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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A U.S. House committee held a second hearing on the Flint water crisis Tuesday, taking testimony from some key players in that disaster.

Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former mayor Dayne Walling, former EPA official Susan Hedman, and Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards – whose independent research team helped reveal the high levels of lead in Flint water late last year – all testified.

But the hearing was defined largely by blistering criticism leveled at the U.S. EPA for failing to step in sooner.

A Wayne County judge sentenced Detroit state Senator Virgil Smith to ten months in jail Monday – but the court saga isn’t over just yet.

Smith had initially been charged with several felonies, after a violent domestic dispute with his ex-wife in May 2015.

But Smith cut a plea deal with prosecutors. He ended up pleading guilty to just one count, malicious destruction of property, for shooting up his ex-wife’s Mercedes.

Gov. Snyder speaks at a Flint news conference.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some high-level decision-makers behind the Flint water crisis will answer to Congress this week.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee has hearings scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday.

SpecialKRB / flickr

A new study suggests when it comes to childhood obesity, kids benefit from having a younger sibling.

And that link is surprisingly strong, according to an analysis of data from nearly 700 U.S. children.

Dr. Julie Lumeng, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital, was the study’s lead author.

Arab American Institute

Arab American voters seem to have played a vital role in handing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders an upset victory in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary.

The results show Sanders won in handily in many precincts with large Arab-American populations, particularly in the city of Dearborn.

via Detroit Lions

The rumors have been circulating for months, but now it’s official: Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson is retiring from the NFL at age 30.

“After much prayer, thought and discussion with loved ones, I have made the difficult decision to retire from the Lions and pro football. I have played my last game of football,” Johnson said, in a statement released Tuesday by the Lions.

Michigan State University

The person in charge of charting a new academic course for the Detroit Public Schools is a familiar face in the district.

Former federal judge Steven Rhodes, the district’s emergency manager, has named Alycia Meriweather as the new interim superintendent

Merriweather is a lifelong Detroiter and DPS graduate who “started with the Detroit Public Schools as a four-year-old with Head Start,” Meriweather said during a sometimes-emotional press conference Monday.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Stumping for votes in Michigan ahead of next week’s primary, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton called for a “new bargain for a new economy” at a campaign stop Friday.

Speaking from a factory floor in Detroit, Clinton said that “creating good-paying jobs and raising incomes is the defining economic challenge of our time.”

Clinton outlined a vision to meet that challenge.

She said U.S. corporations should practice “economic patriotism,” and treat workers as assets, not costs.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Chanting everything from “Flint lives matter!” to “Nazi scum, off our streets!”, a range of protesters confronted Republican presidential debate-goers in the snow outside Detroit’s Fox Theater Thursday night.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Ohio Governor John Kasich talked strategy in Detroit before the GOP presidential debate there Thursday—though he hardly talked about Michigan at all.

Kasich did say Michigan is “important.” The state holds its primary next Tuesday, and Kasich has campaigned here through the week.

But Kasich said the way things are shaking out, the Republican presidential race is “all coming down to Florida and Ohio.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The presidential candidates campaigning in Michigan Wednesday included Republican Marco Rubio, who made a stop at a Macomb County banquet hall.

The Florida Senator accused Republican front-runner Donald Trump of pulling an “elaborate con job” on voters.

He says this is no time to elect someone who “thinks the nuclear triad is a rock band from the eighties.”

“The world is a dangerous place. This is no time for irresponsibility or recklessness,” said Rubio, promising a “Reagan-style re-building of our military” if he’s elected.

Dominic Simpson / flickr

The clock is now ticking on Detroit’s medical marijuana dispensaries, as new city regulations kick into effect March 1.

Detroit’s medical marijuana industry has exploded in just the past couple of years.

Now, many of the city’s commercial strips are lined with pot dispensaries’ trademark green lights — more than 200 by some estimates.

But new rules going into effect this month should dim those lights to some degree.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

Gov. Snyder has made it official: Judge Steven Rhodes is the Detroit Public Schools’ fifth emergency manager since 2009.

Rhodes is the retired federal judge who managed Detroit’s bankruptcy case.

Skillman Foundation

The next superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools should come from the district’s current ranks, according to a non-profit leader who turned the job down.

Tonya Allen leads the Skillman Foundation, which has been deeply involved in Detroit education reform efforts for years. She had been widely considered a front-runner for a leadership post

Allen said Friday that she was offered the job of DPS interim superintendent, but declined.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

A state judge has dismissed the Detroit Federation of Teachers and its president from a lawsuit brought by the Detroit Public Schools.

The lawsuit is over the numerous “sickout” protests DPS teachers staged early this year to highlight deteriorating conditions in the schools.

The district sued, calling them illegal wildcat strikes.

But on Thursday, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed the charges against the DFT and union president Ivy Bailey from the suit.

City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city’s budget is balanced for a third straight year.

Duggan laid that budget out for the Detroit City Council Thursday.

