Sarah Hulett

Assistant News Director

Sarah Hulett became Michigan Radio's assistant news director in August 2011. For five years she was the station's Detroit reporter, and contributed to several reporting projects that won state and national awards.

Sarah considers Detroit to be a perfect laboratory for great radio stories, because of its energy, its struggles, and its unique place in America's industrial and cultural landscape.

Before coming to Michigan Radio, Sarah spent five years as state Capitol correspondent for Michigan Public Radio. She's a graduate of Michigan State University.

Contact Sarah Hulett at sarah@michiganradio.org.

The Michigan Supreme Court says a Wayne County judge should be removed from office. It says Wade McCree faces a six-year suspension if voters reelect him in November, and ordered him to pay $11,645.17 in costs.

You might remember Wade McCree's name from a now-infamous quote he gave to a TV reporter about texting a shirtless picture of himself to a sheriff’s office worker.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the spring of 1973, Ray Robinson left his wife and three young children in Bogue Chitto, Alabama to support the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

He never came home.

davelawrence8 / Flickr

The most notoriously broke city in America is on a hiring spree.

The city of Detroit hosts a job fair today and tomorrow.

"There are more than 350 positions that are open at the city right now,” said Lisa Howze, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Duggan. “A great number of them are for police officers, bus drivers, mechanics, and various other departments have put out postings as well."

The city is looking to cut overtime costs and improve services as it works its way through bankruptcy.

More than 1,500 applicants pre-registered for the job fair.

dugganfordetroit.com

City buses that pick you up when they’re supposed to. Parks that are open to the public, where the grass is cut and the trash is picked up. And car insurance that doesn’t cost more than your car.

Sound like modest proposals? Maybe in most cities. But Detroit is not most cities. And those are some of the promises made by Mayor Mike Duggan, in his first State of the City address tonight.

waynecounty.com

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano is asking commissioners to approve a plan that calls for cutting pay and benefits for county employees, and spinning off its sewage treatment plants, among other things.

The county has a running deficit of at least $175 million. And it continues to spend more than it takes in.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Ice formed on the Great Lakes early this year, thanks to the arctic temperatures we’ve been experiencing.

And that should be good for lake levels, which have plummeted in recent years. Right?

Well, it turns out the answer to that question is a bit complicated.

Lake levels are affected by a number of factors, including temperature, precipitation, evaporation and ice cover.

5 Gyres

Ever seen a commercial for a face scrub or body wash that promises to “polish” your skin with “micro-beads?”

Or maybe one of the hundreds of these products already sits in your shower.

Ever wonder what those little beads are?

Chances are pretty good they’re plastic. And once they circle your drain and go down your pipes, chances are also pretty good they’re not going to get filtered out by your city’s sewage treatment plant.

Millions of tiny beads that look a lot like fish food

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The rap duo Insane Clown Posse has filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI. The group says the government’s designation of its fan base as a “hybrid criminal gang” is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the suit on behalf of ICP and four of its fans, who call themselves Juggalos.

The ACLU says the gang designation has made Juggalos targets of harassment by law enforcement, and that the designation violates Juggalos’ First Amendment and due process rights.

Hundreds of snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes and Northeast as part of this year's "irruption." / toddraden

Every year, some snowy owls make their way south from their Arctic homeland in search of food, and some of us here in the Great Lakes region have been lucky enough to spot these magnificent birds on tree branches, or poles, or … near airports.

Airports have wide open treeless spaces, and can look a lot like home to snowy owls. And for wildlife specialists who work at airports from the Great Lakes to the Northeast, this has been a busy winter.

Eight owls trapped in one week at DTW

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to seize people's assets if they have not been convicted of a crime.

Right now in Michigan, law enforcement can seize your car, your house, or other things you own as part of an investigation, even if it results in no criminal charges.

The bill’s sponsor says that runs afoul of the basic things we learn in grade-school civics.

“Innocent until proven guilty, unreasonable search and seizure, due process, all of these core constitutional principles are evoked when you're talking about a process where the government is taking a citizen's assets and there is no finding of any guilt,” says State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

According to a Michigan State Police report, asset seizures brought in $22.4 million for state and local law enforcement agencies in 2012.

