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
1:53 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Detroit City Council approves consent agreement--what's next?

Detroit Council members Kwame Kenyatta, left, and James Tate during a debate over the consent agreement
Max Ortiz Associated Press

It’s all but official: Detroit and the state have struck a deal to avoid an emergency manager for the city.

In a contentious 5-4 vote, the City Council approved a consent agreement with the state. The narrow vote came after an emotionally-charged debate that sometimes erupted into hostility.

But everyone agreed on one point: the city of Detroit will never be the same.

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Politics
6:30 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Detroit Council delays vote on consent agreement... again

Detroit City Council members James Tate, left, and Kwame Kenyatta
Max Ortiz Associated Press

The Detroit City Council has again delayed voting on a consent agreement that would stave off an emergency manager.

The Council spent most of Tuesday discussing several court challenges that could doom the agreement regardless of how they vote.

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Politics
11:18 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Another day, and still no decision in Detroit

State officials had  hoped Monday would be the day the Detroit City Council finally approved a consent agreement with the state.

Instead, it started out with a contentious public hearing about union contracts, and ended in a confusing mess of court challenges—with no clear answer about how the whole process will go forward.

The day began with Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis confirming he won’t ask the City Council to approve new labor contracts for city workers.

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Politics
12:45 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing released from hospital

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been released from the hospital. Bing was first hospitalized more than a week ago, after experiencing "discomfort" after a dental appointment.

"The Mayor will recuperate at home from surgery to correct a perforated colon and is expected to be out of the office for approximately three weeks," said Bing's press secretary, Naomi Patton, in a written statement.

The Mayor continues to interact daily with his office and is engaged with ongoing City operations."

In the meantime, Bing's designee in his absence, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis, told City Council that the Mayor's office supports the latest draft of a proposed consent agreement from the state.

"It's ready for consideration," Lewis said this morning, adding that "It's time for a thumbs up, thumbs down" vote.

A spokeswoman for Governor Snyder says he wants a deal done as soon as possible, and says the Governor considers this Thursday a hard deadline to reach an agreement.

Politics
11:06 am
Mon April 2, 2012

After offering concessions, Detroit unions won't get a vote

wikimedia commons

Update 11:06 a.m.

In addition to threatening to strike, AFSCME officials say they will also file a federal lawsuit to try and compel Detroit City Council to take a vote on the tentative agreements the unions bargained for.

Unions are also in federal court seeking a restraining order. They're trying to prevent the Detroit City Council from signing off on a consent agreement.

10:49 a.m.

Time is running out for Detroit and state officials to reach an agreement to stave off an emergency manager.

This morning, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis confirmed he won’t ask the City Council to approve new labor contracts for city workers.

That infuriates union leaders, who gave up historic concessions in an effort to save money and avoid an emergency manager.

Al Garrett, President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees in Detroit, said this is about breaking unions, not Detroit’s fiscal crisis.

"People don’t have to come to work if in fact their rights are being abridged," said Garrett. "It is not unusual for strikes in the city of Detroit, and I’m pretty sure that they may be met with some stiff opposition with regards to taking away rights that folks have had for years."

Gov. Snyder has said those concessions don’t go far enough. Under a proposed consent agreement, city officials would have broad powers to skip collective bargaining and impose union contracts.

Politics
3:33 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

Detroit International Bridge Company appeals judge's Gateway Project ruling

Jim Wallace flickr.com

The Detroit International Bridge Company is challenging a court ruling that removes its control over a key construction project.

Earlier this month, a judge ordered the Michigan Department of Transportation to completely take over the Gateway Project.

The project is intended to better connect the Ambassador Bridge and nearby highways.

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Politics
8:33 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Detroit union coalition wins a day in court; another legal hurdle for consent agreement?

A coalition of Detroit city unions has won a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court.

The unions want a proposed consent agreement between Detroit and the state thrown out because of alleged Open Meetings Act violations.

They say state and city leaders inappropriately met on 44 separate occasions to draft the proposed consent agreement now being considered by the Detroit City Council.

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Politics
12:09 am
Fri March 30, 2012

New state offer gets skeptical reception from Detroit City Council

The Detroit City Council vetted a proposed state deal to fend off insolvency on Thursday.

The deal is formally called a “financial stability agreement.”

But it's clearly a legally enforceable consent agreement under Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4.

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Security
5:18 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

After two years, Hutaree militia trial ends in a whimper

What began as a major domestic terrorism trial involving nine members of the Michigan-based Hutaree militia has ended with just two men pleading guilty to weapons charges.

The nine Hutaree militia members were arrested almost exactly two years ago.

