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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Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers start hearings this week on Gov. Snyder’s plan to prevent the collapse of the Detroit Public Schools.

Lansing’s discussions start as the city of Detroit released another round of safety and health inspections of some of the district’s crumbling school buildings this past weekend.

user braun / Flickr

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, with support from the American Federation of Teachers, and several parents filed a lawsuit Thursday against Detroit Public Schools and its state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley.

The suit is asking the court to compel DPS and Earley to repair all existing building code violations, and for the creation of an appropriately funded capital plan that will bring schools up to "21st century standards."

City of Holland

Bills in the state legislature would change the process for designating local historic districts in Michigan.

A State House committee heard testimony on one of the bills Wednesday.

It would amend the 1970 Local Historic Districts Act, which provides for local district commissions with the power to review and potentially nix architectural and other design changes within the area.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Marathon Petroleum refinery in southwest Detroit is no stranger to controversy. But its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions has sparked a major backlash. The company has done a huge expansion of its southwest Detroit refinery in the past few years.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A judge has denied the Detroit Public Schools’ efforts to stop teacher sickouts.

The district says those sickouts amount to illegal strikes.

But Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens again declined to issue a restraining order today.

Stephens said the district needs to prove the sickouts are strikes. She also questioned whether the Court of Claims is the proper venue for the case.

But many DPS teachers say they have no other way to force action as the district spirals into decay and insolvency.

via Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools is suing many of its own teachers over repeated sickout protests, and there’s an important court hearing in that fight Monday.

DPS maintains these repeated sickouts, which teachers have sporadically held to highlight serious problems in the district, amount to illegal strikes.

DPS officials are asking a Michigan Court of Claims judge to issue a preliminary injunction and order the teachers back to work.

Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the district’s request for a temporary restraining order last week.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees have been suspended for their roles in the Flint water crisis.

In a statement issued late Friday, Gov. Snyder’s office only identified the employees as “DEQ officials involved in Flint water testing.”

“Michiganders need to be able to depend on state government to do what’s best for them, and in the case of the DEQ that means ensuring their drinking water is safe,” Snyder said. “Some DEQ actions lacked common sense and that resulted in this terrible tragedy in Flint.”

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has lost an initial bid to stop frustrated teachers from staging repeated sickout protests.

Angry about classroom conditions, low pay and Lansing’s inaction in the face of near-insolvency, DPS teachers staged their largest sickout yet Wednesday, closing 88 schools.

The district, headed by state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, went to the Michigan Court of Claims to get a restraining order the same day.

Judge Cynthia Stephens has now denied that initial request.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some parents and community members in southwest Detroit plan to file a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

That’s after the Detroit Public Schools removed bilingual office staff from several schools with predominantly Spanish-speaking parents last month.

“It’s a safety issue. It’s a civil rights issue,” said Maria Salinas, head of the group Congress of Communities. “This is the beginning of many people who will come out and fight. We shouldn’t have to fight.”

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools wants to force teachers to stop ongoing “sickout” protests.

The district has asked the Michigan Court of Claims to stop the rolling protests that closed 88 Detroit schools Wednesday.

"DPS has requested the court's intervention in addressing the ongoing teacher sick outs that are plaguing the district,” spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement, adding: “There will be no further comment until we receive direction from the court."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit’s “big four” leaders got together for their annual public chat before the Detroit Economic Club at the North American International Auto Show Tuesday.

This year, two big topics dominated the conversation: the Flint water crisis, and the impending financial collapse of Detroit Public Schools.

Each of the leaders — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan — said Gov. Snyder had mishandled the state’s response to Flint’s drinking water contamination.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

For three straight days this week, some Detroit Public Schools buildings were closed because too many teachers called in sick.

These rolling “sickout” protests have picked up steam in recent weeks.

They’ve drawn some major backlash — and attention to a district in free fall.


Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents say they’re angry about conditions in the city’s schools — and ready to do something about it.

Dozens of them packed a meeting led by the Detroit Parent Network Thursday night.

media.fcanorthamerica.com

 Fiat-Chrysler has introduced its new version of an old concept: the minivan.

The automaker unveiled the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show on Monday.

Chrysler says the “top-to-bottom” redesign features a sleeker exterior that’s much like the Chrysler 200, with dual-side sliding doors and added interior bonuses.

It will also offer a plug-in hybrid version that the automaker claims will get 80 miles to the gallon highway mileage.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

The Detroit Federation of Teachers spoke out Monday about what union officials called “third world” conditions in some Detroit Public Schools buildings.

The DFT has largely stood on the sidelines while its members have staged escalating “sickout” protests in recent weeks. More than 60 Detroit schools were closed Monday.

But the DFT is now denouncing what it calls “toxic” conditions in many Detroit schools.

Those range from health hazards—including black mold and rodent problems--to oversized classes and a lack of supplies.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two more Detroit Public Schools were closed for teacher “sickouts” on Thursday.

