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.


Politics & Government
9:00 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Detroit bankruptcy case comes into focus with second hearing

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr.
State of Michigan

A federal bankruptcy judge ordered a committee to represent retiree interests in Detroit’s bankruptcy, as lawyers representing the city and creditors went head-to-head in court for the second time Friday.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has proposed cutting retirees’ pensions in his effort to restructure about $11 billion of the city’s debt.

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Politics & Government
9:53 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Detroit elections officials preparing for a long, complicated primary night

Detroit elections officials are preparing for a long night after next week’s primary-- likely to be one of the more interesting primaries in Detroit history.

One of the front-running mayoral candidates, Mike Duggan, is only running as a write-in.

He faces another write-in candidate , Mike Dugeon, whose name is pronounced the same—and spelled virtually the same way.

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Environment & Science
8:20 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Will Detroit's pet coke piles finally get a permit?

After months of operating without one, the company responsible for Detroit’s petroleum coke piles went hunting for one Tuesday.

Detroit Bulk Storage representatives faced a city panel that will decide the issue. At times, panel members were highly skeptical of the company’s actions.

A company representative said they didn’t know they needed a permit to openly store pet coke along the Detroit River.

It’s stopped taking additional shipments of the substance — a byproduct of refining Canadian tar sands oil — until it gets one.

“Our understanding was that once we were moving toward compliance, we could continue our operations,” said Detroit Bulk Storage lawyer Terri Whitehead.

A Detroit Bulk Storage representative also insists the company is using “best practices” when it comes to handling the openly-stored piles safely.

But the company’s quest for a permit faces stiff resistance from some residents, community groups, and other opponents.

Many residents described finding pet coke dust inside their homes, and watching clouds of it move across and into the river.

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Politics & Government
11:24 am
Wed July 31, 2013

In Detroit, mayoral candidates slug it out to the finish

Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan, right.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Detroit has an emergency manager—but more than a dozen people are still vying to be the city’s next mayor.

And most of them were on hand for a debate just a week before the city’s primary election last night.

A dozen candidates took to the stage—in groups—to share why they wanted to be mayor of the bankrupt city. There were so many candidates that there few opportunities for substantive debate.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is considered one of the frontrunners—even though he’s not on the ballot. He’s waging a write-in campaign.

Duggan faced questions about “cronyism” dating back to his days as part of former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara’s political machine.

He also responded to persistent questions about why he’s running for mayor—when he’s lived in Detroit for barely a year.

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7:20 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Detroit bankruptcy could scuttle wrongly-imprisoned man's lawsuit

Dwayne Provience, before his release from prison.

 The human costs of Detroit’s bankruptcy are revealing themselves as the case proceeds in court.

For Dwayne Provience, it means yet more uncertainty over an already years-long wrongful imprisonment lawsuit.

When a city files for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, all its lawsuits get put on hold. That’s a good thing for the city, as it struggles to conserve cash and get its financial house in order.

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6:24 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Two real cops arrested in Detroit "police impersonation" armed robbery

Two police officers now find themselves on the other side of the law, accused of armed robbery.

A 20-year Detroit police sergeant and a colleague from suburban Saint Clair Shores allegedly used their badges to rob and assault two customers at an east side Detroit gas station earlier this month.

The men pulled in a black pick-up truck equipped with sirens. Guns drawn and badges visible, they detained, searched and allegedly stole items, including cash, from the victims.

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3:03 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Congressman Peters wants transportation projects to stay local

U.S. Representative Gary Peters

A half-dozen major transportation infrastructure projects are in the works for southeast Michigan, and Congressman Gary Peters wants to make sure local workers get the jobs that come along with them.

Peters convened a transportation jobs summit to push that objective Monday.

“If we’re bringing federal money into the state of Michigan, I want people from the state of Michigan working on those projects," said Peters. "And if the project is in the city of Detroit, then I want Detroiters working on those projects.”

Peters says those federal funds often come tied to thousands of local employment opportunities—but that doesn’t always work out.

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Politics & Government
9:49 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Detroit union leaders: "Bankruptcy was the strategy all along"

Union leaders say Detroit is in bankruptcy court because “that was the strategy all along.”

They accuse Governor Snyder and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr of “sham” negotiations, saying they were never able to actually sit down and bargain with Orr before he filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy last week.

“We were disheartened by the fact that we were told negotiations were going to take place, that never took place,” says Al Garrett, President of AFSCME Council 25.”Instead, they ran to a bankruptcy court.”

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4:35 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Detroit's assets are under review amid crushing debt

Art in the DIA is the topic of many discussions about Detroit's future.
Photo courtesy of the DIA

Kevyn Orr is Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager. And he has some pretty extraordinary powers to chart the course of Detroit’s potential bankruptcy—and its future.

Last Friday, Orr took questions from reporters. The very first question he faced was pretty much, ”What’s for sale?”

“Right now there’s nothing for sale, including Howdy Doody.”

Orr was actually referring to the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose collection includes the original puppet from the 1950s children’s TV show. Though no one knows for sure, the DIA’s total assets — which include masterpieces by Van Gogh and Picasso — could be worth about $2.5 billion.

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12:54 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Austin bests Detroit in bid for X Games, but Detroit organizers vow they're 'Not done yet'

Organizers used Detroit's decay as a backdrop for their X Games promotional video.
XGamesDetroit YouTube

Detroit won’t be hosting the X Games after all.

