.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Southgate family is now living above Detroit’s Central United Methodist Church.

They’ve sought sanctuary there in a last-ditch effort to save the father from a deportation order.

Wikimedia Commons

Southeast Michigan regional leaders have been meeting for months to develop a new regional transit plan, but at least one of those leaders says there’s nothing he can get behind yet.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says there’s no reason to build any system that relies on buses, suggesting those systems will soon be “obsolete.”

Part of the new Chevrolet Silverado lineup at the 2018 Detroit auto show.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show’s media preview week got started in Detroit this weekend.

Expect to hear a lot about trucks at this year’s show. GM got things rolling Saturday night with the debut of its new Chevrolet Silverado lineup.

With country music and nostalgic videos on loop, GM reminded us that it’s been doing trucks for 100 years. It’s a market that’s increasingly profitable and competitive in North America.

YouTube screengrab

Fiat Chrysler has announced it will shift production of heavy-duty Ram trucks from Mexico to metro Detroit by 2020.

Fiat Chrysler says the move will bring Ram production to the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, along with a $1 billion investment and 2,500 new jobs. There will also be a $1.5 billion investment in the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant to build the next-generation Ram 1500 truck, creating an additional 700 new jobs.

The automaker also announced it will give one-time, $2,000 bonuses to its U.S. employees.

number of hepatitis A case in Michigan by year
Data from MDHHS / Michigan Radio

As of last week, Michigan officially has the deadliest of several hepatitis A outbreaks going on nationwide.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, at least 22 people have died from outbreak-related cases since August 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit swore in a crop of city officials to new, four-year terms Tuesday.

Unlike four years ago, when the city was just about to emerge from bankruptcy and was still still under state control, this time nearly all are incumbents who have done the job before.

That includes Mayor Mike Duggan, who says he’s back for another full, four-year term.

Highland Park municipal building
City of Highland Park

Highland Park is a small city with a lot of vacant land. Now, it's trying to use that vacant space as an asset to lure developers.

At just under three square miles, the city is basically an enclave within the city of Detroit, along the central Woodward Avenue corridor. A once-prosperous city built on the backs of automakers, Highland Park is now close to economically destitute.

Mariam Elamine / Southwest Solutions

When the weather gets as bitterly cold as it is right now, an already-dangerous life becomes downright lethal for people living on the streets.

There are teams who try to bring in them in from the cold, if only for a couple days. But first, they have to find them.

detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit leaders say violent crime is trending downward in the city, a fact Mayor Mike Duggan and law enforcement officials touted Thursday as they released the city’s complete, but still unofficial, 2017 crime statistics. 

Police Chief James Craig admits that while the numbers are looking better, Detroit is still one of the most violent big cities in the country.

“We’re not saying we’re successful. We’re saying we’re making progress, and we want to sustain the progress,” Craig said. “And we’re doing it.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Public Service Commission acted appropriately when it signed off on a 2015 rate hike for Consumers Energy customers, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a ruling this week.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and groups representing business and residential Consumers customers sued to overturn the new rates.

They said Consumers didn’t make a strong enough case for the 10.3% rate hike.

The FAST bus route along Michigan Ave.
via SMART

Three of Metro Detroit’s main traffic corridors are getting new, faster bus service along some main thoroughfares starting New Year’s Day.

The new FAST service will be run by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, better-known as SMART.

FAST buses will run along Gratiot, Woodward, and Michigan Avenues, connecting downtown Detroit to points in Macomb, Oakland, and Western Wayne counties.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Gov. Snyder signed end-of-year bills to “modernize” the state’s unemployment system, but some say they don’t do enough to repair the damage caused when the state switched to an automated claims processing system.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) wrongly accused more than 40,000 people of fraud, sometimes going back as far as six years, and collected over $46 million in penalties. State assessments of the program during that time found false fraud error rates of at least 70%.

wikihow

Detroit has illegally collected millions of dollars in parking ticket fines since 2014, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

In April 2014, Detroit’s then-emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, issued an order raising ticket fines. The lowest fine was set at $45, and the city began ticketing at the higher rates in the summer of that year.

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

A federal judge has rejected an attempt to overturn her ruling that forbids the state from suspending driver’s licenses over traffic debt.

But the ruling doesn’t apply retroactively, so people who’ve already lost their licenses are out of luck for now.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker ruled last week that suspending licenses over unpaid traffic debt violates due process rights, unless drivers get a court hearing to determine whether they actually can pay first.

A Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Wikipedia

Macomb County’s Selfridge Air National Guard base has lost its bid to house a fleet of next-generation warplanes.

Selfridge was one of five U.S. bases competing to host the new F-35 fighter jets.

But the Air Force announced Thursday it chose bases in Wisconsin and Alabama as winners in this round.

A bipartisan group of Michigan political leaders lobbied hard in Washington to land the F-35 and boost Selfridge’s long-term prospects.

Michigan State Police patrol vehicle shield
Michigan State Police

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged a former Michigan State Police trooper and three Detroit police officers with a slew of serious crimes, including second-degree murder.

Former MSP trooper Mark Bessner faces the murder charge. He’s also charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Lansing has put Michigan’s biggest mental health agency on notice that its state certification may be in jeopardy.

That agency is the Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority. This year, it doled out over $700 million to community mental health service providers serving about 80,000 people.

The warning came in a December 18th letter from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to DWMHA leaders, after Michigan Radio reported on concerns about how the Authority conducts business.

Detroit is trying to fight a hepatitis A outbreak in the face of limited resources and low national vaccine supplies.

Detroit health department director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun talked about the city’s efforts to fight an outbreak of the viral liver disease on a conference call with other local and national health leaders Tuesday.

Michigan is one of a handful of states experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks right now. Michigan’s is one of the largest, with 610 cases and 20 deaths reported since August 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office was the target of a Christmas-themed protest on Sunday.

The protesters want hundreds of Iraqi nationals released immediately. Nearly 300 Iraqis with criminal records have been in federal detention for months, after most were swept up in mass arrests this spring.

Richard Phillips with attorney Gabi Silver just after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Richard Phillips spent 45 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit. But on Thursday, he emerged a free man--at least for the time being.

An artist's rendering of the as-yet-unnamed planned development on the former Hudson's site.
Bedrock

Detroit is “going vertical.”

That’s what developer Dan Gilbert said Thursday at the groundbreaking for a project set to transform the city's skyline.

The $1 billion dollar project is going up on the former site of Hudson’s Department Store. The store closed in 1983, and the building was imploded in 1998.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, Vice News released the results of a thorough, nine-month investigation into police shootings nationwide.

If you look at it in map form, you’ll see an empty gray box near the top-center, signifying “unknown.” That’s Detroit.

University of Michigan

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says the school is in good shape for the next century.

Speaking Monday at the Detroit Economic Club to celebrate U-M’s bicentennial, Schlissel addressed topics ranging from its research budget and financial aid, to sexual harassment policies and a pending on-campus speaking request from well-known white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s partial recount of the November 7 general election is over.

The recount didn’t change the results of any races, but it did highlight some issues that continue to plague the city’s elections.

City clerk candidate Garlin Gilchrist requested a partial recount of that race, which he narrowly lost to incumbent Janice Winfrey.

The recount confirmed Winfrey’s win. But 33 precincts representing more than 7,000 votes couldn’t be re-tallied at all.

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