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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 three high schools that make up the Osborn campus could all close at the end of this school year.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Lansing spent $617 million last year to keep the Detroit Public Schools alive. That solved the district’s massive debt problem, but it didn’t start to touch some of the district’s other chronic issues.

A year ago, Detroit schools were in genuine crisis. The district was cycling through state-appointed emergency managers, and faced the prospect of going bankrupt before the end of the school year.

And that was just some of the turmoil.


Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is prepared to sue the state if it moves ahead on its threat to shut down some low-performing schools.

The district’s school board approved the potential lawsuit at a meeting Wednesday night.

DPSCD has 16 schools that the State School Reform Office has named persistently low-performing, and at risk for closure after this school year.

But the district says the state shouldn’t shut those schools down. And it’s prepared to go to court to stop it.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s largest skilled trades union has agreed to train more Detroit residents in construction work.

The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights says three of its local units will commit to new targets.

Those include making sure that Detroiters make up at least 25% of new apprentices, and tripling their Detroit membership in the next 10 years.

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Oakland County
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Is there a link between crime rates and refugee resettlement in the U.S.?

One group’s research suggests there is--a beneficial one, and that one Michigan city has benefited the most.

The research is from a group called Partnership for a New American Economy. It’s a nationwide group of mayors and businesspeople who tout the benefits of immigration.

There are three smaller high schools on the larger Osborn High School campus. All three face potential closure because of low test scores.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

As the state decides which schools it’s deemed “failing” will close, students, parents and staff at some Detroit schools on the chopping block are rallying for them to stay open.

That includes Osborn High School, which is actually three smaller schools on one campus. All three could be shut down at the end of this school year because of persistently low test scores.

But many in the Osborn community say that’s a bad idea for a whole variety of reasons. Some of them explained as they rallied outside the school on a brutally cold Friday.

Protesters and police inside Detroit Metro Airport.
Courtesy of Carey Swanson

A federal judge in Detroit has struck down a portion of President Trump’s temporary ban on some immigrants, but it only applies to some of those affected by the ban.

Judge Victoria Roberts’ permanent injunction only applies to “lawful permanent residents”—greencard holders—from the seven countries named in Mr. Trump’s executive order.

(Read the injunction here.)

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

Some of the people most directly affected by President Trump’s immigration order spoke about their hopes and fears Thursday.

Trump’s executive order has caused “generalized panic” among refugees and some immigrant communities. That’s according to the head of the state’s largest refugee resettlement agency.

Sean De Four is vice president of that agency, Samaritas, until recently an arm of Lutheran Social Services. De Four says the group is proceeding as if Trump’s order halting refugee re-settlement is temporary, but some of their clients don’t share that hope.

Lamarr Monson and his mother, Delores, just after his release from jail.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man convicted of murder more than 20 years ago walked free on Wednesday.

A Wayne County judge overturned Lamarr Monson’s conviction for killing a 12-year-old girl earlier this week.

That was after years of legal and investigative work unearthed new eyewitness testimony and fingerprint evidence pointing to another killer.

Monson confessed to killing Christina Brown. But he later insisted he was tricked into confessing by Detroit police, and fought for years to have his conviction overturned.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Chanting slogans like “No ban, no wall!” and “Refugees are welcome here,” thousands of protesters jammed parts of Detroit Metro Airport Sunday evening.

It was yet another demonstration against President Trump’s executive order that bars arrivals of immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey has broken her public silence about irregularities in the city’s November’s election results.

Michigan’s presidential recount was halted mid-process. But the partial recount revealed that more than half of Detroit precincts were legally ineligible to be recounted, because reported vote counts didn’t match the actual number of ballots.

That prompted the state to launch an audit, which is still wrapping up. Winfrey has said very little during that time.

Detroit health department employee Mariah Allen says the EITC will be a "great relief" for her family.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Tens of thousands of Detroit households who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit don’t claim it, leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table.

Now, the city is expanding services to help eligible residents get that money.

The Earned Income Tax Credit helps lower-income working families, and it’s a substantial boost for many. The average EITC refund is $2400.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

According to Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit has nothing to fear from President Trump’s executive order on so-called “sanctuary cities”—because Detroit is not one.

Detroit is sometimes called a sanctuary city because of a 2007 anti-profiling ordinance that bans police from asking about immigration status during traffic stops, while interviewing witnesses, and in most other cases.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts
Jim Fouts Facebook page

Warren residents and their elected officials are sharply divided in their opinions about the fate of the city’s longtime mayor, Jim Fouts.

