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

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.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
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.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with students at the Detroit Promise Zone scholarship announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is making a final push for a larger role in the city’s education landscape.

Duggan stood alongside some charter school operators and Detroit Public Schools officials Tuesday, in support of a Detroit Education Commission.

That commission is being debated in Lansing as part of a larger, bankruptcy-style restructuring for Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid if it’s to open doors in the fall.

Michael Jackman told us the RTA's plan is short-sighted, and that investing in light rail would serve Detroit better in the long term.
flickr user Matt Picio / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A grand vision to build up metro Detroit’s historically fractured transit infrastructure makes its official debut Tuesday.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority spent over a year crafting and gathering public input on the master plan.

user braun / Flickr

Detroit’s Marathon refinery will have to cut emissions, under new permits issued this week by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Marathon needs to meet new federal requirements for low-sulfur gasoline.

Because it needed to remove that sulfur, Marathon initially asked to increase its sulfur dioxide emissions, in a heavily-industrial area already considered the state’s most polluted ZIP code.

But after a fierce public backlash, Marathon and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found ways for the company to actually reduce those emissions.

Parents protest outside a Detroit elementary school earlier this year.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan

Some Detroit education activists and power players are making a last, all-out push for a specific component of any potential rescue package for Detroit Public Schools.

Lansing needs to come up with some plan to keep DPS from going bankrupt this summer.

But so far, state House leaders haven’t budged on a crucial issue for some: the proposed Detroit Education Commission.

That Commission would have the power to decide what schools open where in the city, including charter schools.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The board of the Great Lakes Water Authority finalized its first-ever budget Wednesday.

The GLWA emerged from Detroit’s bankruptcy. It now provides wholesale water and sewer services to millions of people in southeast Michigan.

The GLWA inherited some issues when it took over operations from the city of Detroit this year—including millions in bad debt from the city of Highland Park, mostly for unpaid sewer bills dating back many years.

The Authority petitioned Gov. Snyder’s office last month to help resolve that issue.

Hillary Clinton addressed the 2016 SEIU international convention in Detroit this May.
SEIU / via Twitter

Hillary Clinton made her second stop in Detroit this month, addressing union activists at the Service Employees International Union’s  convention on Monday.

Clinton told them the American economy and workplace have changed drastically in recent years, but too many of the policies that govern them haven’t.

She emphasized her support for worker-friendly policies like paid family leave, boosting the minimum wage, and equal pay for women.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather makes an announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Amidst tremendous uncertainty about its future existence, the Detroit Public Schools is trying to recruit teachers.

The district is holding a “DPS Day” recruitment fair for new teachers at Martin Luther King High School on Tuesday.

Officials admit that’s a challenging task when the district’s future is so insecure.

It’s waiting on state lawmakers to pass a huge aid package before it runs out of money altogether this summer.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather says the sooner Lansing can get that resolved, the better.

flickr user Bernt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit’s population has fallen to a level not seen since before 1920.

But there are signs that long-term trend has bottomed out.

According to the US Census Bureau’s latest estimate, Detroit’s population stood at just over 677,116 people last summer.

That means it’s no longer one of the 20 largest cities in the country.

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager, Steven Rhodes, met with the district’s elected board for the first time publicly Wednesday.

That board has been virtually powerless since emergency managers started running DPS in 2009.

Rhodes largely sat quietly, taking notes, as board members peppered him with questions about how the district got to the verge of bankruptcy. They’re pushing for a forensic audit of the district’s finances, particularly contracting practices, during the past seven years of state control.

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