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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Auto/Economy
11:56 pm
Sun December 11, 2011

Emergency food providers stretched thin in suburban Detroit

Gleaners Food Bank

People on the front lines of food insecurity in suburban Detroit say things are grim: demand is growing as federal and state food programs are cut.

In Macomb County, anti-hunger advocates are overwhelmed with need. The number of people needing emergency food assistance has almost doubled between 2008 and 2010.

John Kastler is with Gleaners Community Food Bank. He said those funds, particularly from the federal government, “really did make it a lot easier to stock the pantries and put food on the table.”

“And when you talk about these programs being cut and the funding disappearing…it really does put people in crisis,” Kastler said.

Sue Figurski, coordinator of the Macomb Food Program, said the state’s recent decision to implement an asset test for food stamp applicants has put even more strain on food pantries--and proved a degrading process for many seeking help.

“Do you think anybody really and truly wants to be on food stamps? Not be able to take care of their family? Not the people we talk to,” Figurski said.

Last month, Macomb County officials started a Food Policy Council to deal with the problem of growing hunger and declining resources.

Education
2:56 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Detroit students show small gains on national standardized test

Detroit students scored better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Students in Detroit Public Schools showed slight improvements in the latest round of a benchmark standardized test.

But Detroit students still posted the worst scores of any district in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

The NAEP exam tests fourth and eighth-graders in reading and math. When Detroit students took the test for the first time in 2009, they produced the worst scores in the test’s history.

In 2011:

·        Math, 4th grade: proficiency up from 31% to 34%

·        Math, 8th grade: proficiency up from 22% to 29%

·        Reading, 4th grade: proficiency up from 27% to 31%

·        Reading, 8th grade: proficiency up from 41% to 43%

Some experts question whether the posted gains are even statistically significant. But Detroit schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the important thing is a positive trend.

“Detroit had the highest gains of any city in any subject in mathematics,” Roberts says. “Detroit also exceeded the state in gains in reading.”

“Like the budget deficit, it will not be eliminated overnight. But we have demonstrated real progress.”

Roberts says the biggest thing hindering Detroit students’ academic performance has been “instability” in the district.

He says the district will announce in January how many more schools to close, charter, or move to the Education Achievement System, a new statewide district for the lowest-performing schools.

Auto/Economy
7:22 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Southgate couple plans to defy eviction, "occupy" their home

Robert and Debbie Henry
via Occupy Detroit

A Metro Detroit family says they’ll stay in their home, despite threats of eviction. Their action is part of a new initiative coordinated by the national “Occupy” movement.

Rob and Debbie Henry live in the Detroit suburb of Southgate. They got a mortgage loan modification after Debbie had a stroke and lost her job.

The Henrys thought they were following the terms of that process. But a confusing series of events ensued that included their loan being sold to Fannie Mae without their knowledge.

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Politics
12:37 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Troy Mayor faces critics over anti-gay slur

Protesters outside Troy City Hall Monday
Facebook photo

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels faced a packed and angry house at a City Council meeting Monday night.

Residents and non-residents alike lined up to blast Daniels, who’s come under fire for an anti-gay slur she made on Facebook. A Troy blog unearthed the remark from earlier this year.

It read: “I think I am going to throw away my I love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”

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Politics
5:50 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Detroit's cash crunch: Report highlights role of debt and legacy costs

user Urban Adventures Flickr

A recent report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan highlights a sometimes overlooked part of Detroit’s current fiscal crisis: the city’s debt and legacy costs.

According to the report, Detroit has about $14 billion in liabilities (though about $5.2 billion of that is for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and thus shared with its suburban customers).

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Religion
11:40 am
Mon December 5, 2011

Detroit Catholics: Archdiocese plans could "abandon" city

Last week, the Detroit Archdiocese said it will likely close nine churches and consolidate dozens more starting next year.

The six-county Detroit Archdiocese, like many across the country, is dealing with a priest shortage and declining membership in many churches.

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Politics
6:14 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Organizers step up petition effort to repeal emergency manager law

PA 4 opponents rally in Detroit Friday
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Organizers behind a petition drive to repeal Michigan’s emergency manager law say they’re launching an all-out blitz for signatures.

Their campaign ramps ups just as the state starts the process that could lead to an emergency manager in Detroit.

Opponents of Public Act Four say it violates the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions by removing local elected officials from power. They also say it’s being used disproportionately to disenfranchise African American voters.

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Politics
8:21 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Detroit leaders show united front, vow to work out city's fiscal problems on their own

user steveburt1947 Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other city leaders stood side-by-side at city hall Thursday night, saying they’re all ready to work together.

The show of unity comes as the city scrambles to stave off a state-appointed emergency manager. Governor Snyder has threatened to send in a financial review team that would initiate that process if the city doesn’t get its act together.

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Religion
4:39 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Detroit Archdiocese takes next step in streamlining plans

A group advising the Detroit Archdiocese about reorganizing parishes will submit its recommendations to the Archbishop Wednesday evening.