This time, it was Detroit’s Renaissance and Martin Luther King high schools.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Residents living in the heavily industrial area near southwest Detroit’s Marathon oil refinery are furious about a plan to increase emissions there.

And they let state environmental regulators know it at a public hearing Wednesday night.

Marathon wants to start removing sulfur, to meet new federal standards for cleaner-burning gasoline.

But to do that, it wants to increase local emissions — in the already-most-polluted ZIP code in the state.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A new report lays out the stark reality of how the Detroit Public Schools is rapidly sinking under its debt burden.

The report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan also details how the district accumulated its $3.5 billion debt load by mid-2015.

Almost $1.9 billion of that is “operational” debt – meaning it’s paid off by money that could otherwise be used in the classroom and for other day-to-day district expenses.

Friends School Detroit / via Facebook

A new online directory aims to give Detroit’s grassroots groups a higher profile.

The Detroit Community Organization Mapping project, or d[COM]munity map, went live in December.

It maps and profiles the city’s neighborhood associations, block clubs, and social service providers.

Detroit Public Schools

One of Detroit’s top public schools was closed Tuesday, after too many teachers called in sick.

It’s just the latest in a string of “sickout” protests at Detroit Public Schools.

Teachers at Cass Technical High School say they staged the sickout because it’s the only form of protest they have in the district, which is run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Cass Tech English teacher Dorothea Williams-Arnold says they’re protesting huge class sizes, stagnant pay, and skyrocketing health insurance costs, among other things.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Protesters shut down a busy stretch of Michigan Avenue in front of Dearborn Police headquarters Monday night.

They want more answers about the police shooting death of Kevin Matthews.

A Dearborn officer shot and killed Matthews, who was unarmed, after a car and foot chase that ended in Detroit last month. Matthews was reportedly wanted on a larceny charge.

The still-unidentified Dearborn officer says the two scuffled before the shooting.

But Matthews’ family says that’s only one side of the story. They maintain Matthews was mentally ill, but harmless.

Wikipedia

Attacking the science behind climate change effectively sways public opinion, according to a recent study by Michigan State University researchers.

MSU associate professor and sociologist Aaron McCright led the study of 1600 US adults.

McCright says messages that frame climate change as a public health or national security threat, or even through a “positive” frame like economic opportunity or religious obligation, seem to fall flat.

MacIntyre Family

Water issues are on the agenda for many state and local leaders in 2016.

A “blue-ribbon committee” has been investigating how to make water affordable for all Detroiters, and avoid the mass shutoffs the city has carried out since mid-2014.

Some people have called for a city-wide “water affordability” plan, with bills adjusted by income.

via stjohnprovidence.org

Most nurse-anesthetists at two Detroit-area hospitals lost their jobs Thursday, after they refused to sign a contract outsourcing their jobs to a private company.

The nurses worked for Saint John Providence hospitals in Southfield and Novi.

In October, the hospitals gave them a choice: either sign a contract with a brand-new company run by a hospital anesthesiologist, or “voluntarily resign” their jobs.

After weeks of contentious talks, 66 decided on the latter.

flickr user Joe Gratz

A federal judge has given some Wayne County homeowners suing over alleged illegal foreclosures a partial, early victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy granted a temporary restraining owner protecting three families from eviction at least through mid-January.

The families are part of a larger federal lawsuit that alleges officials from Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs illegally “conspired” to seize their homes through tax foreclosure, and sell them off to private developers.

Family photo

A watchdog group is calling for a Michigan State Police investigation into a fatal police shooting in Detroit last week.

A Dearborn police officer, whose name hasn’t been released, reportedly tried to arrest 35-year-old Kevin Matthews on Dec. 23.

Dearborn police say Matthews escaped their custody after being detained for suspected larceny earlier that day. He was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant in a different city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Eighteen people are suing Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs, alleging their homes were illegally taken in a tax foreclosure process that amounted to a “thinly veiled scheme” for “private profit.”

All the homeowner-plaintiffs in this case had their properties foreclosed by Wayne County over back taxes.

And in each case the cities they lived in, exercising their “right of first refusal” under Michigan tax law, reclaimed the properties before they could go to auction. The cities then sold the homes to developers.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A campaign to end New Year’s gunfire in Detroit is still going after eighteen years.

Organizers say it’s successfully put a damper on the unofficial tradition, with celebratory midnight gunfire waning in recent years—at least anecdotally.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon says that seems to be true in his Detroit neighborhood, but many Detroiters are still afraid to venture out for New Year’s.

“You still hear a lot of people say, ‘I will be inside when people start shooting around midnight,’” Napoleon said.

thetoad / Flickr

The woman who wrote and championed Michigan’s groundbreaking Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has died.

Daisy Elliott was a state representative from Detroit for nearly two decades.

Fellow lawmakers remembered her as a quiet, gracious woman who fiercely opposed discrimination of any kind.

Her years-long campaign for state-level civil rights protections finally paid off in 1977, when the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act became law with bipartisan support. It declared:

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