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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Law
6:00 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Detroit judge agrees to city tour, but asks for security precautions

Credit Sam Beebe

The judge in charge of Detroit’s bankruptcy case tentatively agreed Thursday to tour parts of the city—despite concerns about his safety.

City lawyers have been pushing Judge Steven Rhodes to take a city bus tour for some time now.

They say the judge needs to see the conditions in Detroit neighborhoods firsthand, to help him make informed decisions in the case.

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Environment & Science
8:38 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Gardeners beware: Study shows harmful pesticide in garden store plants

2 out of 4 plants from a suburban Detroit Home Depot tested positive for neonicotinoids.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Michigan environmental group says gardeners should be careful when buying plants – they may be inadvertently harming bees.

The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center was part of a study looking at the pesticide content in plants bought from major home and garden stores in 18 cities across North America.

Of four plants purchased at a metro Detroit Home Depot, two tested positive for neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to be toxic to bees.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Detroit water department defends shutoff campaign after UN criticism

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Sue McCormick
Credit dwsd.org

The people who run Detroit’s water system faced fierce criticism Wednesday, after the United Nations issued a statement calling the city’s mass water shutoffs a possible human rights violation.

Critics lined up to blast officials at a Board of Water Commissioners meeting for ongoing efforts to cut off customers with unpaid bills.

Many cited the UN’s assertion that “when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections.”

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Families & Community
12:07 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Detroit residents: Developer is trying to force us out of homes he doesn't own

Model homes offered by the Gratiot McDougall United Community Development Corporation
Credit via city of Detroit

A group of Detroit residents says a developer is trying to throw them out of homes he doesn’t even own.

Developer Peter Barclae built the Gratiot McDougall Homes in 2006 with the help of federal grant money.

The homes were built specifically for Detroit participants in the federal HOME Investment Partnerships program, run by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Detroit suburbs see influx of Iraqis as global refugee population soars

Playing games during the World Refugee Day picnic at Warren's Hamlich Park.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people gathered at a Warren park this past weekend for a picnic celebrating World Refugee Day--and the area’s growing refugee community.

According to state data, of the 4658 refugees re-settled in Michigan last year, nearly three-quarters are from Iraq.

And many of them have settled in Macomb County suburbs, particularly Sterling Heights and Warren.

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Law
7:40 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Schuette jumps into court fight over access to Detroit retirees' personal finance data

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is jumping in the fight to prevent one of Detroit’s major creditors from accessing the personal financial records of city retirees.

Bond insurer Syncora Guarantee Inc. is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars if Detroit’s plan for exiting bankruptcy moves forward.

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Politics & Government
10:51 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Wayne County sues to collect back taxes on properties it once sold at tax-foreclosure auctions

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Wayne County treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz’s office has filed a lawsuit to collect about $80 million in delinquent property taxes.

The irony is that these are taxes owed on properties the county once owned, but sold at auction after they were foreclosed on...for delinquent property taxes.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu June 19, 2014

New EAA chief: School reform district has already "shattered the status quo," but needs to do better

EAA interim chancellor Veronica Conforme
Credit via Education Achievement Authority

The Education Achievement Authority’s new leader says that system has already “shattered the status quo” in some of Michigan’s most troubled schools.

But Veronica Conforme says EAA leaders also need to “take a hard look” at how the district is performing.

Conforme outlined her vision for the state-run school reform district Wednesday, one day after the EAA board named her interim chancellor.

Former Chancellor John Covington, who had led the district since it launched in 2012, stepped down Monday.

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Education
6:00 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Education Achievement Authority appoints interim chancellor, plans big budget cuts

Veronica Conforme, a former top-ranking official for the New York City school district, became the EAA's interim chancellor Tuesday.
Credit via Education Achievement Authority

It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a very turbulent week for the Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA board met Tuesday, the day after former Chancellor John Covington announced he was resigning for personal reasons. Covington was not in attendance as board members accepted his resignation.

The EAA is a state-led “reform district” for Michigan’s lowest-performing schools.

It’s Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief education initiative, and Covington has been at the helm since it launched in 2012 with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

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Politics & Government
9:48 am
Mon June 16, 2014

New state budget has $3 million for prosecutions linked to rape kits

The budget approved last week by state lawmakers includes money to help prosecute some sexual assault cases. The $3 million allocation will go toward prosecutions that stem from testing old rape kits.

More than 11,000 unprocessed rape kits were found in an abandoned Detroit Police crime lab in 2009. Since then, Michigan State Police and county prosecutors have struggled to process the backlog. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office will get to divvy up those funds.

“The appropriation calls for us to develop a plan for how the money will be spent, and that’s what we’re working on right now,” said office spokeswoman Joy Yearout. Yearout said there was no formal deadline for submitting that plan, but the office is “fast-tracking” the process.

The current fiscal year’s budget included $4 million to help speed the process of testing those rape kits. “The next step will be investigation and prosecution that will result from that testing,” said Yearout.

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Politics & Government
2:44 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Allen Park close to selling site of failed film studio project

An artist's rendering of the Unity Village development in Allen Park. The project never materialized after the developer walked away.