The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council is made up mostly of laypeople. The group was tasked with creating a plan to close or merge parishes throughout southeast Michigan.

In a letter to Catholic parishoners across the Archdiocese, the Council’s chairman explains their recommendations are based on suggestions from parish groups

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Politics
10:46 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Is there a future for the New International Trade Crossing?

The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River and connects Michigan to Canada.
Norris Wong Flickr

One legal expert says only Congress—not the state—can authorize a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

Constitutional law professor Robert Sedler was one speaker at a Wayne State University law school panel discussion about the bridge’s future Tuesday.

Sedler says Congress, exercising its authority over international commerce, granted the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge a franchise—and would have to do so again in the case of a new crossing.

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Environment
7:20 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

MSU Study: Minorities pay more for water in Michigan

Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A new study indicates racial minorities pay more for water and sewer service than whites in Michigan.

Michigan State University researchers looked at what people across the state paid for water and sewer service in 2000. Basic economic theory predicts that rural residents would pay the most for such services.

But the researchers found precisely the opposite to be true. Their results show that people in urban centers—with large minority populations—paid the most.

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Arts/Culture
4:21 pm
Thu November 24, 2011

In Detroit, a Thanksgiving tradition continues

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and that means it’s time for a parade in downtown Detroit.

As the annual  parade proceeded into the heart of downtown this Thanksgiving, newspaper headlines reminded people that the city stands of the verge of bankruptcy.

But, there are also bright spots. The city's downtown is showing signs of revitalization. And the parade itself is a reminder of many grand traditions in Detroit's history.

The parade is a family tradition for man, including cousins McKenzie Holly and Mariah Bursey.

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Auto/Economy
6:10 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Federal cuts devastate Focus: HOPE

About two-dozen people learned Wednesday would be the last day of their Information Technology certification course at Focus: HOPE. Some were nearly in tears, and most were reluctant to leave.

In all, about 225 people face an abrupt end to job training courses like this one. That’s because of Congress’s inaction on the Workforce Investment Act.

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Politics
6:34 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Detroit Mayor, City Council issue proposals to keep city solvent

Both Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council have put forth proposals aimed at avoiding a state financial takeover.

A recent cash flow report suggests the city is likely to run out of cash by spring, and be $45 million in the red by the end of June 2012.

Bing, who announced 1000 city layoffs last week, issued more details of his proposal Tuesday. They include, in addition to the layoffs:

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Politics
6:02 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Detroit Congressman Clarke continues push for federal relief

Hansen Clarke

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says “time is of the essence” for his proposed Detroit Jobs Trust Fund Act.

That’s legislation Clarke has proposed that would divert federal taxes collected in Detroit into a trust--about $2 billion annually over five years. That money would then be used to finance jobs and infrastructure projects.

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Education
5:14 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit Public Schools cuts deficit

Roy Roberts

Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the district is making headway on its deficit.

The district ended the 2010 fiscal year more than $327 million in the red. Roberts says the district cut that by more than $40 million the following year.

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Politics
9:43 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Detroit to cut 1,000 jobs

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced 1000 layoffs Friday.

Detroit faces a $45 million budget gap this fiscal year—and is poised to run out of cash by April.

Bing says the layoffs represent important savings—but they won’t close Detroit’s budget gap. He says city unions need to take a 10% pay cut.

“We have to talk to the union. If we don’t get concessions from the unions, none of the plans will work,” Bing said bluntly.

Bing gave the unions until Monday to agree, but talks between the two sides have gone nowhere.

Bing also insists he’s determined to go after tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing the state owes Detroit from more than a decade ago.

“The state owes the city of Detroit $220 million,” Bing said. “I’m not afraid to ask for it, I’ve asked for it, I’m going after it.”

Republican leaders in Lansing have balked at Bing’s request.

Bing also says he won't submit the city's finances for a state review--something that Governor Snyder has said he "expected" Bing would do in light of Detroit's precarious situation.

Politics
10:23 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Detroit Mayor's plea for payment gets cool reception in Lansing

Critics and allies alike say Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to get the state to pay the city more than $200 million faces an uphill battle.

It’s one of the ideas the Mayor has outlined to keep the city from going broke.

In 1998, Detroit lowered its city income tax in exchange for guaranteed levels of state revenue sharing. But city officials say the state reneged, and shorted Detroit about $220 million it was promised.

Bing says that would be enough to erase the city’s structural deficit, and the $45-million shortfall the city expects this year.

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Culture of Class
11:45 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Neighborhood schools vs. "choice" debate about money, culture, and local control

American public education has a strong tradition of neighborhood schools within locally-controlled school districts. But that’s changed in recent years.

The vast majority of Michigan school districts participate to some degree in what’s known as schools of choice—meaning they’ll accept some students from outside their district’s borders.

Now Governor Snyder wants to make schools of choice mandatory. But many people are against that—including many in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe.

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Politics
10:17 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Bing outlines dire financial picture for Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is on the verge of a financial calamity. But he insists that with tough choices all around, it can still avoid a state takeover.

Bing’s televised speech on city finances Wednesday night had a blunt message: “Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once.

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