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.

Ways To Connect

A Wayne County judge has added the cost of prison time to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s mounting restitution tab.

The State Attorney General’s office convinced Judge David Groner that Kilpatrick should pay the state just over $15,000—the price for his 166 days in state prison.

Groner is the same judge who sentenced Kilpatrick to prison time, after ruling the former mayor violated his probation.

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

M1 Rail

Detroit is trying to build a new light rail system. Transit officials from different U.S. cities who have done just that dispensed some advice at Wayne State University Monday. At one point, Detroit had one of the world’s best light rail systems. Now, it’s trying to rebuild a modest version from scratch. The first leg is a stretch between downtown Detroit and the city limits at Eight Mile Road along the central Woodward corridor.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

An attorney suing the state over its emergency manager law is welcoming a lawsuit filed this week by Detroit Public Schools unions. The three unions' lawsuit claims emergency manager Roy Roberts violated the district employees’ constitutional rights by imposing a 10% wage cut. The imposed wage cut is the first instance of an emergency manager using the law’s new powers to seriously alter a union contract. The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of Michigan’s Public Act 4, which empowers financial managers to unilaterally change collective bargaining agreements.

The nation’s largest home mortgage counseling agency is in Detroit for a five-day stop.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America will be at Cobo Center through Monday as part of its “Save the Dream” tour.

NACA offers homeowners with unaffordable mortgages a chance to modify their mortgage terms directly with lenders.

NACA communications director Darren Duarte says the organization is able to “hold banks accountable” through binding contracts.

user sbj4 / flickr.com

The Detroit Institute of Arts is taking the first step toward building a program for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

The DIA and the Michigan Alzheimer’s Association have been trying to launch the “Minds on Art” program for more than a year. But it’s stalled from lack of funding.

But the groups decided to hold an initial session anyway, and hope to expand the program.

The program offers gallery tours for patients and caregivers. Renee Grant is a DIA docent who trained to work with Alzheimer’s patients.

The President of the Detroit Board of Education has resigned his position.

Anthony Adams’ resignation note states “I resign my position with deep regret,” but doesn’t give further details.

The note does mention Adams’ route to school board President as a write-in candidate, and his time as Detroit Public Schools General Counsel from 2002-2005.

user troylib / flickr.com

Residents of one suburban Detroit community have resolved a nearly two-year-long battle over its library  - in the library’s favor. Voters in the affluent community of Troy had twice rejected funding measures for the library. It had been slated to close earlier this year. But now more than 58% of Troy voters have approved a five-year millage hike that will generate more than $3 million for the library.

Warren Mayor James Fouts cruised to any easy primary victory Tuesday night.

The five-person primary in Michigan’s third-largest city got downright nasty at times. Candidates lobbed personal attacks, and there was a strange battle over whether Fouts had to reveal his age.

In the end though, Fouts was the clear winner, garnering more than 70% of the vote.

Fouts says he’s fought blight, demolishing about 600 dangerous homes. He also reorganized the city’s police department, and brought back EMS services.

He says the vote shows Warren is happy with his efforts.

“I think hard work, and effort, and recognizing the taxpayers are your boss, has allowed this success to take place.”

Fouts and City Councilwoman Kathy Vogt, a longtime political opponent, will face off in the November general election.

Despite finishing a distant second, Vogt says she’ll continue to hammer on what she calls Fouts’ lack of fiscal discipline.

“There are places where costs can be cut. And that’s what we’ve got to do. There’s got to be drastic cuts at this point. And the people at the top cannot continue to take top dollar all the time.”

Fouts calls Vogt’s assertions of fiscal irresponsibility “preposterous.” He says Warren has more money in its general fund than any other city in the state.

Immigrant advocates in Detroit have denounced an Immigration and Customs Enforcement internal investigation. They say the agency “whitewashed” an investigation into whether agents improperly targeted a school in southwest Detroit. Speaking through a translator, Brisa Maldonado recounted how she and her husband were pulled over, and her husband detained, after dropping their children off at Hope of Detroit Academy on March 31st. The incident happened during what parents and school officials say was an ICE stakeout at the predominantly Latino school.

Governor Snyder says strong cities are the key to Michigan’s future.

The Governor outlined his new Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives in Detroit Monday. The program will have offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and the Flint-Saginaw area.

Snyder also appointed Harvey Hollins to head the office. Hollins is currently Wayne State University’s vice president for government and community affairs.

detroitworksproject.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has unveiled a big part of his “Detroit Works” Project to strengthen city neighborhoods.

The strategy involves dividing neighborhoods into three categories: Steady, transitional, and distressed.

The city will focus on code enforcement and infrastructure improvement in the more viable areas, and on demolishing dangerous structures in more blighted ones.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says overall crime is down in the city. But he acknowledges that’s overshadowed by a recent spike in homicides, almost all of them shootings.

