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
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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Politics
6:44 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

"Occupy Detroit" camp avoids immediate shutdown

It looks like “Occupy Detroit” won’t be forced out of downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus Park immediately.

The group’s permit expires Monday, but Occupy protesters want the city to extend it for another two weeks.

It appears they will do so, though the Detroit City Council won’t finalize the issue until Tuesday. Detroit Police also say they’ll follow the Council’s lead, and won’t evict protesters.

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Politics
6:26 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Detroit outlines action to battle bus crisis

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer says the city will bring in an outside company to oversee bus maintenance.

Chris Brown says that’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s strategy to address the city’s bus crisis. The situation has many Detroiters waiting as long as three hours for buses.

The city had instituted furlough days and cut overtime pay for bus mechanics, which led to a lack of buses on the streets. Officials have also accused bus mechanics of a deliberate work slowdown.

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Religion
10:27 pm
Sat November 12, 2011

Thousands answer "The Call" in Detroit

A banner outside TheCall: Detroit at Ford Field.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

A 24-hour mass prayer session in Detroit wrapped up Saturday evening. The event drew thousands of people—and a handful of protesters--to Ford Field.

TheCall, a controversial, Kansas City-based Christian group, organized the prayer marathon, called "TheCall: Detroit."

They chose Detroit because, in their words, the city “has become a microcosm of our national crisis,” whose “desperation can produce a prayer that will change the nation.”

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Veterans
11:00 am
Sat November 12, 2011

In Detroit, a new community for homeless vets

A housing complex for homeless veterans officially opened its doors in Detroit on Veterans Day.

It will serve as a transitional housing program where veterans can stay for up to two years. It can house as many as 60 people at a time.

Sharon Dade is the director of social services for Volunteers of America, the non-profit group that owns and operates the Detroit shelter.

She says they’ll work with the Veteran’s Administration to serve every qualified person—whether they’ve just returned from conflict, or have struggled for years.

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Politics
9:30 pm
Thu November 10, 2011

Controversial Pastor Terry Jones wins appeal

Terry Jones
Associated Press

A Judge has reversed a Dearborn jury’s ruling that found a Christian pastor intended to breach the peace at a demonstration he planned outside the country’s biggest mosque.

Terry Jones is the controversial Florida Pastor who once burned the Quran, and believes Muslim Sharia law is a major threat to the U.S.

He wanted to protest outside Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America in April, but never got the chance. He was hauled to court, found guilty of intent to breach the peace, and ordered to stay away from the Islamic Center of America for three years.

Jones appealed his prosecution, saying it violated his right to free speech. A Wayne county Circuit Court Judge ruled it actually did not. But he still reversed the jury’s decision on a due process technicality.

Jones said he plans to return to the mosque to protest “jihad and sharia.”

“That was why we chose that particular location," Jones told reporters after the ruling. "That particular location had a definite purpose. Because we were targeting [those] two aspects of radical Islam.”

The Judge also overturned a three-year injunction keeping Jones away from the mosque.

Wayne County Prosecutors say they’ll appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Politics
9:21 pm
Thu November 10, 2011

End near for Occupy Detroit encampment?

It appears the city of Detroit is looking to clear out the “Occupy Detroit” encampment.

“Occupy" campers have been settled in downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus Park for nearly a month. That site has served as a gathering point for several larger protests.

But the group’s permit is set to expire Monday. Officials indicated they’ll then begin enforcing a 10 pm curfew at the park.

Participant Jessica Dawl said the “Occupy” group applied for permit extensions, which the city denied. She said it’s widely thought the city is cracking down in advance of Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

“It’s definitely because of the parade," Dawl said. "They don’t want us here because of the parade. Because the bleachers are in this park…and it’s national, on television. So, they don’t want us there.”

It’s not clear whether all of the protesters plan to clear out voluntarily. Dawl said they will meet Saturday to decide their future course of action.

Politics
9:03 am
Thu November 10, 2011

GOP candidates touch on manufacturing, auto bailouts at Michigan debate

CNBC

Eight contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination talked jobs and the economy last night at CNBC's "Your Money, Your Vote" debate.

The debate took place at Oakland University in suburban Detroit. But for the most part, the candidates spoke little about issues specific to Michigan or the Midwest.

One exception was the issue of whether the government should have propped up the domestic auto industry. The answer seemed to be a universal “no.”

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Election 2011
11:01 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Detroit voters approve new city charter

Detroit voters have cast their ballots this evening.
user ccpablocosta Flickr

Voters in Detroit have capped a two-year process by approving a new city charter.

Detroiters voted to open the charter up for an overhaul in 2009, amidst questions about whether the current city charter enabled corruption.

An elected charter commission spent two years putting together the proposal. It faced stiff resistance from some prominent Detroit figures, including several Detroit City Council members.

But in the end, the new charter passed overwhelmingly, with about 58% of the vote.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Wayne County Airport Authority board chief resigns

Renee Axt
Metro Airport

The severance scandal surrounding the now-fired CEO of Detroit Metro Airport, Turkia Mullin, has apparently claimed a member of the airport board.

Wayne County Airport Authority chair Renee Axt resigned Monday. She issued the following statement:

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Politics
6:24 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

ACLU watches Pontiac election

The Michigan ACLU is expressing concerns about how well the city of Pontiac is prepared to handle Tuesday’s election.

Recently, Pontiac’s emergency manager, Lou Schimmel, fired three top Pontiac officials, including the city clerk. He appointed a new clerk last week.

That concerns the ACLU, which wonders if the new clerk has had enough time to effectively organize the election. The group sent Schimmel a letter expressing its concerns late last week.

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Detroit
4:41 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

Detroit mayor promises better security for city bus drivers

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit’s bus system is running again, after screeching to a temporary stop. Bus drivers staged an hours-long work stoppage today after a colleague was apparently attacked by passengers Thursday evening.

Detroit’s bus system has been in a state of crisis for weeks. Buses aren’t getting repaired, and passengers are waiting several hours to catch the bus. Bus drivers have continually complained that frustrated passengers are taking their anger out on them. The Thursday attack was apparently the last straw.

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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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