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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Religion
6:56 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Sikh temple vandalized--but were Muslims the intended target?

Images of the vandalism at the Sterling Heights Sikh temple
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund saldef.org

Vandals targeted a Sikh house of worship in suburban Detroit this week. But there are signs they intended to target Muslims.

According to the Sikh Society of Michigan, the Sikh temple (known as a Gurdwara) in Sterling Heights has been under construction for several years, without any incidents or controversy.

That changed when someone vandalized the building sometime on Sunday night.

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Politics
7:42 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Court ruling is a victory for Highland Park activist, other Public Act 4 opponents

State Treasurer Andy Dillon leads the team reviewing Detroit's finances under Public Act 4.
Associated Press

An Ingham County Court Judge has ruled that the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances must meet in public.

The ruling is a victory for opponents of Public Act 4, the state law that strengthens the powers of emergency managers in fiscally-distressed cities.

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Politics
4:08 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Appeals court says Moroun's jailing o.k. in dispute over Ambassador Bridge

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun could face more jail time after a hearing with Judge Edwards this week.
Jim Wallace Flickr

A three judge panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards used his power appropriately when he jailed billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his top company official, Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper, on January 12, 2012.

However, the court did say Judge Edwards didn't make the conditions of their release clear enough.

Lawyers representing Moroun and Stamper argued that their imprisonment was an improper use of the civil contempt of court power and "was invalid as a matter of law."

From the opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals:

We disagree with appellants to the extent that they argue that incarceration was an improper use of the trial court’s civil contempt power; however, we agree with appellants that the trial court erred in requiring their continued incarceration until DIBC “fully complied with” the February 1, 2010, order...

Confinement or imprisonment may be imposed whether the contempt is civil or criminal in nature. Borden v Borden, 67 Mich App 45, 48; 239 NW2d 757 (1976). In the civil context, the confinement must be conditional.

The other two judges on the panel agreed with most of the decision, but not all. You can read Judge Fort Hood's opinion and Judge Wilder's opinion.

Moroun and Stamper were freed on appeal by the Michigan Court of Appeals on January 13 after spending the night in a county jail.

Now, after this Appeals Court ruling, the two top Ambassador Bridge officials will return to Wayne County Circuit Court this week.

And they’ll do so facing the possibility they could go back to jail if Judge Edwards crafts a new civil contempt of court order.

The whole issue stems from a dispute over the Gateway Project, a joint construction project between the DIBC and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The project was meant to build ramps that would better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways, and keep truck traffic off residential streets.

The Appeals Court ruled that Edwards was within his rights when he ordered the two to jail. But they maintain Prentis's order that the two remain incarcerated until the Gateway Project is "complete"--something that will likely take months--was too vague.

The Appeals Court judges said Edwards would have to provide specifics on how Moroun and Stamper can remove the civil contempt of court ruling.

A Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman says the agency is pleased with the ruling, and is “eager” to see the more specific conditions the Judge lays out.

The Detroit International Bridge Company released a statement that was silent on most of the ruling, but noted the DIBC is "pleased with the recognition by the MI Court of Appeals today that the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project must be finished." It went on to say:

"Given the events since the Court of Appeals accepted the appeal from Judge Edward’s order, MDOT announced its intent to begin completion of MDOT’s unfinished ramp. It is very clear that MDOT has held up construction, not DIBC...No one wants the Gateway completed more than us."

But a report from a court-appointed monitor who studied the Gateway dispute agrees largely with MDOT's position that the DIBC has held up the project.

A hearing before Judge Edwards is set for Thursday.

Politics
10:56 pm
Sun February 5, 2012

Alternate plan proposed for Detroit Council districts

The non-profit group Data Driven Detroit has released its own map suggesting how to divide the city into districts.

Detroit voters have chosen to elect seven of nine City Council members by district, rather than the present "at-large" system.

The City Planning Commission gave the Council four possible maps to consider.

But the non-profit group Data Driven Detroit has reviewed the data, and produced its own plan—one they’re calling “Option 5.”

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Politics
5:52 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

State rep jumps into Detroit mayor's race

Lisa Howze

Detroit State Representative Lisa Howze says she wants to be the city’s next Mayor—even if she has to do it alongside a state-appointed emergency manager.

Kicking off her campaign at a senior home in northeast Detroit, Howze, a first-term Democrat, said current Mayor Dave Bing’s biggest problem is a lack of vision.

She thinks that’s what Lansing is really looking for, as Governor Snyder mulls whether to appoint an emergency manager in Detroit.

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Education
7:20 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Wayne State toughens admissions standards

Wayne State University is changing its admissions standards and retention policies in an effort to boost graduation rates.

Wayne State used to admit students automatically based on a minimum gradepoint average or test scores.

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Politics
6:59 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Detroit seeks to prevent fire deaths, cut costs

User RickM2007 flickriver.com

The Detroit Fire Department is aiming to save lives—and money—by preventing heating-related home fires.

Fire officials say there’s a “noticeable peak” in fire-related deaths in the winter months--largely due to people improperly using space heaters and other heat sources, like propane tanks.  19 people died in the winter months last year.

Detroit fire captain Christopher Dixon says that’s a tough but unfortunate calculation many Detroiters make each month.

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Politics
5:55 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Deadline passes, and still no plan to keep an emergency manager out of Detroit

Detroit’s elected officials had hoped to resolve some big questions about the city’s financial future Tuesday.

But that didn’t happen.