The federal government initially accused them of plotting to “levy war against the United States,” among other charges.

They allegedly plotted to kill a police officer, then attack the subsequent funeral, sparking a larger uprising against the government.

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Politics
12:55 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan Governor Snyder holds Q & A session in Detroit; City Council set to consider deal Thursday

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder answering questions at a town hall meeting held at the Wayne County Community College in Detroit.
LiveStream

The Detroit City Council is expected to debate a "financial stability agreement" with the state on Thursday.

That news came just a few hours after  Gov. Rick Snyder took to a stage at Wayne County Community College to answer questions.

Snyder said the event was an effort to end the "miscommunication" about his plans for Detroit.

"I'm not here to run the city," Snyder said. "I'm here to be a supporting resource."

The questions were pointed, but the mood was calm, especially when compared to the wild public meeting held by the state's financial review team earlier this week in which one protester, Malik Shabazz,  threatened to burn the city down before allowing a "state takeover" (Charlie LeDuff of Fox News in Detroit later got Shabazz to take back that statement).

Gov. Snyder showed emotion during the town hall meeting as he tried to explain his reasons for wanting to enter into some kind of deal with city leaders rather than appointing an emergency manager.

He said the financial crisis the city is facing is casting a shadow over positive trends in Detroit, and if more citizens are thinking of leaving the city "we are in trouble!"

In one of his more animated moments, Snyder said when he talks to young people in Detroit he asks them, "do you want to be a yuppie living in Chicago, or come make a difference in Detroit?"

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Politics
9:48 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Detroit review team affirms financial emergency, but still no clear path forward

The state review team investigating Detroit’s finances met for what was supposed to be the last time Monday.

They reaffirmed that Detroit is in “severe financial stress” during a raucous meeting that veered into chaos at times.

Protesters, angry at what many call an unconstitutional hostile takeover of the city, mostly shouted over team members as they tried to deliberate.

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Politics
5:26 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Crowd interrupts state financial review meeting in Detroit

JSFauxtaugraphy Flickr

Update 5:26 p.m.

The state review team looking into Detroit’s finances held what was supposed to be its last meeting today.

The meeting was chaotic.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon and other review team members were often drowned out by shouting and singing protesters in the audience.

In the end, the review reaffirmed that a "severe financial emergency" does exist in Detroit.

But there's no consent agreement between the state and city leaders yet.

Dillon said Governor Snyder is still talking with city leaders.

"If a consent agreement can be adopted, that's an alternative for the Governor, and that's what he prefers to see," said Dillon.

Dillon says if the two sides can't reach an agreement, the Governor can appoint an emergency manager for Detroit.

But by law, he'll need to act within the next ten days.

5:00 p.m.

The state financial review team meeting in Detroit today has adjourned. They did so without making recommendations to Gov. Snyder for how to resolve Detroit's financial crisis.

The meeting was open to the public and was interrupted by loud outbursts from the crowd. The Detroit Free Press estimated the crowd at around 100 people.

4:35 p.m.

A state-appointed financial review team met in Detroit today and was expected to deliver its recommendation to Gov. Snyder regarding the potential appointment of a emergency manager for the city.

Protesters attending the meeting interrupted State Treasurer Andy Dillon during his presentation shouting "No takeover." At one point, the crowd began to sing "We Shall Overcome."

More from the Detroit Free Press:

State treasurer Andy Dillon couldn’t finish his report about Detroit’s finances because the crowd was standing and shouting. Audience members were warned that they will be removed if they continue interrupting proceedings.

At one point Dillon called the audience rude, prompting more protest and causing security to move in on the meeting. The review board attempted to continue with its discussion. Police officers were present at the meeting.

Later, a skirmish between a security guard and a protester interrupted the meeting, but financial review team members tried to keep the meeting going.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek was at the meeting and will have more for us later.

Politics
3:30 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Detroit and state officials close to a deal?

Update 3:30 p.m.

Governor Snyder says he’s still talking with Detroit officials about an agreement to keep the city financially afloat.

A state review team has already declared a “severe financial emergency” in Detroit. That means they’ll recommend some kind of state intervention to keep the city from going broke. 

The Governor says talks continue over what a “financial stability agreement” will look like.

But he says that agreement needs to contain language that could turn it into a consent agreement if the city fails to live up to its promises.

“So to take this financial stability agreement and enhance it, so that it could also qualify as a consent agreement. So it would meet the requirements for Public Act 4. But it would really be this financial stability agreement going forward about how we could work the city as partners.”

Public Act 4 is the state’s emergency manager law. Under a consent agreement, the mayor or other city officials could get broad powers similar to those of an emergency manager.

