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
11:38 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Ficano: "I want to move on"

Wayne County executive Robert Ficano said he’s accepted resignations from two of his top appointees.

The move is fallout from a scandal over a lucrative severance payment made to a former county appointee.

Ficano had suspended both his deputy executive, Azzam Elder, and county’s top lawyer, Marianne Talon, two weeks ago.

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Transportation
2:17 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Detroit International Bridge Company found in contempt of court

The Ambassador Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation and the owners of the bridge are having conflicts over new construction connecting the bridge to local roads and highways.
Jim Wallace Flickr

A Judge has found the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in contempt of court.

Update 2:17 p.m.

Here's an update from the Associated Press with reaction from the Ambassador Bridge owners:

DETROIT (AP) - The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says a judge is wrong to find it in contempt for failing to finish work on a project linking the U.S.-Canada span with two Detroit interstates.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards will wait until Jan. 12 to order a penalty, but he wants bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Maroun at that hearing.

Detroit International Bridge Company says piers have been properly built and more work will be completed by January. It says it will appeal the judge's contempt order announced Thursday.

The state of Michigan sued the company after it failed to meet a deadline to finish its part of a $230 million project to improve traffic at the bridge linking Detroit and Ontario.

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Politics
4:25 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Wayne County Auditor will probe payroll, contract questions

The Wayne County Commission’s Auditor General will look into some persistent questions about county contracts and payment practices.

Willie Mayo says the audit will dig into two primary issues. One is how the county’s payroll process works—and whether there are safeguards to prevent some county appointees from getting big payouts.

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Politics
9:32 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Detroit Police want gunshot-sensing technology

Detroit Police say a technology known as “Shot Spotter” would help the department’s battle against gun violence.                                                     

The department wants to use $2.6 million in federal money to pilot the gunshot-sensing technology system.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee says it would be an invaluable tool in locating shots fired, and deploying officers quickly.

But City Council members, who must approve the project, were skeptical. Councilman Gary Brown questions Shot Spotter’s effectiveness—especially since it won’t include video.

“According to the Department of Justice, this is an expensive piece of equipment for…the value that you get out of it,” Brown says.

Brown also suggested the department doesn’t have enough manpower to respond to all detected gunshots.

The Council delayed a vote on the issue until next week.

Politics
9:14 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Protesters target DTE Energy

Many people are worried about a long, cold winter ahead for low-income people who could face utility shutoffs.

That’s particularly true in Detroit, where dozens of people protested about the issue in front of DTE Energy headquarters.

The protesters want DTE to end utility shutoffs in the winter months, and create a rate structure that better accommodates the elderly, disabled, and poor.

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Politics
8:03 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Metro airport board fires Turkia Mullin

Turkia Mullin

The Wayne County Airport Authority has fired Metro Airport CEO Turkia Mullin.

Mullin had a short, controversial tenure. It was marred almost from the get-go by the revelation that she got a $200,000 severance payout to voluntarily leave her prior post as Wayne County economic development director.

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Politics
10:24 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Board meeting could decide fate of embattled airport CEO

Turkia Mullin

The board that runs Detroit Metro Airport meets Monday, and the group could decide to remove the airport’s embattled CEO, Turkia Mullin.

Mullin’s short tenure as CEO of Detroit Metro Airport has been tarnished by controversy.

Soon after taking the job, it was revealed she had accepted a $200,000 “severance” to voluntarily leave her old post as Wayne County’s economic development director. She’s returned most of the money.

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Politics
9:51 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Hansen Clarke: Time to tackle student loan debt

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says the growing “Occupy” movement is helping his efforts to push for student loan debt relief.

Clarke introduced a resolution in July encouraging Congress to focus on what he calls the country’s “true debt problem.” Student loan debt is expected to surpass $1 trillion this year.

Clarke says the issue is gaining traction in Congress as a way to lessen household debt and jumpstart the economy.

He says relief should focus on federally-guaranteed student loans.

“I also want to reduce and maybe eliminate much of the compounded interest and fees and penalties that borrowers have to pay on top of the principal that they borrowed. See, all these fees and everything, and the interest…that’s what really adds up," Clarke said.

Clarke calls President Obama’s proposals for student loan relief “a good start,” but says Congress also needs to act.

No one has introduced such comprehensive legislation yet.

Politics
5:23 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Detroit Homeland Security agencies, first responders press for funds

Metro Detroit’s Homeland Security agencies say they’ve made progress on border security and disaster preparedness in the past 10 years. But they warn federal budget cuts and a new way of allocating Homeland Security grants could jeopardize that.

A U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing called “The State of Northern Border Preparedness: A Review of Federal, State and Local Coordination” at Wayne State University Friday.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke sits on the committee.

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Occupy Movement
4:43 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Protesters briefly shut down Ambassador Bridge

Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge was backed up briefly coming into Detroit Thursday evening. That’s because protesters targeting bridge owner Matty Moroun blocked traffic.

The demonstrators included a State Representative, members of the ongoing Occupy Detroit movement, union members and southwest Detroit residents. They’re all angry at Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun—who they say has illegally seized land, ignored court orders, and bought political influence in Lansing and elsewhere.

Detroit resident Maya Williamson said the neighborhood is noisy and polluted because bridge traffic is forced onto residential streets—and she’s tired of it.