A spokeswoman for the state police says the department is reviewing the legislation and has not yet taken a position on it.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

  In a case being watched nationwide, a federal bankruptcy judge in Detroit today ruled that the city is eligible for Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy protection.

Judge Steven Rhodes also surprised some when he ruled that the city’s pensions can be cut.

The word spread quickly among a group of protestors outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

While the city of Detroit seeks bankruptcy protection, a local billionaire businessman is on a real estate buying binge.

Since 2011, Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures chairman Dan Gilbert has bought more than 40 downtown buildings, and seems to be collecting more each week.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Attorneys are back in a Detroit bankruptcy court this week, arguing over whether the city qualifies for what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The thinking goes like this: Cut the Motor City loose from some of its crushing debt and legacy costs – pegged at around $18 billion.

But even if that happens, the city will still have a huge task ahead of it: making a city infrastructure built for 2 million people work for a population that’s now under 700,000.

(As Rodney Dangerfield might say:) Take the buses. Please.

Michigan Radio

Updated 5:35 p.m.

After federal judge Bernard Friedman ordered a trial on the constitutionality of Michigan's ban on gay marriage, attorney Jay Kaplan called the delay a disappointment. 

Kaplan is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project.  He says going to trial could work out better in the long run.

"He’s being cautious," Kaplan says of Friedman.  "Because if he renders a good decision, you don’t want to see that decision reversed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and having a factual record strengthens your opinion.”

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Employees with the Veterans Administration, the Social Security Administration, and the Defense department were out in front of the federal building in Detroit today to protest the government shutdown.

Ford Motor Company

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line.

Henry Ford brought the method for mass-producing cars to his Highland Park Assembly Plant. 140 workers installed parts on a chassis that was dragged across the floor by a winch. The results were immediate and remarkable. 

Sarah Huelett

Think back to when you were a kid, and how much time you spent playing outside. Maybe you wandered the neighborhood until the streetlights came on. Or built tree forts. Or explored a nearby field, or creek, or woods.

Now, think about the kids on your block – or in your house – and how much time you see them exploring the neighborhood. Without their cell phones.

Some advocates of unstructured outdoor play say far too few kids are doing that these days. They have a name for it: “nature deficit disorder,” and point to a growing body of research that links too much indoor time with problems including obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.

State of Opportunity checked in on one Grand Rapids school where kids don't just play outside, they learn from and in the natural environment. Read the rest of the story or listen in at State of Opportunity.

This week, foreign-born people living in southeast Michigan have a new resource for things like social services or finding work.

Welcome Mat Detroit is a clearinghouse of information for the estimated 356,000 immigrants living in southeast Michigan.

Steve Tobocman is with Global Detroit. He says whether you're a refugee or a corporate executive, it can be tough to navigate life in a new country.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Today is the first day of pre-school for many four-year-olds in Michigan. And thousands of them are getting a chance they might not otherwise have had, thanks to an expansion of a state program.

Susan Broman is a deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education, and she oversees the Great Start Readiness Program. Broman says pre-school has a great return on investment.

"I mean, the reality is we know that high-quality pre-school is a proven strategy to significantly improve kindergarten readiness, grade-school reading and math proficiency," she said.

She says lawmakers agreed this year to hike funding for the program by $65 million because it works.

An Iraq war veteran is suing the Michigan Secretary of State for denying his request for a vanity plate that reads "Infidel."

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Matwyuk says U.S. troops were often referred to as "infidels" by insurgents in Iraq. Matwyuk and his fellow soldiers re-claimed the word. Some of them sewed patches with the word onto their uniforms, or even tattooed it on their bodies.

user aMichiganMom / Flickr

Tuesday saw a flood of court filings from Detroit's creditors.

Midnight was the deadline for creditors to file objections to Detroit's request for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy protection.

About 100 unions, pensioners, and individuals filed objections with the court.

Gerald Rosen, the bankruptcy judge in charge of mediation, issed the order today.
Detroit Legal News

The chief judge of the federal court in Detroit says budget cuts are slowing down the processing of some cases, and put public safety at risk.