Both Governor Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing say the only way for the city to avoid an emergency manager is to get big union concessions.

Bing had hoped to get those concessions by the end of January. But the self-imposed deadline came and went without a deal.

In the meantime, the Detroit City Council met to discuss drastic actions the city might have to take if no agreement materializes soon.

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Politics
6:39 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Wayne State symposium looks at reforming marijuana laws

Panelists offered a variety of perspectives on marijuana laws at the annual Wayne State University law review symposium Friday.

The largely civil conversation ranged widely, from the potential benefits of legalizing and taxing marijuana, to the perils of legalizing a drug that many think would be hard to regulate.

One symposium panelist was Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

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Politics
6:09 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Federal government to end oversight of Detroit Housing Commission

The federal government says it’s confident the Detroit Housing Commission is on the right path—and ready to revert back to local control.

The quasi-governmental authority manages the city’s public housing. It’s been under federal oversight since 2005 because of misspending and management problems.

But U-S Housing and Urban Development assistant secretary Sandra Henriquez says there’s been a vast improvement.

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Education
6:03 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Uncertainty in Highland Park schools as parents look for answers

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Highland Park school officials are battling to keep their school district from a state takeover.

But many parents there say they just want to know whether the district will last through the next month.

An audit shows the Highland Park school district is running an $11.2 million deficit—mostly because it’s lost more than two-thirds of its students.

In 2008, the district had 3419 students. Today, they have fewer than 1000.

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Auto/Economy
3:35 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Business leaders release updated "Michigan Turnaround Plan"

A group of influential Michigan business leaders says Governor Snyder and the state legislature have advanced their plan to revive the state’s economy.a

Business Leaders for Michigan released its updated Michigan Turnaround Plan Tuesday.  Their goal is to make Michigan a top-ten state for job, economic and personal income growth.

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Politics
7:57 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Drawing district lines for a changed Detroit City Council

Detroit officials are fast-tracking a process to change the way Council members represent the city.

Detroit voters approved a plan in November to elect seven of nine City Council members by district, when they approved a new city charter. Currently, all nine members represent the city at-large.

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Politics
9:12 pm
Sun January 22, 2012

Facing emergency manager threat, Detroit officials struggle for a plan

Detroit’s elected leaders are still struggling to come up with a unified plan to avoid a state takeover—even as a state review team continues work in the city.

The Detroit City Council has been critical of Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to save more than $100 million this fiscal year to prevent the city from running out of cash.

Members suggest it contains too many optimistic revenue projections and unrealistic assumptions.

The Council has its own list of suggestions. But in the end, they can do little more than offer them to the Mayor.

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Politics
7:32 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

New report: 3 Michigan companies among "Dirty 30" tax avoiders

wikimedia commons

A new report says three Michigan companies spent more on lobbying than they did in corporate income taxes between 2008 and 2010.

Those companies include Michigan’s two biggest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy. It also includes Ann Arbor-based freight hauler Con-way.

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Politics
8:06 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Metro Detroit's "Big 4" talk Wayne County scandals, emergency managers

The Detroit Economic Club hosts a public forum with Metro Detroit’s so-called “Big Four” at the Detroit Auto Show each year.

And Tuesday’s session with the Detroit Mayor and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County executives proved a bit livelier than usual.

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Auto/Economy
7:54 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Praise for proposed fuel economy rules at Detroit EPA hearing

Ian Britton freefoto.com

Union leaders, environmental groups and some auto industry representatives are applauding new fuel efficiency standards proposed by President Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on the new rules in Detroit Tuesday.

The Obama administration’s proposed rule actually measures greenhouse gas emissions. But when translated into the usual lingo, that’s about 54 miles per gallon—roughly double the current standard.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Detroiters honor civil rights past, present on MLK Day

People line up for the MLK Legacy march outside Detroit's Martin Luther King high school
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people descended on Detroit’s Martin Luther King, Junior high school Monday morning for a march honoring the civil rights leader.

It was just one of many events honoring Dr. King that took place around Metro Detroit.

Hundreds of people came out for the third annual Detroit Public Schools-sponsored march, many of them students. But some adults, like Alicia Gassiamo, came to honor a figure whose sacrifices they say made a real difference in their lives.

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Politics
6:15 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Detroit tests one solution to car crimes: a street parking ban

Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Detroit Police say car break-ins are up in the city’s entertainment district. So they’re trying a new approach to prevent crime: banning street parking in the area.

A lot of people—Detroit Police won’t yet say how many—got their cars towed last weekend as a result of the parking ban.

Police officially issued the ban late on Friday:

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Crime
7:00 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Chief says crime is down in Detroit, but murders up

Ralph Godbee

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says the number of serious crimes in Detroit fell last year—but the number of killings climbed.

Preliminary statistics show Detroit recorded 344 homicides in 2011. That’s up about 12 percent from 2010, but roughly in line with the longer-term average.

“We promised that we would reduce violent crime. Are we satisfied with homicide numbers? Absolutely not," Godbee says. "But promises made, promises kept. We’ve delivered on reducing violent crime.”

Godbee credited his officers’ “Herculean efforts” to combat crime as department resources continue to shrink. He says the department is re-organizing to deal with that—including eliminating some desk jobs to put more officers on the streets.

Godbee also notes that Detroit Police have improved outreach and coordination with community, and the DPD is now about 80 percent compliant with a federal consent decree.

The department has been under federal oversight since 2003, for issues related to excessive force and prisoner treatment.

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