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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Transportation
6:39 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Extension a good sign for Detroit light rail plans

Transit advocates in Detroit are happy that a proposal for light rail along Woodward Avenue is still alive.

Federal, state, and city officials had nixed the plan late last year in favor of a Bus Rapid Transit system.

But after pushback from the line’s private backers, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave them a deadline to put forth a “feasible” plan.

This week, LaHood extended that deadline about a month. He also told The Detroit News that he's "still optimistic" about the project.

Megan Owens, director of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, says the current proposal is for a shortened line serving Detroit’s downtown—but that’s ok.

“Light rail, or streetcars, can not only provide a great transit option for getting around the downtown-Midtown-New Center areas--but can also be a great way to boost re-development in those communities,” Owens said.

The extension also gives state lawmakers time to move bills to form a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Such an authority is a key condition for federal transit aid to Metro Detroit.

Politics
1:46 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

First three appointments made to Detroit's "Financial Advisory Board"

Laughlin Elkind Flickr

The consent agreement the city of Detroit signed with the state earlier this month calls for the creation of a nine-member financial advisory board.

The board will have oversight over the city's finances.

Governor Snyder's office released the names of the three members appointed to the board today:

Former state Treasurer Robert Bowman, currently president and CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media LP, is the joint appointee of Snyder and Bing. Darrell Burks, currently a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be one of three individuals appointed by Gov. Snyder, and Ken Whipple, chairman of the board of Korn/Ferry International, is Treasurer Dillon’s appointee to the FAB.

Forbes has a profile of Robert Bowman.

Three are appointed - six more appointments are left.

Under the agreement, Gov. Snyder will select two more members of the board, Mayor Bing will select two, and Detroit City Council will select two.

Those serving on the board will receive compensation of $25,000 per year.

Detroit Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis—who’s still serving in place of the ailing Mayor Bing—says the city is moving to comply with the consent agreement.

 “So we’re making progress," Lewis told reporters Thursday. "I’d expect over the next couple of weeks we’ll have that [advisory board] taken care of.”

Lewis says after that, city and state officials will move on to filling two more powerful positions outlined in the agreement: a Chief Financial Officer, and a Program Director.

He also says Bing is slated to return to work part-time in “a couple of weeks.”

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Politics
11:55 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

President Obama at Dearborn campaign stop: "Part of what makes us great is making stuff"

President Obama made a broad, impassioned case for his re-election in Metro Detroit Wednesday.

The President resurrected the “change” theme of his 2008 campaign.

He said change is a slow process. But he touted some milestones of his first term, including health care reform and the resurgence of the US auto industry.

“If we work on behalf of our higher ideals…we will finish what we started in 2008,” the President told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

The President also paid homage to his surroundings—the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. He said it shows that “part of what makes us great is making stuff.”

“That’s what this museum reminds us of," Mr. Obama said. "Of what it means to build. It’s time we start taking the money we’re spending on war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use half of it to build our nation here at home.”

The President contrasted that with what he called Republicans’ “you’re on your own economics.”

“Their philosophy is that we’re better off if a few are doing well at the top, and everybody else is fending for themselves," Mr. Obama said. "And they’re wrong.”

The Henry Ford  hosted the first of two Metro Detroit fundraisers for the President. He then moved on to a private fundraiser at the Bingham Farms home of businesswoman Denise Ilitch.

The top price for a ticket there: $40,000.

Politics
10:55 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Troy protest targets controversial Wisconsin Governor

Protesters in Troy
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Protesters lined a busy thoroughfare in Troy Tuesday evening.

Attendees pulling into the parking lot at the San Marino Club for the Ronald Reagan Memorial Dinner were booed by the protesters, who were there to protest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s appearance at the Oakland County Republican fundraiser.

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Education
8:00 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Detroit students will learn math and science--at the racetrack

Students pose with a racecar at Emerson Elementary
via detroitgp.com

About 600 Detroit Public Schools students will visit the Detroit Grand Prix in June.

Before their visit, they’ll spend a few weeks learning about racing-related science and math concepts. They’ll then get a chance to apply those skills at the real racetrack, during events at the Grand Prix.

Grand Prix’s event chairman Bud Denker says this won’t just be a “field trip” for the students.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Republican state lawmakers plan phase-out of Michigan tax on industrial property

automotiveauto.info

The first hearing will be held tomorrow on a Republican plan to phase out taxes on most industrial equipment in Michigan.

Local governments collect about $400 million in revenue a year from the industrial property tax.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley helped design the plan to get rid of the tax over the next several years. He says Michigan is unique in how it taxes industrial property -- and he says it’s driving investments to other states and countries.

