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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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Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, with Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, discuss Kelly's visit near Detroit's Ambassador Bridge.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A handful of people representing some of Metro Detroit’s immigrant and religious communities met privately with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Monday.

That was one reason for Kelly’s brief visit to Detroit, which also included talk on security and infrastructure along the country’s northern border.

Kelly held small, private meetings with hand-picked members of the Arab, Muslim, and Latino communities. The idea was to air concerns about the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.

Detroit Public Schools Community District sign
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Finalists vying for the job of Detroit schools’ superintendent will start the public interview process this week, but some people think the best candidate isn’t in the running.

Choosing a new superintendent is the first major task for Detroit’s newly-elected school board, which just took power in January after years of state control. But the process has already become messy and controversial.

pbs.org

President Trump’s proposed budget threatens the “very existence” of public television, and would “result in tremendous loss for our country,” PBS CEO Paula Kerger told a Detroit Economic Club audience Friday.

Cutting all federal funds for public broadcasting would have devastating consequences, especially in underserved areas, Kerger said.

A demolition on Detroit's east side.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A special report from Detroit’s auditor general says the city’s sweeping demolition program is still riddled with problems.

But the Detroit Land Bank Authority, the agency that runs program, calls that report “full of errors and misinformation.”

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

The state has proposed an agreement to fix some ongoing problems at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

The consent order from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cites the Great Lakes Water Authority, which runs the plant, for a number of environmental violations over the past year.

The plant was supposed to stop operating five outdated sewage sludge incinerators in March, 2016. But the GLWA kept using them after a fire seriously damaged new, cleaner replacement equipment that same month.

DPSCD Superintendent Alycia Meriweather and district staff announce new schools programs in March 2016.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is following through on its threat to sue the state School Reform Office, even after the state has largely backed off plans to close some of the state’s lowest-performing schools this year.

DPSCD had 16 schools on the SSRO’s “next level accountability” list, which also included eight schools in the state-run Education Achievement Authority. EAA schools will join DPSCD after the EAA winds down in June.

East Detroit school and community officials blasted Jensen's appointment in June. They eventually settled on a power-sharing arrangment that limited Jensen's authority.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

An experimental and contentious turnaround effort in the East Detroit Public Schools is coming to an end, as state-appointed CEO Gary Jensen announced Monday he will step down early next month.

The state school reform office appointed Jensen, a former Michigan Principal of the Year, as CEO of four low-performing East Detroit schools last June. The school system is located in Eastpointe, a small suburb just north of Detroit.

He was supposed to have broad powers to make sweeping changes to boost academic performance.

Patti Kunkel, a Canadian nurse practitioner in Henry Ford Hospital's cardiac intensive care unit, worries that her TN visa may not be renewed.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It appears some Canadian nurses who work in southeast Michigan hospitals may not be able to do so for much longer.

That’s  because some U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seem to have changed their longstanding interpretation of a NAFTA provision allowing those nurses special work visas—though it’s apparently not an agency-wide change in policy.

The NAFTA treaty allows Canadian and Mexican citizens in certain occupations, including registered nurses, specific work visas called TN visas.

Detroit's Central United Methodist Church is already sheltering a family seeking political asylum.
via Wikipedia

At least eight Michigan houses of worship announced plans to form a “sanctuary network” on Tuesday.

Nehru Littleton awaits Judge Vonda Evans' ruling in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man will go to trial on terrorism charges for making threatening comments toward police officers on Facebook.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Nehru Littleton, 40, with two felonies after he posted last July: “F   them racist a     white cops!!! Kill them ALL!!! Black Lives Matter!!! Black people should start killing all white cops just like they are killing us!!!”

Schuette announced the charges in October, after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to prosecute, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan’s major utilities have restored power to the vast majority of those who lost it after last Wednesday’s unprecedented windstorm.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Michigan needs to “invest with urgency” in some “high-yield” education strategies, or risk falling even further behind other states.

That’s the gist of a new report from Gov. Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission, which lays out a “blueprint” for that effort.

Those recommendations run the gamut. Among the most prominent or controversial:

tEdGuY49 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit’s incinerator is in hot water with state regulators again, but many people think the proposed punishment lets it off the hook too easily.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cited the state’s largest incinerator for a number of violations in 2015 and 2016. The “waste-to-energy” facility provides power to sections of the city’s core.

Those violations included violating emissions limits for sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter. The agency says the incinerator also failed to monitor emissions properly.

Protesters against the initial travel ban at Detroit Metro Airport, Jan. 30.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two Michigan civil rights groups say they’re ready pick up a lawsuit filed against President Trump’s first travel ban.

