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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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Trumbullplex Archives

The massive fire that killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship, an Oakland, California warehouse art space, has put similar venues under the microscope in cities nationwide.

That includes Detroit. The city has many informal, DIY spaces for creative people. And at least one of them, the Trumbullplex, was visited by a city fire marshal last week.

Wikimedia Commons

A broad group of civil rights advocates is cheering an Obama Administration decision this week to dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration system (NSEERS).

That U.S. Homeland Security program required visiting males from 25 countries—nearly all of them Muslim-majority countries--to register with the U.S. government, providing background and other information beyond what’s normally required for a visa.

Kevin Matthews
Family photo

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday she will not charge two Dearborn police officers with crimes.

The officers were involved in separate shooting incidents that happened about a year ago.

Kevin Matthews was shot dead by a Dearborn police officer in Detroit, after a brief foot chase just after Christmas last year.

About a month later, another Dearborn officer shot and killed Janet Wilson in her car outside Fairlane Mall. Both were unarmed.

Worthy now says that after lengthy and thorough investigations, she’s determined both were justified shootings in self-defense.

In Matthews’ case, there is physical evidence of an “intense” physical struggle between the officer and Matthews before the shooting.

Lamarr Monson takes notes in court during final arguments to overturn his murder conviction.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Lawyers made their final arguments in court Wednesday, but it will take more than a month for a Wayne County judge to decide whether Lamarr Monson deserves a new trial.

Monson confessed to the 1996 murder of Christina Brown, a 12-year-old runaway. The two lived and sold drugs together out of an apartment on Detroit’s west side, though Monson and others say Brown told people she was 17.

But Monson later said that Detroit police tricked and coerced him into confessing. And his lawyers say it bears the hallmarks of a false confession.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The small Detroit suburb of Eastpointe is looking for public input as it stares down a potential lawsuit.

The U.S. Justice Department warned the city last month that the way it chooses city council members violates the Voting Rights Act.

The government says voting for council members at-large denies the city’s growing black community a voice in government.

Between late 2013 and mid-2015, Michigan’s automated system for processing unemployment insurance claims flagged 53,633 cases of fraud.

But a new state review of some of those cases found that the system was wrong — 93% of the time.

That’s prompted U.S. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, to call for a full review of all the fraud cases auto-adjudicated during that period.

Public Lighting Authority of Detroit / via Facebook

Detroit is shining much brighter than it did just a couple years ago, and is now “a beacon” for cities nationwide.

That was the consensus at an event Thursday, as the city flipped the switch to celebrate 65,000 new streetlights.

Mayor Mike Duggan has made overhauling Detroit’s street lights a priority. An estimated 40% of them weren’t working when he took office.

A protest against the AICC's proposed Sterling Heights mosque in 2015.
Chaldean Nation / via Facebook

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sterling Heights, accusing the city of religious discrimination when it denied a permit to build an Islamic Center and mosque in 2015.

Renard Johnson appears in court for resentencing via videoconference.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has more than 150 juveniles serving mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences.

That’s by far the most in the state. And because of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, they all need to be re-sentenced.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants 67 of those people to stay behind bars for life. But a lot of people are wondering how she decided who deserves a second chance, and who doesn’t.

“He’s been gone so long”

Renard Johnson has been behind bars since he was 17 years old.

Flickr user sj carey / Flickr

Detroit is putting landlords on notice: Heat your rental units properly, or face some major fines.

David Bell, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety and Engineering Department, says inspectors are targeting 143 homes and buildings that received violation notices in the past year.

“They’ve got three days to reach out to us and call for re-inspection. We’ll get somebody out there,” Bell said.

“We know that you have outstanding violations, and we’re not going to let them slide. You have to do what is right by city code, and by your tenants.”

Judge's gavel
Flickr user Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

More details about the nature and scope of a criminal investigation into Detroit’s massive demolition program should come out in court next month.

That’s when a Wayne County judge has ruled that a federal subpoena for Detroit’s land bank will be unsealed.

Detroit has demolished more than 10,000 blighted homes under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority has done most of those demolitions, using almost $130 million in federal funds so far.

Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC in 2011.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some Detroit leaders, clergy, and activists spoke out against Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General on Monday, denouncing him as someone who would “take us back to the Jim Crow era.”

They said Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, has a particularly bad history when it comes to African-American voting rights, and other civil rights issues.

But Rev. Paul Perez, with the Detroit conference of the United Methodist Church, says that’s not the only area of concern.

Protesters chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School, after reported incidents of race-based bullying there.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Some school leaders and parents are wrestling with how to respond to hateful incidents in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

There have been a number of such incidents reported in schools across Michigan since election day.

One happened at Royal Oak Middle School the day after the election, when a  group of students chanted “build the wall” in the cafeteria — an apparent reference to Trump’s pledge to build a wall across the Mexican border.

Alicia Ramon is the mother of the seventh-grade girl who took a video of that incident, which has since gone viral.

A home being demolished in Detroit.
City of Detroit / via Facebook

A federal investigation into Detroit’s demolition program under Mayor Mike Duggan seems to be picking up speed, and possibly widening in scope.

Federal agents visited the Detroit land bank Wednesday.

The land bank has used almost $130 million in federal money, originally allocated for foreclosure prevention, on demolitions as part of Duggan’s aggressive blight elimination campaign.

Judge's gavel
Flickr user Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A man sentenced to automatic life in prison as a juvenile could get that sentence reinstated, even though decades of his court files are missing.

That’s what a Wayne County Circuit Court judge has ruled.

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Charles Lewis was convicted of murder and sentenced to automatic life without parole in 1977, when he was 17.