That was on display at heated and sometimes wild city council meeting Tuesday night.

Leaked audio tapes seem to show Fouts mocking and degrading African Americans, disabled people, and others.

But many people defended Fouts, who claims the tapes are fakes concocted by his political enemies.

A table filled with cups of Flint water
Flint Water Study / Facebook

A federal lawsuit over the state’s response to the Flint water crisis was back in court Tuesday, for arguments over whether the state has ignored a judge’s order to ensure Flint residents have access to safe drinking water.

In November, Judge David Lawson issued an injunction ordering the state to do two things: verify that all Flint households have properly-installed water filters; or, in cases where that’s not possible, deliver bottled water. The state wants that order dismissed.

A neighborhood in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit homeowners should start seeing property tax bills that better reflect the true value of their home.

That’s because the city just finished its first city-wide residential property re-assessment in six decades.

The city says these new assessments are based on actual property sales from October 2014-September 2016, and other property-specific data.

Detroit school leaders point to Coleman A. Young Elementary School as a successful turnarond effort led from within the district.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit school leaders say they’re ready to take on the task of transforming some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

But first, they’re inviting counterparts from around the country to a “learning summit” next week, to discuss and formulate a broader school turnaround strategy.

flickr.com

The city of Detroit is signing onto a federal lawsuit that claims many Detroit students are being denied a fundamental “right to read.”

Activists and pro bono legal groups filed the suit last September, with support from groups like the American Federation of Teachers.

But now the city of Detroit is also jumping on board. City lawyers filed an amicus brief this week.

DetroitMI.gov

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says he wants to speed up the process of acquiring blighted homes through the Detroit Land Bank Authority, an agency under federal investigation.

The current city treasurer, David Szymanski, will step down from that role and move over to the land bank to lead a “litigation team” that will focus on seizing more blighted properties under nuisance abatement laws, Duggan said Thursday.

Western Union sign.
user Metropolico.org / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The American Arab Civil Rights League says it’s resolved a discrimination complaint against Western Union.

The ACRL filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after the money-transfer service had cut off service to Haidar Abdallah, an Arab-American man from Metro Detroit.

ACRL director Rula Aoun said Western Union refused to continue doing business with Abdallah after asking for information about his employment and financial background. And the company never explained its actions.

The Big 4 on the big screen at Cobo Center. Left to right: Mark Hackel, L. Brooks Patterson, Mike Duggan, and Warren Evans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit’s “Big Four” had their annual public gathering at Detroit’s auto show today.

The four leaders are the Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county executives, and Detroit’s mayor. It’s usually a mostly feel-good conversation about regional cooperation.

And indeed, they did talk about that and a range of other issues. But the leaders also couldn’t avoid the topic of the hour: Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.

Leaked audio tapes seem to show Fouts making incredibly degrading comments about African-Americans and disabled people, among others.

King at Grosse Pointe South High School, March 14, 1968.
via Grosse Pointe Historical Society

In March of 1968, Martin Luther King  Jr. came to Grosse Pointe, a nearly all-white Detroit suburb.

He gave a speech at Grosse Pointe South High School called “The Other America.” Three weeks later, he was shot and killed.

This past weekend, people gathered in that same gym to hear a recording of that speech. Nearly 50 years later, it still strikes a powerful chord.

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Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

In just five years, more than 35% of American households could find themselves unable to afford water bills.

That’s the startling conclusion of a new study from Michigan State University.

A ceiling hole at Noble Elementary Middle-School in early 2016
Detroit Federation of Teachers

There was movement Thursday on two federal lawsuits filed over poor learning conditions in Detroit schools.

The American Federation of Teachers announced a settlement with the Detroit Public Schools over decrepit building conditions in some schools.

The settlement lays out a process for reporting, logging and prioritizing requests for building repairs, as well as timelines for following through.

Detroit Public Schools Community District sign
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

New Detroit school board members officially took office Wednesday night.

It’s the first time the district has had a true school board since a series of emergency managers took over in 2009.

The district is in much better financial shape after a state-sponsored aid package passed in June. In fact, it currently has a budget surplus.

But it faces a number of chronic problems, including 264 vacant teaching positions. 163 are now being staffed by substitutes, interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather told board members.

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
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.

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