The Michigan ACLU and the Arab-American Civil Rights League sued in federal court to overturn Trump’s first executive order. The groups now say they’ll amend that lawsuit to fight the new order issued Monday.

Trump’s new executive order targets migrants from six majority-Muslim countries, not seven — Iraq is now off the list. It also exempts permanent U.S. residents and people with valid pre-existing visas.

The sinkhole in Macomb County.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Macomb County will inspect the entire pipe system surrounding a collapsed sewer line that turned into a massive sinkhole Christmas Eve.

The inspection will use cameras and other technologies to examine 17 miles of pipe in the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller says doing a full inspection is the only way to know if there’s additional damage, and what the fixes might look like.

Supporters rally for Yousef Ajin and family ahead of his deportation hearing in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Cheers of joy and relief erupted outside a Detroit immigration courtroom Tuesday, when a judge granted a waiver sparing an Ann Arbor man from deportation.

Yousef Ajin is a Jordanian national, and has been a legal permanent U.S. resident since 1999. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and four U.S.-born children

DPOA President Mark Diaz
via Twitter

The head of the Detroit Police Officer’s Association is facing criminal charges himself.

Mark Diaz is charged with malicious destruction of property, a felony, and reckless driving. He was arraigned at a district court in Clarkston Friday afternoon, and released on $10,000 bond.

The charges apparently stem from a December incident at Holly Academy in Holly. Diaz allegedly drove into school property, causing serious damage.

From left: Mark Young, head of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association; Mayor Mike Duggan; and Detroit Firefighters Association President Mike Nevin.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit mayor’s race is barely underway, but incumbent Mike Duggan is already picking up some key support.

Leaders of Detroit’s police and firefighter’s unions endorsed Duggan Thursday morning.

They say under Duggan’s leadership, their departments are gradually re-building from the devastation following years of cutbacks and the city’s bankruptcy.

DetroitMI.gov

Detroit is still on track to exit state financial oversight next year, despite having to make unexpected pension payouts out of its annual budgets.

That’s what Mayor Mike Duggan told the City Council at a preview of his proposed 2017-18 budget on Thursday.

The pension liabilities are not included in the city’s bankruptcy-court mandated plan of adjustment—something Duggan says was “concealed” from him by former emergency manager Kevyn Orr during the bankruptcy.

A protest against the AICC's proposed Sterling Heights mosque in 2015.
Chaldean Nation / via Facebook

The city of Sterling Heights has agreed to settle two federal religious discrimination lawsuits, and allow the American Islamic Community Center to build a mosque in the city.

The Sterling Heights City Planning Commission denied the AICC’s application for a permit in 2015. The Commission cited traffic, parking and height concerns about the proposed mosque.

But the project also faced heated opposition from some residents, much of it fueled by anti-Muslim rhetoric. The AICC, and later the federal government, said it was a case of religious discrimination.

The sign posted at Rep. David Trott's Troy office.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A group of Detroit-area Congressman Dave Trott’s (R-11th district) constituents tried again to meet with him on Tuesday.

And once again, they weren’t successful.

Some constituents accuse Trott of ducking meetings and public appearances since Donald Trump was elected.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Energy costs can be a huge burden on low-income communities.

That’s especially true in Highland Park. The tiny enclave within Detroit was literally left in the dark after it ran up a big street lighting bill.

But there are some small bright spots popping up—thanks to solar power, and the efforts of one community group.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

FLICKR USER 401(K) / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Macomb County officials are sounding the alarm about scheduled budget cuts for its mental health programs.

A changed state formula for distributing Medicaid funds has hit the county disproportionately hard. Medicaid “rebasing” has cut money for mental health services there by about $30 million in the past year.

John Kinch, director of Macomb County Community Mental Health, said those cuts to Macomb’s budget are staggered, with the final one kicking in April 1.

“And then starting April 1, it will be another $12.4 million,” Kinch said. “I can’t absorb $12.4 million.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit Police Chief James Craig has signaled his support for President Trump’s law enforcement policies, raising some eyebrows around Detroit.

Craig spoke about Trump’s recent pro-police executive orders with Neil Cavuto on Fox News last week.

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One of Governor Snyder’s key advisors says “there’s no way in the world” the state will close 38 “failing” schools this year.

That’s what Rich Baird told the crowd at a Detroit meeting about potential school closures Monday night.

The State School Reform Office has sent letters to parents at 38 schools across the state, warning they could be shut down because of persistently low test scores. 25 of those schools are in Detroit.

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.

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