A New York-based developer has agreed to buy the site of a disastrous movie studio project that pushed Allen Park to the brink of bankruptcy.

The downriver Detroit suburb bought the 104-acre complex specifically for the project known as Unity Studios.

But the developer walked away after a year –after Allen Park had issued $25.5 million in bonds to support Unity Studios.

That debt eventually led to the state taking control of the city’s finances.

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Economy
12:02 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Detroit joins national "innovation districts" initiative

Detroit is now home to a designated “innovation district.”

Mayor Mike Duggan and other officials announced Thursday that Detroit was joining the Brookings Institution national initiative to recharge metropolitan economies.

Backers say those districts are a way to “supercharge the innovation economy.”

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Politics & Government
9:27 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Detroit water rates headed up, as department's future remains in limbo

A DWSD interceptor sewer line during construction in 2001. This line is north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials say they’re working to put the system on sound financial footing – including raising rates and shutting off service to thousands of households.

Water department officials briefed the Detroit City Council on planned rate hikes Tuesday.

They propose hiking the typical Detroit residential customer’s water bill by 8.7% to 10.4%.

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Politics & Government
1:25 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

More money pledged to protect art in Detroit bankruptcy

The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is getting more help raising money for its share of the deal meant to shield its collection from possible liquidation.

The New York-based Mellon Foundation and Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Trust have committed a combined $13 million toward the “grand bargain.”

That proposal would direct more than $800 million to Detroit’s pension funds--sparing pensioners from severe cuts, while legally safeguarding the DIA’s assets from being sold to pay off city creditors.

The DIA needs to come up with a $100 million contribution to the grand bargain, this new commitment puts them more than 80% of the way there.

Getty Trust President and CEO James Cuno says the two foundations made a decision to contribute on their own.

“We jointly made the commitment,” Cuno says. “There was no conversation with the DIA about it, no request from the DIA.”

Cuno says the donation reflects the North American art world’s support for maintaining the DIA’s collection as a civic institution and public resource “in perpetuity.”

If put up for sale, the collection “would be lost to private individuals around the world,” Cuno says. “And the public of Detroit, and surrounding suburbs, would be deprived of a public resource they once had.”

Cuno says it’s “too soon to tell” whether the money will be disbursed to the museum as a lump sum upfront, or spread out over a period of years. Donors and museum officials are waiting for the larger grand bargain to be finalized.

Earlier this week, Detroit’s 3 automakers pledged a combined $26 million toward the DIA’s contribution.

Judge Steven Rhodes has set an Aug. 14 trial on Detroit's plan to get out of bankruptcy.

Auto
11:23 am
Tue June 10, 2014

GM shareholders are in Detroit, and so are protesters

GM protesters outside the Renaissance Center
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

GM shareholders meet today at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters—with protesters circling outside the Renaissance Center.

The protesters include family members of people who died in GM cars that have since been recalled.

GM has acknowledged 13 deaths as a result of faulty ignition switches. But victim’s advocates say that number is much higher, possibly more than 100.

Laura Christian’s daughter, Amber Marie Rose, died when the airbag in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt failed to deploy.

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Education
9:27 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

Staff at Detroit's first unionized charter school have a tentative contract

Cesar Chavez teachers and staff demonstrate in favor of unionizing in 2012
Credit American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Fri June 6, 2014

"Grand bargain" moves forward with Detroit City Council vote to transfer DIA assets

Credit via Detroit Institute of Arts

The city of Detroit moved to finalize its end of the “grand bargain” Thursday, as the Detroit City Council voted to transfer the Detroit Institute of Arts’ assets to a public trust.

This week, Lansing lawmakers approved $195 million toward the $816 million grand bargain – a linchpin of Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.

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Politics & Government
6:14 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Syrian activists read names of the dead: "Silence only keeps the killing machine going"

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The conflict in Syria has faded from the headlines—but the country’s brutal war continues.

Protesters in Detroit and cities across the globe tried to get that message out Tuesday, by reading aloud the names of 100,000 people killed in the conflict.

Members of Michigan’s Syrian community and their supporters chose the Underground Railroad monument on the Detroit Riverwalk for their remembrance.

Jihad al-Harash is from Damascus, but has been living in Michigan since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

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Politics & Government
1:35 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

No "grand bargain" for Detroit's water department, as Orr considers private bids

As “grand bargain” legislation sails through Lansing, the fate of Detroit’s water department could become the biggest issue holding up a speedy exit from bankruptcy.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr maintains the city needs to find some way to generate revenue from the system, which serves more than 4 million people in southeast Michigan.

Orr is still pursuing two different possibilities: spinning the department off to a regional water authority, or leasing it to a private operator.

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Families & Community
4:25 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Cereal drive targets a downside of summer: child hunger

There’s an effort underway to make sure kids who usually get breakfast at school don’t go hungry in the summer months.

This is the fifth year that nurses at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital have taken up a cereal drive for those at-risk kids.

The drive was the brainchild of Pam Taurence and her colleagues on the Professional Nurse Council.

Taurence says it started in 2010, when the group was trying to come up with an idea for a community service project.

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