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.

Ways to Connect

A bioswale
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Green infrastructure is the focus of a conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center this week.

The people behind it say it’s time to start thinking differently about how we handle storm water throughout the Great Lakes; but make sure we do it right.

Nikolai Vitti
via Twitter

Detroit’s new schools superintendent knows he’s taking on a tough job, but he’s also convinced the troubled district can turn around, and prove that “traditional urban public education works.”

Nikolai Vitti has started laying the groundwork for that. He took over as superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District last week.

Two of the protesters against holding the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Grand Prix will draw thousands of auto racing fans to Belle Isle starting next week. But not everyone is happy about it.

A group of those opponents took this weekend before the IndyCar race to stage a protest just off the bridge entrance to the island park.

Photograph of Downtown Detroit

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show Detroit hasn’t quite yet reversed decades of population loss, but it seems to be getting close.

The Census has Detroit down another 3,541 residents in mid-2016 from the same time a year before. That leaves a total population of 672,795.

That’s a very small drop compared what the city has seen in the past.

Still, many people had hoped this would be the year Detroit finally showed some gains.

The non-profit agency Samaritas is the largest resettler of refugees in Michigan.
Courtesy of Samaritas

The number of refugees re-settled in Michigan has dropped sharply over the past six months.

That parallels a larger national trend, according to new analysis of U.S. State Department data from the Pew Research Center.

Pew examined refugee resettlement data from October 2016 through April of this year.

Nikolai Vitti shakes hands at a teacher recruitment fair at Detroit's Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s new schools superintendent says it’s “time to think differently” about some pressing issues—including the district’s chronic, ongoing teacher shortage.

It’s Nikolai Vitti’s first week on the job as head of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

On Monday, Vitti met with teachers’ union leadership, visited two schools, and stopped by a teacher recruitment fair. He said the lack of teachers in too many classrooms is taking a toll on everyone in DPSCD schools.

Anders Sandberg / flickr.com

In 2010, Christian Kreipke was a rising star in the world of neuroscience research. He was a tenure-track professor at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, and a health scientist with the Veterans Administration (VA).

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham listens as the study is presented to county commissioners.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Macomb County faces persistent overcrowding at its jail, but it really doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s according to an outside study completed late last year, but presented publicly to county commissioners for the first time on Thursday.

Wrapping up at the end of Detroit's cinco de mayo parade route in Clark Park.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s Cinco de Mayo celebration took place Sunday, two days after the actual Mexican holiday.

Families lined Vernor Avenue, southwest Detroit’s main thoroughfare, for the annual parade and festivities.

The parade was led by two students from Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy. Lourdes Escobedo carried the American flag, “representing the USA, and all the immigrants here in the USA,” while her classmate Stephanie Duran Lopez carried the Mexican flag.

Marwin McHenry
Michigan Department of Corrections

A Detroit man who was serving a long prison sentence instead prepared to walk free Monday, after a post-conviction investigation cleared him in a 2012 shooting.

Marwin McHenry was convicted of shooting a young woman during a street fight that summer.

McHenry said he was blocks away at the time, and pointed the finger at another man, James Bosley.

Initially, so did the victim. But she and other eyewitnesses later identified McHenry as the shooter.

A Flint water meeting in January 2015.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case against Gov. Snyder.

That’s what commissioners decided with a 5-0 vote Tuesday. They ordered the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to file an amicus brief urging the high court to review the issues raised in the case Bellant v. Snyder.

Supporters of Jose Luise Sanchez-Ronquillo rally in front of ICE offices in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Supporters of Jose Luis Sanchez Ranquillo say they expect to know as early as Tuesday if he faces imminent deportation, or has a chance of remaining in the U.S.

The Ann Arbor father of two is fighting to say in the country. 

Family members say Sanchez was detained after what he thought was a routine immigration check-in last week.

That’s not a new thing. But anecdotally, immigration attorneys say it seems to have picked up steam in the early days of the Trump administration.

test with bubble answers
User Alberto G. / Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Public Schools Community District starts giving students the M-STEP test this week. That’s the annual statewide test used to measure student achievement.

But more than 400 Detroit parents have opted for their kids to sit out the test, because they’re upset that the state uses that data to justify closing schools.

The unusually large number of opt-outs comes mostly as a result of a campaign organized by the Detroit Parent Network.

CEO Sharlonda Buckman says Detroit parents have come to feel “extremely disrespected” by state education officials.

Menominee River
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s first potential new gold mine since the late 1800s now has three of four permits it needs to open.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued a surface water permit for the Back Forty Project this month.

That proposal is an open-pit sulfide mine located along the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. A group of investors, led by the Canadian mining company Aquila, plans to mine the site for gold, copper and zinc.

Kevin Kellon, right, with his grandson and the family's lawyer Nabih Ayad.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal agent had “no justifiable excuse or reason to shoot 20-year-old Terrance Kellom” at his father’s Detroit home in April 2015.

That’s what Kellom’s family said in a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.

The suit names Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Mitchell Quinn, and two Detroit police officers as defendants. Quinn is the officer who shot and killed Terrance Kellom.

