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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Politics
5:17 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

UAW commemorates 75 years since "The Battle of the Overpass"

UAW leaders after the Battle of the Overpass, 1937.
via Walter P. Reuther Library Wayne State University

The UAW remembered the 75th anniversary of the “Battle of the Overpass” Friday.

Many union members see the event as a pivotal point in Detroit--and national--labor history.

On May 26th, 1937, UAW President Walter Reuther and other union leaders were trying to organize workers at the massive Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn.

A confrontation ensued, and some union leaders were badly beaten by members of Henry Ford’s security team.

Bernie Ricke is President of UAW Local 600, which represents Ford Rouge workers today.

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Politics
9:17 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Detroit City Council approves new budget, continues to argue over consent agreement

The Detroit City Council approved a new budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.

But the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget.

The budget that Council approved by a 6-3 vote is pretty similar to the $1.1 billion plan Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April.

The Council restored some money to the budget. But they mostly preserved the roughly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed.

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Politics
1:55 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Wayne County's Ficano censured in "watered down" measure

Wayne County Chief Executive, Robert Ficano.
Wayne County YouTube

Wayne County Commissioners voted today to censure County Executive Robert Ficano, but the vote also exposed divisions within the Commission.

The resolution to “censure the Wayne County Chief Executive Officer” has no real teeth, and it doesn’t mention Ficano by name.

That last fact angered County Commissioner Laura Cox, who sponsored the initial censure resolution. She ended up voting against what she called the “watered down” measure.

Cox called that “pathetic.”

“The Commission has no power to censure, by state law. But I guess we also have no power to ask for somebody to resign, which is exactly what my resolution did. So they feel that that was too strong, obviously,” said Cox.

Cox wants the Commission to put a county charter revision on the ballot. It would ask voters to give Commissioners or other elected officials the authority to remove county officials under certain circumstances.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara said the resolution was appropriate, given the Commission’s limited powers.

“To say that, "you should leave right now," that would have no more authority than Donald Trump walking in here under public comment and saying, ‘Bob Ficano, you’re fired,’” said Palamara.

Ficano’s administration has been under an FBI investigation for months. Several former top aides have been indicted on corruption charges, but Ficano has always denied any personal wrongdoing, and waved off suggestions that he resign.

Politics
4:28 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Detroit lawyers: We'll probably take consent agreement to court

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad creative commons

Officials with Detroit’s law department they’ll most likely challenge the city’s consent agreement with the state.

Last week, Detroit’s corporation counsel issued a letter suggesting the agreement was illegal because the state owes the city money.

State officials say that premise is all wrong, and the opinion has no legal merit.

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Politics
10:56 am
Tue May 22, 2012

Detroit Works Project gets long-term planning input--but is anybody listening?

Houses in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood
Andrew Jameson Wikimedia commons

A project that aims to radically re-shape Detroit’s geography and better align resources with its declining population is starting to wrap up.

After a rocky launch in 2010, city officials split the Detroit Works Project into short-term and long-term planning teams.

The long-term plan organizers have been holding community meetings for months. They’re trying to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the city’s future.

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Education
4:00 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Urban Forest Stewardship Program wraps up first year in Detroit

Belle Isle Nature Zoo Manager Mike Reed shows off a new nature trail DPS students helped clear.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some Detroit Public Schools students involved in the Urban Forest Stewardship Program showed off their work this past weekend.

Eight Detroit middle and high schools participated in the program on Belle Isle this year.

Their projects included beach clean-ups, water quality testing, invasive species control, and clearing a new nature trail.

Tracy Ortiz, a sixth-grade science teacher at Detroit’s Clippert Academy, says the projects have introduced many of her students many of her students to natural world—and taught them science in a way that sticks.

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Immigration
2:31 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Dearborn immigration town hall tries to bridge gap between law enforcement, public

Top federal law enforcement officials took questions on immigration laws at a Dearborn town hall Thursday night.