Organizer ESPN has decided to take the annual action sports festival to Austin, Texas for a four-year stretch starting next year.

That’s despite a spirited, grassroots bid by Detroit bid organizers—the #XG2D (translation: X Games to Detroit) movement—to bring the games to the Motor City. Here's a promotional video the group made:

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10:30 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Investigations, outrage after Detroit Police arrest news photographer

steve carmody

Detroit and national news media are in an uproar after learning a news photographer was arrested for filming police last week.

Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright was filming police making an arrest on her iPhone last Thursday.

Here's the video:

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7:08 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Clergy, civil rights groups in Detroit say they're not done fighting for Trayvon Martin

This undated photo of Trayvon Martin has become an iconic image.
Credit wikimedia commons

Civil rights activists say they’re not done trying to get justice for Trayvon Martin.

They have actions planned in Detroit and around the country to push for federal intervention in the Florida teen’s case.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, a black, unarmed teenager, in 2012.

Zimmerman’s acquittal this past weekend has sparked national outrage—and questions about persistent racial inequities in the justice system.

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Politics & Government
4:10 pm
Sun July 14, 2013

Upcoming Detroit election: A historic opportunity for write-in candidates?

Write-in candidates are usually considered long shots for winning political office.

But it’s possible this upcoming Detroit election could turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is running a write-in campaign for Detroit mayor.

The Lansing-based newsletter Inside Michigan Politics recently commissioned a poll asking Detroit voters whether they’d write in a candidate for mayor.

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Politics & Government
9:23 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Orr cancels Detroit bus tour as creditors pull out

Creditors were supposed to take a "real" tour of Detroit by city bus--but many pulled out, and Orr cancelled the event.
Credit Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

 Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has cancelled a planned bus tour for the city’s Wall Street creditors.

Some of those creditors are in Detroit this week to meet with Orr, and to take a look at some of the city’s assets.

The planned tour would have put the creditors on a city bus, and taken them for some pretty grim sightseeing.

It was meant to convince them that the city’s condition is dire, and bondholders should big accept losses on their Detroit debt.

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Politics & Government
6:54 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Detroit City Council elects new leaders

Saunteel Jenkins
Credit City of Detroit

 The Detroit City Council voted on new leadership Tuesday, and selected Saunteel Jenkins as its new President.

“It feels humbling. It feels good,” said Jenkins, noting she sits in the seat once held by her late mentor, longtime Council President Maryann Mahaffey.

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Politics & Government
10:47 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Battle heats up over funding, control of Detroit pension funds

Kevyn Orr
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 The battle over control of Detroit’s two pension funds is heating up, with big consequences for city retirees and other creditors as the city creeps closer to possible bankruptcy.

Detroit has two pension funds: A general retirement system for most employees, and a separate system for the police and fire departments.

The dispute revolves around how well-funded both systems are. The exact number is key, because state law allows emergency managers to replace pension boards if a system is funded below 80%.

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Environment & Science
4:37 pm
Thu July 4, 2013

This holiday weekend, be on guard against ticks and mosquitoes

A lone star tick
Credit CDC

  If you’re doing anything outdoors this holiday weekend—from camping to gardening in the backyard—you should be on the lookout for ticks and mosquitoes.

Public health officials warn that tick populations are booming throughout the state this season.

“We’ve seen a lot of tick activity increase in the last couple of weeks,” says Angela Minicuci, Public Information Officer with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Whether you’re in a grassy area like a park or out in the woods, ticks can be hanging around. There are two key ways to guard against them.

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July 4th Profiles
1:10 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

A Togolese refugee flees home country, 'I left to save my life'

Koffi Itito in front of the Freedom House in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

In 2004, Koffi Itito fled his home country of Togo, leaving behind his family and life as he knew it.

“I left to save my life,” Itito said.

While the West African nation is a republic on paper, the country has been under dictatorial rule since 1963.

“If you don’t follow the party, they treat you like an enemy,” Itito said.

Today, Itito works at the Freedom House in Detroit, a resource center for refugees. Itito helps those fleeing persecution get back on their feet -- much like those who helped him out nine years ago.

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Politics & Government
10:58 am
Tue July 2, 2013

New Detroit Police Chief: 'I'm going to take care of the cops'

James Craig addresses officers at Detroit's 10th precinct.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

“We will get this done,” James Craig, Detroit’s new police chief, told officers at the 10th precinct during roll call Monday.

Craig, during his first day on the job, promised officers that he would start “treating police like adults.” And he vowed to make Detroit “one of the safest major cities in America.”

“You can’t have a safe city if you don’t take care of the cops,” Craig said.  “And I’m going to take care of the cops.”

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Politics & Government
10:39 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Snyder stumps for Medicaid expansion: 'This is common sense'

Beaumont CEO Gene Michalski, left, joined Governor Snyder in pushing for Medicaid expansion.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is trying to ratchet up the pressure on state lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage.

Shyder stumped for the “Healthy Michigan” initiative at two southeast Michigan hospitals Monday. At Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, the governor heard stories about the high cost of treating the uninsured.

Snyder called those stories evidence of a “dumb, broken” health care system, and says expanding Medicaid coverage would help alleviate the problem.

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