The officers say Kellom dropped through a hole in the ceiling, and advanced on them with a hammer.

Smokestacks spewing pollution
mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution nearly half the year.

That’s according to new EPA data, and a national report from the group Environment America, including its Michigan chapter.

The report found that Detroit had 161 “dirty air days” in 2015, “increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.”

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

The agency in charge of most of Detroit’s demolition program is hitting back at a recent city auditor general’s report.

That report, issued late last month, accused the Detroit Land Bank Authority of poor management and dubious practices.

The DLBA has run most of Detroit’s aggressive anti-blight program under Mayor Mike Duggan, helping demolish almost 11,000 structures during his term.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s school board interviewed the district’s second and final superintendent candidate Monday evening.

Derrick Coleman is the current superintendent of River Rouge Community Schools. He’s a Detroit Public Schools alumnus, and started his career as a teacher and administrator in the district.

He touted his success in a district that’s much smaller than Detroit’s, but has similar demographics.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A father who went to court hoping to gain custody of his children Wednesday found himself getting arrested by immigration agents instead.

Melissa Mays, foreground, with members of Concerned Pastors for Social Action, speaks outside federal court in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

One lawsuit filed over the Flint water crisis has ended with a landmark settlement.

Federal Judge David Lawson officially signed off on a four-year deal that lays out a series of remedies for Flint’s lead-tainted tap water, and its lingering impacts.

In the short term, that includes keeping bottled water distribution centers open, and expanding efforts to make sure residents have properly installed water filters.

In the longer run, there are strict requirements for frequent water testing, detailed reporting, and water treatment protocols.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, with Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, discuss Kelly's visit near Detroit's Ambassador Bridge.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A handful of people representing some of Metro Detroit’s immigrant and religious communities met privately with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Monday.

That was one reason for Kelly’s brief visit to Detroit, which also included talk on security and infrastructure along the country’s northern border.

Kelly held small, private meetings with hand-picked members of the Arab, Muslim, and Latino communities. The idea was to air concerns about the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.

Detroit Public Schools Community District sign
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Finalists vying for the job of Detroit schools’ superintendent will start the public interview process this week, but some people think the best candidate isn’t in the running.

Choosing a new superintendent is the first major task for Detroit’s newly-elected school board, which just took power in January after years of state control. But the process has already become messy and controversial.


President Trump’s proposed budget threatens the “very existence” of public television, and would “result in tremendous loss for our country,” PBS CEO Paula Kerger told a Detroit Economic Club audience Friday.

Cutting all federal funds for public broadcasting would have devastating consequences, especially in underserved areas, Kerger said.

A demolition on Detroit's east side.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A special report from Detroit’s auditor general says the city’s sweeping demolition program is still riddled with problems.

But the Detroit Land Bank Authority, the agency that runs program, calls that report “full of errors and misinformation.”

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

The state has proposed an agreement to fix some ongoing problems at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

The consent order from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cites the Great Lakes Water Authority, which runs the plant, for a number of environmental violations over the past year.

The plant was supposed to stop operating five outdated sewage sludge incinerators in March, 2016. But the GLWA kept using them after a fire seriously damaged new, cleaner replacement equipment that same month.

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

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is following through on its threat to sue the state School Reform Office, even after the state has largely backed off plans to close some of the state’s lowest-performing schools this year.

DPSCD had 16 schools on the SSRO’s “next level accountability” list, which also included eight schools in the state-run Education Achievement Authority. EAA schools will join DPSCD after the EAA winds down in June.

East Detroit school and community officials blasted Jensen's appointment in June. They eventually settled on a power-sharing arrangment that limited Jensen's authority.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

An experimental and contentious turnaround effort in the East Detroit Public Schools is coming to an end, as state-appointed CEO Gary Jensen announced Monday he will step down early next month.

The state school reform office appointed Jensen, a former Michigan Principal of the Year, as CEO of four low-performing East Detroit schools last June. The school system is located in Eastpointe, a small suburb just north of Detroit.

He was supposed to have broad powers to make sweeping changes to boost academic performance.

Patti Kunkel, a Canadian nurse practitioner in Henry Ford Hospital's cardiac intensive care unit, worries that her TN visa may not be renewed.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It appears some Canadian nurses who work in southeast Michigan hospitals may not be able to do so for much longer.

That’s  because some U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seem to have changed their longstanding interpretation of a NAFTA provision allowing those nurses special work visas—though it’s apparently not an agency-wide change in policy.

The NAFTA treaty allows Canadian and Mexican citizens in certain occupations, including registered nurses, specific work visas called TN visas.

Detroit's Central United Methodist Church is already sheltering a family seeking political asylum.
via Wikipedia

At least eight Michigan houses of worship announced plans to form a “sanctuary network” on Tuesday.

Nehru Littleton awaits Judge Vonda Evans' ruling in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man will go to trial on terrorism charges for making threatening comments toward police officers on Facebook.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Nehru Littleton, 40, with two felonies after he posted last July: “F   them racist a     white cops!!! Kill them ALL!!! Black Lives Matter!!! Black people should start killing all white cops just like they are killing us!!!”

Schuette announced the charges in October, after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to prosecute, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.