Organizers say the event was meant to break down barriers between law enforcement and the public on a particularly complex and emotional topic: immigration.

Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Detroit ICE field office director Rebecca Adducci, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Detroit office director Mick Dedvukaj fielded questions on a range of topics.

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Business
11:02 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Officials break ground for new retail complex in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder and the Gateway Shopping Center groundbreaking ceremony.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Calling it the first such new retail development in the city in decades, officials broke ground on the site of a future 36-acre shopping center Thursday.

Detroiters have long noted the city’s lack of many quality shopping options—especially when it comes to buying groceries.

Officials hope the Gateway Shopping Center--on the former Michigan State fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward-- will help fill some of that void.

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Politics
6:10 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Governor Snyder, Mayor Bing dismiss letter calling Detroit consent agreement "null and void"

Detroit’s top lawyer says the city’s consent agreement with the state isn’t legally binding.

Corporation counsel Krystal Crittenden sent a letter to Governor Snyder’s office calling the agreement “void and unenforceable.”

The letter cites money the state owes the city—and says Detroit’s charter forbids it from entering into agreements with debtors.

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Politics
3:26 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments on EM ballot question

District I offices of the Michigan Court if Appeals in Detroit
Mike Russell wikimedia commons

The question of whether voters should get to weigh in on the state’s emergency manager law now rests with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A panel of the court heard arguments today both for and against putting the referendum on the November ballot.

A coalition of labor and other activist groups collected more than 220,000 petition signatures to do just that.

But the state Board of Canvassers blocked the question based on a complaint that some of the type on the referendum petitions was in the wrong size.

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Politics
8:46 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Detroit budget process churns on with Law, Health Department talks

Another Detroit city department says it simply can’t function if proposed budget cuts go through.

The law department says “there is no way” the unit can run on what’s allotted in Mayor Dave Bing’s budget proposal.

Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittenden told the Detroit City Council the city’s new charter gives the law department new responsibilities.

Bing proposes slashing their budget by more than half. But the Council moved to restore most of that funding.

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Transportation
5:58 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

State announces milestone in long-delayed Gateway Project

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley at the truck road opening Tuesday.
Michigan Department of Transportation via facebook

State officials celebrated a major milestone toward finishing the long-delayed Gateway Project Tuesday.

They opened a road that will route trucks directly to the Ambassador Bridge from surrounding highways.

The Gateway Project is meant to better connect the bridge and highways. It’s also supposed to keep heavy truck traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods.

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Politics
12:11 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Detroit NAACP celebrates 100 years, talks future of civil rights at annual dinner

The Detroit branch of the NAACP held its annual “Fight for Freedom fund” dinner last night.

There was celebration of the branch’s centennial anniversary this year. But there was also grave concern over continuing civil rights struggles.

The dinner is traditionally one of the Detroit NAACP’s largest—and most lucrative—events.

This year, it drew thousands of people, including much of Michigan’s political and business elite.

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Transportation
10:07 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit Bus Company revs up for cinco de mayo "test run"

Detroit Bus Company via facebook

Starting this weekend, there’s a new transit option for people looking to get around downtown Detroit.

A new, private bus company is looking to fill in some of the gaps in Detroit’s battered transit system.

The Detroit Bus Company will run a route linking the city’s central neighborhoods and Southwest Detroit on Saturday. Historically, that relatively small area hasn’t been linked very well by traditional public transit.

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Politics
9:54 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit City Clerk: Budget cuts "don't make sense," would compromise elections

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

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Business
5:18 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

DTE shareholders meeting met by protests

DTE Energy shareholders were met by protesters at their annual meeting in Detroit Thursday.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the company’s Detroit headquarters.  And inside, several interrupted CEO Gerard Anderson as he tried to run the meeting.

Protesters shouted for DTE to “Pay its fair share!”

They were talking about the fact that DTE was named as one of the nation’s “Dirty 30” companies in a recent report—one that paid more in lobbying expenses than federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

Demonstrators also protested the utility’s shutoff policies. The utility shut off service to 200,000 in its southeast Michigan service area in 2011.