“The noise, and the traffic through the school area and through the neighborhoods…it’s horrendous. There’s gotta be a stop put to it, you know. You can’t just trample over citizens for money,"said Williamson.

No protesters were arrested. They left after about an hour, chanting “We’ll be back.”

Politics
8:19 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Metro Airport CEO returns controversial "severance" pay

The CEO of Metro Airport has returned some of the money she was paid to move from one Wayne County job to another.

Turkia Mullin got $200,000 to leave her post as Wayne County economic development director and take over the airport earlier this year.

She returned $135,900 this week, saying the rest went to taxes. Her secretary, who also received a severance payment, has also returned the money.

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Education
5:42 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Transparency issues for new state school district

Roy Roberts

The new statewide school system for the lowest-performing 5% of Michigan schools faces growing criticism over transparency.

The Education Achievement Authority will formally start with a few Detroit schools in 2012. That means the district doesn’t have any students or any money yet—except for private donations.

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Politics
12:12 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Detroit Mayor, Council meet to discuss "confidential" memos

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will meet with City Council members behind closed doors Wednesday.

Among other things, they’ll discuss a confidential analysis detailing the city’s finances.

The analysis itself hints at cash flow problems for the city. Detroit is trying to work its way out from under a $155 million deficit.

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Politics
6:00 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Detroit gears up for annual Angels' Night campaign

Detroit officials are finalizing plans for the city’s annual Angels' Night campaign.

That’s an effort to put a damper on the arson sprees that once characterized the  “Devils' Night” period around Halloween.

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Education
6:53 pm
Mon October 24, 2011

Union survey says overcrowding is a continuing problem in Detroit schools

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Nearly two months into the school year, more than a quarter of Detroit Public Schools are reporting overcrowding issues in some classrooms.

That’s according to an annual survey by the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The union’s contract caps class size at 35 students.

Some schools reported classrooms with more than 50 students. Some also reported lacking supplies like textbooks.

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Politics
3:38 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Presidential hopeful Herman Cain stops by Detroit

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain was in Detroit touting his so-called “9-9-9” tax plan Friday.

That plan has come under attack for being unfair to lower-income people. But Cain says it has provisions for economically distressed cities like Detroit.

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Politics
3:23 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

FBI investigation could slow other probes into Wayne County severance scandal

Robert Ficano

A new FBI probe into Wayne County government may hamper the County Commissions’ effort to investigate the compensation of appointed employees.

The Commission’s Special Committee on appointee compensation met again Thursday. They expected to hear about an internal review by County Executive Robert Ficano’s office.

That review is looking into how former economic development director Turkia Awada Mullin got a $200,000 severance to leave that and become CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority. She has since agreed to return the money.

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Environment
11:08 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Macomb County officials avert drinking water monitoring system shutdown – for now

It looks like a system that monitors drinking water for at least three million people in southeast Michigan will stay online for another year.

The monitoring system gives early alerts if chemical spills are detected—so it keeps contaminants out of the drinking water system.

The system was in danger of shutting down when federal and state dollars ran out. But officials from Macomb and St. Clair counties have each come up with enough money to keep the system going for another year.

But policymakers are still searching for a long-term solution.

Macomb County Commission Chair Kathy Vosburg says a long-term fix will likely mean a small consumer fee.

“Consumers are very willing to pay for that, it comes out to be something like 50 cents to a dollar per household per year.”

But implementing that would take cooperation from the many different cities that send out water bills--and the city of Detroit, which owns and operates the whole drinking water system.

Politics
10:03 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Bing: We'll do "whatever it takes" to fix bus crisis

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’ll do “whatever it takes” to get the city out of its current bus crisis.

Pressure is mounting for Bing to do something about the problem, which has some city residents waiting more than three hours for busses. Bing admits that amounts to a “crisis.”

“As we look at people standing in line for two or three hours waiting for a bus…at children trying to get to school on time in the cold weather, waiting for a bus…if we look at people trying to get to their jobs on a daily basis waiting for a bus…that is unacceptable.”

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Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

UAW and Chrysler reach tentative contract deal

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have agreed to terms for a four-year contract deal.

Chrysler is the last of Detroit’s three carmakers to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW.

The agreement follows some tense negotiations between the UAW and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by the Italian automaker Fiat.

Chrysler is smaller and more indebted than its fellow U.S. automakers, but the UAW sought a contract with similar terms to those it got from GM and Ford.

Like in the GM and Ford contracts, entry-level Chrysler workers will get a wage hike under this deal. Workers also stand to get more in bonus pay and profit-sharing.

“The overall framework, the overall labor cost agreement [compared to GM and Chrysler] is very, very comparable,” said UAW President Bob King. “We tweaked them, shifted them a little bit in each case, because of the specific needs of the individual companies.”

Also like the GM and Ford contracts, this agreement focuses more on creating and retaining jobs for U.S. workers than on boosting worker pay. Chrysler says it will invest $4.5 billion in U.S. production, and create 2100 U.S. jobs.

King thinks most of his members understand the focus on future investment.

“Our members overwhelmingly supported the goal of bringing more jobs into our plants,” King says.  “And our members understand overall that they can’t be secure unless there’s product and investment long-term in their facility.”

UAW officials hope to get Chrysler workers to ratify the deal within the next two weeks.

GM UAW workers ratified their contract by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. Ford workers are still voting.

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