Right now, Detroit must stick within strict limits laid out in its post-bankruptcy financial plan when it comes to the just-over-$1 billion general fund budget.

But Duggan says if it can stay true to this next budget, state oversight should ease up.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

It’s all but official: Steven Rhodes will take over as the next emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools, the fifth in not quite seven years.

Rhodes is the former federal judge who managed the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy case.

He met with DPS teachers and other employees at Detroit’s Cass Tech high school late Wednesday.

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

Detroit is already facing an unexpectedly large shortfall in its pension fund.

That raises some red flags about assumptions baked into the city’s post-bankruptcy financial plan. The city exited bankruptcy in late 2014.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan revealed the shortfall in his annual state of the city address Tuesday.

He said the fund will be short around $490 million by 2024.

The size of the gap and its quick appearance surprised many.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave his annual state of the city address Tuesday night, and it was a mixed bag.

Duggan ticked off some notable successes of his administration: more working streetlights, a much-improved bus system, and a record-setting demolition effort that took down about 5,000 blighted homes as of last year.

But there’s also an unexpected, $491 million shortfall in the city’s pension system.

Flickr user audreyjm529 /

A federal judge has put the brakes on a Detroit Animal Control practice of seizing dogs from homes without a search warrant.

A controversial Detroit ordinance allows animal control officers to do that.

But a number of city residents are now suing over the practice, claiming it violates their constitutional right to due process.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

The city of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools have signed a consent agreement.

It lays out timetables for fixing health and safety violations in some school buildings.

The agreement covers 26 schools right now. More schools could be added as city school inspections continue.

The agreement generally gives the district 30 days from the date of inspection to make repairs, sometimes less if there are health hazards.

Detroit Land Bank Authority

Detroit leaders hope to solve a real estate riddle with some help from banks and non-profits.

The Detroit Home Mortgage program is designed to counter stubbornly low property values in the city.

Those low values mean low assessments — which prevents many otherwise-qualified homebuyers from getting traditional mortgages that cover the full sale price of the home, or include the cost of needed renovations.

Lauren Herrin

As controversy and uncertainty swirl around the future of the Detroit Public Schools, students say no one is asking for their input — and at least one group wants that to change.

Everyone from rural Michigan lawmakers to Detroit business leaders seems to have an opinion about the “DPS question.”

That’s because the district basically needs a state bailout and some type of “restructuring” to avoid bankruptcy.

But while officials haggle over bills in Lansing, DPS students say the conversation hasn’t included them.

DTE Energy

Michigan will halt efforts to meet new power plant emissions standards while they’re battled over in court.

Michigan is one of 29 states suing the federal government over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The U.S. Supreme Court preemptively put a hold on that plan last week before even hearing arguments.

State officials say it now makes sense for Michigan to follow that lead, and stop moving forward until the courts offer some “clarity.”

wikimedia commons

Current and former servers at two West Michigan pancake houses have some extra money coming their way.

It’s a result of a federal investigation into unfair labor practices at Sophia’s House of Pancakes in Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo.

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the two locations and found a number of labor law violations.

They included requiring servers to turn $2 of their hourly tips over to the owners. That’s illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

State of Michigan

Michigan’s top doctor says the state’s investigation into Flint’s deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak followed “standard public health practice.”

The state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eden Wells, says that investigation “was very consistent … with any outbreak investigation that’s been conducted.”

Wells’ comments come at a time when publicly released emails from state officials, including some with the Department of Health and Human Services, raise serious questions about state agencies’ response to an unfolding public health crisis.

Among those questions:

Five undocumented workers from Kim's Garden were living in the basement of the owner's home when they were killed in a house fire.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A suburban Detroit couple is facing federal charges for “harboring undocumented immigrants for commercial gain.”

The charges come after five young men, aged 16-23, died in a fire at Roger Tam and Ada Lei’s home last month.

Officials say the men were all Mexican nationals in the U.S. illegally.

They apparently lived in the Novi home’s basement, and worked at the couple’s nearby Chinese restaurant, Kim's Garden.

They were unable to escape when a mattress caught fire there Jan. 31.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Environmental Protection Agency says it will conduct an inspection of Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the EPA confirmed plans to do a “performance inspection audit” next month.

“Staff from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality will also be involved in this audit, to assess current lab procedures and compliance with federal requirements under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program,” the statement reads.

Michigan’s second-largest county has come “roaring back” from the Great Recession.

That was longtime Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s message at his annual state of the county speech Wednesday night.

“The state of Oakland County is strong! Amazingly strong. Vibrant,” Patterson said.

He touted the county’s unemployment rate, which soared to nearly 15% in the depths of the recession. Now, it’s dipped below 5%.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers and parents had a “day of action” Tuesday.

It centered around a number of “walk-in” events at neighborhood schools throughout the city.

Those brief rallies were meant to show public support for investing in schools and educators.

They’re designed to complement the recent wave of teacher sickout protests that have drawn attention to deteriorating buildings and other crisis within the Detroit Public Schools.