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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An environmental group is calling on Michigan lawmakers and President Obama to ban the natural gas extraction process known as “fracking.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to release natural gas.

Food and Water Watch says fracking poses an “unacceptable risk” to water supplies and human health. Several recent investigations have shown that fracking contaminated groundwater in several states.

Lynna Kaucheck is with Food and Water Watch in Detroit. She says northern Michigan is a current hotspot for fracking exploration.

“The northern part of the lower Peninsula sits on the Collingwood-Utica shale which is very deep deposits of shale gas. And so right now a lot of out of-state-companies are purchasing mineral rights so they can begin horizontal fracking for natural gas.”

Kauchek says that could to lead to chemically-contaminated groundwater, and pose a risk to the state’s agricultural and tourism industries.

“We don’t believe that fracking can be done safely. Especially not the way that they’re doing it right now.”

State environmental regulators say the gas is so deep in the ground that fracking shouldn’t affect water supplies. They acknowledge some concerns, but say the practice is generally safe.

American Federation of Teachers

The leader of the nation’s second-largest teacher’s union made a pitch for empowering teachers in Detroit.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten toured Palmer Park Preparatory Academy. The district says the school has been transformed for the better in the past year, since teachers took control of most school functions, including the budget and curriculum.

The AFT touts the school’s success as “a model of successful union-district collaboration and teacher accountability.”

Residents in a Southwest Detroit neighborhood found what appeared to be eviction notices on their front doors Monday.

The notices were actually flyers distributed by the group Americans for Prosperity in the city’s Delray neighborhood.

The flyers warned residents that the state will seize their homes, if legislators approve a plan for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

The Detroit City Council has voted to override Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

The City Council added $50 million in additional cuts to Bing’s budget. By overriding his veto, they put those cuts into effect.

Bing blasted the Council afterward, saying the cuts will lead to public safety layoffs. He also says their action could move the city toward a takeover by an Emergency Manager.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius toured facilities at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital Friday.

Sebelius was there to promote the department’s Partnership for Patients initiative. More than 1500 hospitals have signed on so far.

That program aims to save more than 60,000 lives over three years, by cutting preventable injuries and complications that result from hospital visits.

Sebelius says about one in three Americans leave hospitals in worse shape than when they arrived.

The Detroit Police Chief admits the department left its former crime lab in deplorable condition. But Ralph Godbee also insists that no evidence that could compromise ongoing criminal cases was left behind there.

The Detroit Police Department shuttered its crime lab in 2008, after investigations revealed numerous problems with testing and handling evidence.

The Detroit City Council has set up a meeting to override Mayor Dave Bing’s likely budget veto.

Bing said last week he’ll veto the Council’s budget proposal. He has until the end of this week to do so.

The two sides are at odds over the Council’s decision to cut an additional $50 million from Bing’s proposed budget.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Dearborn held its 87th annual Memorial Day parade Monday.

It’s the longest-running Memorial Day celebration in the state.

This year’s parade honored veterans of the Vietnam War. It’s been 50 years since the U.S. first became involved in that conflict.

The events included a funeral procession for several veterans, and a Remembrance Service.

Judy Carty watched the parade alongside her husband, a Korean War veteran.

Carty says as someone who protested the Vietnam War, she had “mixed feelings” about the proceedings.

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a “constitutional crisis.”

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced the report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems.”

It profiles 13 men who spent time in prison, even though there was evidence of their innocence.

One is Frederick Mardlin, who spent three years in prison for arson.

User P.E.C. / Flickr

The American Federation of Teachers says its Michigan “Lobby Day” will “educate” legislators about the effect of state education cuts.

Teachers and school employees from all over the state descended on Lansing Tuesday for the Lobby Day, including a group from Detroit.

Ivy Bailey is with the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ Peer Assistance and Review Program. She was on board a bus headed to Lansing from Detroit.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ended a controversial program targeting men from majority-Muslim countries.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) began in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The program required men from predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea living in the U.S. to be interviewed and fingerprinted by Homeland Security.

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools’ new Emergency Financial manager started the job Monday.

Former GM Executive Roy Roberts toured several Detroit schools and met with staff.

Roberts says the district must undergo a “cultural change” and reject a “Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality” for students to succeed.

Charles Pugh

The city of Detroit is ramping up efforts to cobble together a budget and a five-year deficit elimination plan.

Detroit City Council members got a copy of Mayor Dave Bing’s deficit elimination plan Tuesday.

The Council wants more cuts than Bing proposed. They say that’s necessary to avoid a possible state takeover of the city’s finances.

Council President Charles Pugh says a Council work group believes the city should cut at least $120 million from the upcoming budget.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan will get just under $200 million to boost rail service between Detroit and Chicago.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the official announcement alongside state and local officials in Detroit Monday.

The federal money comes with no strings attached. Officials say it will let them upgrade a stretch of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Gary Peters say the government should do more to help the auto industry mass-produce fuel-efficient technologies.

The two Democrats were at Bosch auto supplier headquarters in suburban Detroit today to urge Congressional support for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.

The bill would authorize $300 million a year for private sector fuel-efficiency research.

Peters says "this is just the right thing to do" with Michigan gas prices at record highs:

 "You’re going to hear a lot of ideas about drilling and other types of ideas, but really the best idea is to push the technology," said Peters. "Push innovation. And that’s what we do here in the Detroit area better than anybody else in the world, and that’s innovate with vehicles and automobiles."

Peters says the legislation has support from both environmental and business groups.

The bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support last year, but it couldn’t get through the Senate.

Greening of Detroit

Detroiters who want a say in how the city manages its land gathered for an environmental summit last week.

Activists and community leaders organized the summit so citizens could provide input on environmental aspects of the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project to deal with the city’s huge swaths of vacant land.

Jackie Victor lives and owns a small business in Detroit.

She says city planners need to look at Detroit’s land and natural resources as assets rather than liabilities.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed former GM Executive Roy Roberts to take over as the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager.

Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry.

Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a “successful businessman and team builder.”

The Detroit Public Schools is moving ahead with its controversial 2012 Renaissance Plan.

That’s Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s plan to turn up to 50 current schools into charters, rather than closing them down.

Bobb says 18 organizations have submitted bids to transform some district schools into charters.

Both the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing say this is a crucial week for getting the city’s budget in order.

Detroit will end the fiscal year in June with a budget deficit of at least $180 million.

Both Mayor Bing and the Council declare they’ll work together to avoid a state takeover of the city’s finances.

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