That number has more than doubled over the past five years.

Demonstrators also criticized DTE’s continued reliance on coal-fired power, rather than renewable energy.

Protester Thomas Reinke said renewable power sources are now both cleaner and less expensive than coal.

 “We’re getting poorer and poorer every day, and we’re being forced to pay high costs of utilities that could be offset by wind and solar, or other types of renewable energy,” said Reinke, who says he owns a small, residential renewable energy business.

DTE officials announced Thursday that they’re looking for more wind energy suppliers.

“DTE Energy is seeking approximately 100 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy from Michigan-based wind projects that will be operating by the end of 2013.  This solicitation is part of DTE Energy's plan to meet Michigan's renewable energy goals,” the company said in a written statement.

By state law, they must provide 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

As for the tax-dodging accusations, a DTE spokesman counters that the utility has paid more $1 billion in taxes since 2008, mostly to state and local governments.

Politics
10:36 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit City Council works to fill financial advisory board

The Detroit City Council is interviewing candidates for the city’s new financial advisory board this week.

The nine-member financial advisory board is a requirement outlined in Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

The City Council gets to appoint two members, and approve the rest, who are appointed by the Governor, State Treasurer, and Mayor.

On Wednesday, the Council interviewed Mary Beth Kuderik, Chief Financial Officer for the UAW Retiree Benefits Trust.

Council members seemed keenly interested in Kuderik’s record managing health care costs—one of the city’s biggest long-term expenditures.

Kuderik says she thinks the city could save a lot of money in health care costs.

“My sense is that there would be opportunity for savings, even in terms of cash flow,” she said.”

Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown cautioned it won’t be a part-time job to start.

“There is so much information that you have to be brought up to speed on, to understand how the city operates, that I really do see it being a full-time job for 30-45 days,” Brown said.

The Council has until May 10th to finalize the board.

So far, only one advisory board appointee lives in Detroit. That’s a concern to some Council members.

Several Council members have said qualified city residents they’ve approached have declined interviews, saying the issue is too contentious.

Politics
7:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Detroit's neighborhood city halls likely to disappear

Detroit’s community access centers are one casualty of the city’s ongoing cost-cutting.

The centers, also known as neighborhood city halls, get no funds in Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed budget.

Their functions—like organizing the annual Angel’s Night and Motor City Makeover campaigns—will be shifted to neighborhood recreation centers.

But Detroit City Council members question how that transition will work without any funding. Bing’s proposed budget eliminates funding for several city departments.

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Science/Medicine
6:41 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan community health centers get federal grants

wikimedia commons

10 community health centers in Michigan will get $19.6 million in federal funds.

Those health centers are key primary care providers for uninsured and underinsured people in many communities.

The money is part of about $11 billion provided to community health clinics through the national health care reform law.

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Transportation
6:06 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

New program, more promised improvements for Detroit buses

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit leaders are promising better service for the city’s more than 100,000 regular bus riders.

Officials phased in what they’re calling the "415 plan" this past weekend.

It promises service every fifteen minutes along the city’s four busiest bus routes during peak riding hours (6 am-6 pm).

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing turned bus management over to a private firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, earlier this year. He credits them with improving service.

“I think the outside management team has worked very, very well with our employees," said Bing, speaking Monday during his first day back from more than a month-long battle with health problems. "They’re listening to each other, they’re good ideas being brought to the table, and the implementation plan is moving forward.”

But the four-fifteen initiative comes on the heels of cutbacks to other city bus routes, and the elimination of overnight service.

And while timely service has improved, city officials admit it’s still a long way from where it needs to be.

“It should be 90-95% [on-time]," said Detroit Department of Transportation CEO Ron Freeland. "Especially when you consider that most of our customers are going to use more than one bus line.”

In a report released just last week, the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United gave Detroit’s bus system a “D-minus” grade—with only 63% of buses arriving on-time.

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