“So at the end of the day, it’s about jobs and removing the penalty for investing in Michigan,” Calley said.

But local leaders say the way the phase-out is drafted now, it would force disinvestment in schools, and city services. That’s because it does not replace all the revenue lost to local governments.

Some state lawmakers like Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer agree.

“At best, they only intend to replace 81 percent of the dollars,”Whitmer said. “So does that mean that they are going to cut our fire services 19 percent? They’re also going to cut our police service 19 percent? They’re going to cut our schools an additional 19 percent? How is that made up?”

The communities that would be most affected are industrial cities with the most factories. That includes Michigan's third-largest city, Warren.

Warren mayor Jim Fouts says the city stands to lose $12 million a year in revenue if the tax is repealed.

“It would be absolute disaster," said Fouts, who said he'd be forced to cut public safety and other vital services. 

"It’s a good example of short-term thinking without looking at the long-term consequences, which are draconian consequences.”

Fouts says Lansing has recently shifted more costs and mandates to local governments, while also cutting off their sources of revenue. He sent a letter expressing his concerns to Governor Snyder.

Education
5:29 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Last day for open enrollment in Detroit schools

Monday was the last day for parents of Detroit Public Schools students to pick schools for their children.

The district has a citywide open enrollment policy this year.

Parents who want to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood can rank their preferred schools. The district takes that into consideration when placing kids.

Sonya Smith, a DPS parent who also works at the Parent Resource Center at Osborn High School, says the district has made the whole process easier for parents this year.

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Arts/Culture
11:17 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Future uncertain for historic state fairgrounds properties

A sign designating the Michigan state fairgrounds as a historic site.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has officially opened the former state fairgrounds in Detroit for re-development, but it’s not clear what will happen to the historic structures on the site.

There are a handful of historically-designated properties on the Michigan state fairgrounds. The most prominent is the Grant House. That’s where former Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant once lived (the structure itself is located on the fairgrounds, where it was moved from its original location elsewhere in Detroit).

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Politics
3:49 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Lawsuit alleges "invasive religious questioning" of Muslims at border

A Muslim civil rights group says federal agents are wrongly detaining and questioning Muslim-Americans coming into the U-S.

The Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations lays out those accusations in a federal lawsuit filed this week.

They’re suing on behalf of four Muslim U-S citizens. All say they were subject to “invasive religious questioning” when they tried to re-enter the country from Canada.

Shareef Akeel is a lawyer for the plaintiffs. He says Muslims are clearly being singled out for this type of "persecution," and that’s illegal.

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Politics
8:17 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Groups behind Public Act 4 referendum effort say petitions will withstand legal challenge

Supporters of a ballot initiative to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law say their petitions will withstand any challenges.

They gathered more than 226,000 signatures in an effort to put the law up for voter referendum.

Those petitions now await certification from the state board of canvassers.

Detroit NAACP lawyer Butch Hollowell says the petitions should easily stand up to the latest legal challenge: a claim, filed by the group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, that petition headers were typed in the wrong font size.

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Politics
7:55 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Strong push to turn Detroit's Belle Isle into state park

The Scott fountain on Belle Isle
demccain flickrriver

Governor Snyder is pushing for a plan that would turn Detroit’s Belle Isle into a state park.

Detroit and the state have signed a consent agreement that, among other things, lays out broad plans to restructure the city.

One of those listed: a plan for the city to lease Belle Isle to the state. The state’s Park Endowment fund would then pick up the maintenance costs.

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Politics
4:14 pm
Mon April 9, 2012

It's official: Former state fairgrounds in Detroit up for re-development

A sign designating the Michigan state fairgrounds as a historic site.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed bills that pave the way for transforming the former Michigan state fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit.

The land has largely sat idle since former Governor Jennifer Granholm cut state funding for the fair in 2009. Until then, it was one of the nation's longest-running state fairs.

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Politics
7:20 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Detroit Deputy Mayor says hospitalized Bing is alert, involved

As Detroit and the state move ahead to implement a consent agreement, Mayor Dave Bing remains in the hospital.

Bing was just released from the hospital earlier this week, after undergoing surgery for a perforated colon.

But he ended up back in the hospital on Tuesday with pulmonary embolisms. His top spokesman says the mayor is now recovering well.

Bing has designated Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis to act on his behalf.

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Politics
6:49 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Snyder on Detroit consent agreement: "Let's go"

Governor Snyder says he’s happy Detroit leaders have signed off on a “historic” consent agreement, but now it’s time to get moving on the restructuring plan the deal calls for.

But at a Thursday roundtable with reporters, Snyder said Detroit’s fiscal problems have been building for decades, and won’t be solved overnight.

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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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