2:50 p.m.

Gov. Snyder spoke with members of the media today about a plan to avoid a financial crisis in Detroit.

Sndyer and other state officials are in Detroit today working toward a solution. Snyder said negotiations with city leaders are "fairly far along," and they are a "couple of paragraphs away" from an agreement.

Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon are hoping city leaders will sign off on a consent agreement designed to avoid a looming financial crisis in Detroit.

City leaders rejected an initial proposal by the state and have been working on a plan of their own.

From the Detroit News:

Snyder told reporters Monday in Detroit that both sides are close to reaching a "financial stability agreement," which is what the deal will be called until it can be considered a consent agreement under the law. The governor reiterated he does not want to run Detroit.

City leaders argued that the initial consent agreement proposed by the Governor amounted to a state takeover. The Detroit Free Press reports the city's counterproposal retains powers for local elected leaders.

Officials have been mum on specifics of the counterproposal, but one draft -- not necessarily the final version -- showed the city asking the state to approve a $137-million financial package for immediate relief and change legislation so that the city can raise its income and corporate taxes.

The city's plan, called a financial stability agreement, also would return budget authority to the mayor and the council, and essentially leave a seven-member financial advisory board with the power to make only recommendations.

In about ten minutes, the state's financial review team is expected to make its recommendation to Gov. Snyder on whether or not a state-appointed emergency manager is needed for Detroit.

And as all this goes on, the Detroit News reports on a legal appeal to the State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the state's financial review team.

Andrew Patterson, lawyer for activist Robert Davis, said he expects to hear "shortly" from the court on whether the panel will consider the motion.

If the Supreme Court agrees, it will consider whether the state Court of Appeals acted appropriately Friday by lifting an Ingham County Circuit Court injunction. The injunction prohibited a consent agreement until Judge William Collette can hold a contempt hearing Thursday to determine if Treasurer Andy Dillon and other members of the review team violated the Open Meetings Act.

Politics
10:42 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Wayne State University panel talks emergency managers, privatization

Some of the main players and experts on Michigan’s emergency manager law weighed in at a Wayne State University law school event Friday.

The symposium looked at what it calls the “restructuring of government through privatization and corporatization” throughout the state, particularly in Detroit.

The topic was chosen as financial troubles continue to plague many municipalities—and the state is frequently intervening through Public Act 4, a more powerful emergency manager law.

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Politics
9:57 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit unions ratify new contracts

AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett, at a recent rally to overturn Public Act 4

A big coalition of about 30 unions representing Detroit city workers has ratified a new contract.

The workers gave up a lot, including a 10% pay cut, a major health care reorganization, and switching from traditional pensions to defined-contribution retirement plans.

But for a variety of reasons, it’s unclear whether it’s enough to help the city avoid state intervention.

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Politics
1:38 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Detroit closes Riverside Park; some suspicious of contamination claims

The city of Detroit is temporarily closing Riverside Park in southwest Detroit because it sits on contaminated land.

But some residents are suspicious, because the park is no stranger to controversy.

Riverside Park sits next to the Ambassador Bridge. In 2002, the Detroit International Bridge Company fenced off part of the park, supposedly for security reasons.

After years of legal wrangling, the city evicted them and re-claimed the park for public use.

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Politics
10:23 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

State review team talks options for Detroit

The state review team looking at Detroit’s finances met again Wednesday, and formally declared the city to be in “severe financial distress.”

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Politics
12:01 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

What's in a consent agreement? Do you really want to know?

Are you confused about the proposed “consent agreement” the state is trying to work out with Detroit?

If so, count yourself one among many, including me, and I’ve been covering the story nearly every day for the past couple of weeks. In fact, I’m fairly sure that all the parties involved are confused.

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Politics
7:16 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Injunction puts Detroit consent agreement in doubt; state review team to meet Wednesday

user PeRshGo wikimedia commons

Legal wrangling over Public Act 4, Michigan’s emergency manager law, has put the state’s ability to work out a consent agreement with Detroit in jeopardy.

State leaders and some Detroit officials want to work out an agreement that would prevent the city from going broke in the next couple of months—without appointing an emergency manager.

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Auto/Economy
8:19 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Grant backs "micro-enterprise" in Detroit

Some small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in Detroit could get a boost from a $2.4 million Kellogg Foundation grant.

The grant will help establish the Global Detroit Neighborhood Development Collaborative, a micro-enterprise lending and training programs in three city neighborhoods for three years.

Former Detroit State Representative Steve Tobocman runs the larger Global Detroit initiative, which will oversee the program.

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