Detroit recorded 172 homicides in the first half of this year. That’s up 15% over last year.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor will benefit Michigan’s economy, but should also benefit the community that hosts it.

Snyder toured Detroit’s Delray neighborhood with community leaders today Tuesday. Delray is the proposed site of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

State workers say they’ve already sacrificed their fair share to help alleviate Michigan’s budget crisis. That was the rallying cry of hundreds of union workers who protested outside state offices in Detroit Monday. Governor Snyder wants another $260 million in concessions from state workers But Ray Holman, a legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000, says that’s unfair.

Sarah Aittama

Imagine watching a place you love—and that your family has loved, for generations—fall into disrepair.

That’s what it’s been like for many Detroit baseball fans, who consider the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues to be sacred ground. That’s the site of the old Tiger Stadium, which was demolished in 2009.

One group of fans decided to do something about that. The only problem: the land isn’t theirs to maintain. And while they may see themselves as being helpful, the city of Detroit sees it differently.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces federal charges that he ran the city’s water department like an organized crime syndicate. Now, one county served by the water department wants some of that money back. From the Detroit Free Press:

Macomb County wants $25.5 million from former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his former aide, his former contractor friend and former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department saying they schemed to overcharge the county for a work on a collapsed sewer line in Sterling Heights.

Staff / Michigan Municipal League

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference in Detroit. Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth.

Via detroitworksproject.com

The federal government is throwing its support behind Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project. That’s a controversial effort to focus resources on Detroit’s more vibrant neighborhoods. It appeared to have stalled in recent months.

John Smaltak / modernstreetcar.org

Federal officials and Detroit civic leaders want to reassure people that a light rail project is still going forward. Those reassurances come after a week of press reports and swirling rumors that some of the project’s private backers may be pulling out. A group of private investors had pledged $100 million to finance the Woodward Avenue rail line. That money is crucial for the city to get federal matching grants.

Oakland County

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says the county’s budget is balanced for the next three years.

 Patterson laid out his recommendations for a triennial budget to Oakland County Commissioners Wednesday night.

 Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet.

 Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there’s no more reason to negotiate with City Council over the budget. That means he’ll implement the Council-approved budget, even though he maintains it will mean devastating cuts. Bing and the Council have been wrestling for months over how much money to cut from next fiscal year’s budget. Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Bing then proposed an amendment to restore $30 million, but Council voted that down Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts says he’s on a mission from the Governor to make the schools work. Roberts spoke at a public hearing Monday night to discuss next school year’s proposed district budget. Roberts spoke only briefly about his budget proposal. It calls for cutting more than 850 positions, and all wages by 10-percent. Roberts then listened silently to concerns from parents, teachers, and other school staff…some of whom took the opportunity to shout at him. Keith Johnson is President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the state will take a dramatically new to approach to its worst schools--starting in Detroit.

Years of turmoil and power struggles over the Detroit Public Schools have left a polarizing legacy in the city. That history has left many Detroiters absorbing Snyder’s plan with a cautious sense of déjà vu.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge say a disputed construction project will get done by a court-imposed January 2012 deadline.

The Detroit International Bridge Company and the Michigan Department of Transportation have been in court for two years over the Gateway Project, a disputed construction project meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools.

The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national notoriety for its rock-bottom test scores, and is already run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

That manager will jumpstart the effort to put some Detroit schools in what the state is calling an “Educational Achievement System” starting in the fall of 2012.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A contentious land dispute between a Detroit small business and a community garden has been resolved in the business’s favor.

The Detroit City Council voted this week to allow Canine To Five, a dog day care facility, to buy adjacent property to expand its business.

That land is currently occupied by the Birdtown Community garden.

Liz Blondy owns Canine to five. She says she’s disappointed that the dispute was framed as a “business versus gardens” issue.

The Detroit City Council appears to be standing firm in an ongoing battle with Mayor Dave Bing over how much to cut from the city’s budget. The Council wants to cut more from the budget than Bing to chip away at the city’s roughly $155 million accumulated deficit. But Bing says that’s irresponsible.

A Wayne County Circuit Court Judge has heard arguments in a case that involves Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The Michigan ACLU is suing the city of Livonia (and two other Detroit suburbs with similar laws) on behalf of Linda Lott, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Lott and her husband want to grow marijuana on property they own in Livonia. But the city passed an ordinance prohibiting any activity that violates federal law.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has raised the stakes in his ongoing budget battle with the Detroit City Council. Bing and the City Council have been sparring over how much to shave off the city’s budget. The Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Last week, the Council overrode Bing’s veto, meaning its budget is set to go into effect July 1. But Bing says those extra cuts “won’t solve” the city’s fiscal crisis.

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