That makes him a so-called “juvenile lifer.” And the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled all juvenile lifers are entitled to a shot at parole or re-sentencing, except in the “rarest” cases.

raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

There’s no sign that Detroit will change any of its immigrant-friendly policies as a result of Donald Trump’s election, according to one City Council member who has helped spearhead some of them.

Detroit is a self-designated “sanctuary city.” Those cities offer limited protections to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has pledged to cancel federal funding to all sanctuary cities during his first 100 days in office.

But Detroit City Council member Raquel Castañeda Lopez said there are no plans to change anything—yet.

Civil rights groups and clergy gathered at Detroit's Central United Methodist Church on Monday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Civil rights groups and faith leaders say they stand ready to oppose some of Donald Trump’s expected policies.

They displayed a united front and laid out plans for action in Detroit on Monday.

The plans range from rounding up attorneys and other volunteers to defend families facing deportation, to clergy pledging “sanctuary” for them.

Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant living in Detroit, says his community is “scared to death” right now.

Protesters also chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Protesters have taken to streets across the country to express their displeasure with President-elect Donald Trump.

That includes some who gathered to speak out and march in Metro Detroit last night.

In Royal Oak, the group gathered outside Oakland Community College was fairly small, but they did draw lots of supportive honks.

Some shared their anger over Trump’s election—and their determination to resist his policies.

Others spoke about fear of harassment and physical attacks against Muslims, immigrants and other targets of Trump’s rhetoric.

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

There’s a big, coordinated push in Detroit for more and better early childhood services.

But first, its boosters need to come up with a plan.

The biggest boosters—and likely funders—of this “civic partnership” dubbed Hope Starts Here are the Kellogg and Kresge Foundations.

They’re rounding up groups and people with a role in Detroit’s early childhood services, from day care providers to pediatricians.

Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron says the idea is to come up with an “action plan” that lets everyone can claim ownership.

Refugee children play in Warren, MI in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What will happen to U.S. policy toward Syrian refugees when Donald Trump takes over as president?

That’s what Michigan’s refugee community, and the agencies that help to resettle them, are waiting to find out.

Trump repeatedly depicted Syrian refugees as terrorist threats on the campaign trail, and threatened to “stop Syrian refugees” from entering the country more than once.

A map outlining the proposed transit master plan for Metro Detroit.
Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

A millage proposal to fund transit improvements has failed in Metro Detroit.

It would have allowed the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority to implement an ambitious transit master plan, upgrading the historically dismal and fragmented transit systems in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

The millage would have raised about $3 billion over 20 years to build bus rapid transit systems, bolster and better connect existing bus lines, provide transit connections to Detroit Metro Airport, and other services.

gop.gov / gop.gov

After 24 years, Macomb County has a new public works commissioner: retiring Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller.

The race for that typically low-profile, decidedly un-glamorous job got nasty--and expensive—this year.

Democrat Anthony Marrocco has been Macomb’s public works commissioner for 24 years.

The job description is all about managing sewers and storm drains. But the commissioner also controls important construction permits, and some very large county contracts.

From left to right: EAA chancellor Veronica Confirme, DPSCD interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather, DPSCD transition manager Steven Rhodes.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What remains of the Education Achievement Authority will merge with Detroit’s public schools district, then dissolve next July.

That’s when the EAA, Governor Snyder’s fumbled attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools, will finally cease to exist.

Making that transition as smooth as possible will be the mission between now and July, according to Detroit Public Schools Community District transition manager Steven Rhodes.

DPSCD Superintendent Alycia Meriweather and district staff announce new schools programs in March 2016.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit public school district has a new academic plan.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District got a fiscal overhaul after nearly going bankrupt last year.

Now, Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather says it will take a fresh approach to teaching and learning, too.

Longtime Macomb Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, left; retiring U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township), right.
via Macomb County, US Rep. Candice Miller

If you live in southeast Michigan, you’ve probably seen ads like this on your TV lately:

And this one:

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The U.S. Justice Department will keep a close eye on things in Michigan this election day.

But according to Detroit’s U.S. Attorney, that’s largely business as usual.

Barbara McQuade has appointed Dawn Ison, a “very experienced” prosecutor from her office’s public corruption unit, to be the District Election Officer.

Ison will “be on call” all day to take any complaints of potential federal election violations, from potential fraud to complaints of voter intimidation. She also has a direct line to the Justice Department in Washington if the need arises.

via michigan.org

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign is a net money-loser for the state.

At least that’s what researchers at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy conclude in a new report.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit's immigrant population is on the rise once again.

After taking a dip between 2000 and 2010, the number of immigrants in the city has grown more than 12% since then, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the non-profit group Global Detroit.

That accounts for more than 4,000 new Detroiters, says Global Detroit Executive Director Steve Tobocman.

“That is a major turnaround, and hopefully it’s a bellwether for the stabilization of neighborhoods in the city of Detroit,” Tobocman said.

Brandy Gutierrez was evicted from her house in Lincoln Park. She says no one told her it had gone into tax foreclosure until it was too late.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In Wayne County, tens of thousands of properties go into tax foreclosure every year.

Most are in Detroit. But it happens in the suburbs too.

Some suburban communities have started buying those tax-foreclosed homes, and turning them over to developers.

But many of the affected homeowners didn’t know that until it was too late to save their homes.

Some tried to fight anyway. But this month, that fight came to a bitter end.

Clifford Freitas
via LinkedIn

An FBI probe into Macomb County municipal corruption has netted another local elected official, and forced a major garbage company founder to resign.

Macomb Township trustee Clifford Freitas is the second local government official charged with bribery this month.

Frietas allegedly demanded more than $40,000 in bribes to help a waste hauler, Rizzo Environmental Services, get a favorable contract.

That happened despite the fact that Freitas worked for Rizzo, and was supposed to remove himself from any government business involving the company.

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