Judge Gerald Rosen co-authored a letter signed by 87 judges that was sent to Congressional leaders and Vice President Joe Biden. It says a second year under the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration would devastate the courts.

rabbit.hole / Flickr

  The Detroit River is the mile-wide boundary that separates the United States and Canada. And the city park on the Windsor, Ontario, side of the river offers a better view of the Detroit skyline than anywhere else.

Yes, in a quirk of geography, Detroit actually sits north of its Canadian neighbor. Natives like Stephen Santarossa, who's from Windsor, love this bit of trivia, and relish the puzzled look on visitors' faces as they try to draw that mental map.

"Do you realize that you are now looking north?" he says.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s bankruptcy has been national, even international, news for more than a week now. But inside Detroit, many residents say they feel like they’ve been living in a bankrupt city for years. They’ve been working to do what the city should be doing, but doesn’t have the money to do. And they say more of their neighbors need to realize: nobody’s going to “save” their city but themselves.

Twenty-five years ago, John George got fed up with the blight in his neighborhood. He marshaled some neighbors, and boarded up the house in back of his.

That effort evolved into a group he calls Motor City Blight Busters.

“We just got done tearing down both these properties to your right and your left and this house is going to be next,” he said.

George’s crew is demolishing the vacant homes on two city blocks, and plans a large-scale garden for the neighborhood.

Let’s be clear here: It’s the city’s job to board up and tear down dangerous abandoned buildings, but there are almost 40,000 of them. The city just doesn’t have the money to put much of a dent in the problem, let alone keep on top of it.

George says he’s demolished, boarded up, built or rehabbed 1,500 buildings since 1988. He loves this city. But he says he doesn’t count on city hall for much of anything.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A bunch of guys and a bunch of lawn mowers.  That's the basic idea behind the volunteer Detroit Mower Gang - which cuts the grass at city parks in Detroit every other Wednesday night. This past week, the Gang mowed about 25 acres in Stoeppel Park Number Two on the city's west side.  Barbara Davis lives across from the park - where for many kids, the grass was chest-high. "It's terrible," said Davis. "They usually got to cut a path and tramp right to the swing set because the grass is so tall.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

 

A federal bankruptcy court now will be the scene for some colossal decisions about the future of Detroit – which filed for Chapter Nine protection last week. One of the key issues is whether retirees will see their benefits cut – something the city’s emergency manager says is now “a question of necessity.”
 
Peggy Dankert lives on the far west side of Detroit. She retired from the city’s EMS department about four years ago, after more than 26 years. Dankert says she’s not happy her pension could be on the chopping block in bankruptcy court, right alongside bondholders’ investments.
 

“I can’t buy insurance on my pension benefits like buy insurance on their bonds. So I don’t think they should be treated the same.”

Few Detroiters think the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history is great news.

But plenty see it as an opportunity. Many Detroit business owners hope the bankruptcy will mean more stability and certainty, in a city that has had little of either in recent years.

Sandy Baruah, head of the Detroit Regional Chamber, says the bankruptcy filing did not come as a surprise to him, nor should it surprise anybody else.

Pontiac schools are a step closer to a possible state takeover.

A state board found Pontiac schools in "probable financial stress," following a review led by the state schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan. The board's finding triggers a more comprehensive review of the district's finances. 

The school system's deficit was close to $38 million about a year ago. That's about half of its operating budget, and way over the state's benchmark for determining whether a district is in trouble.

The district's ability to pay its bills has been touch and go. Last month the state released aid it had been withholding to avoid a payless payday.

And the schools system's financial troubles are mounting. A court has ordered a tax levy on property owners in Pontiac and neighboring communities to cover almost $8 million in unpaid health insurance premiums.

If a team appointed by Governor Snyder decides there's a financial emergency in Pontiac schools, the school board would have to choose among a set of options. One of those options is appointing an emergency manager.

Ralf_H / flickr

You may have heard that Whole Foods Market opened a store in Detroit today.

The grocery chain has a reputation for pricey organic fare.

So you might think its decision to set up shop in Detroit means there’s a little pocket of the Motor City that’s thriving. And you'd be right.

But the level of affluence in the neighborhood surrounding Whole Foods is well below what you would see in other cities that have undergone urban revival.

Bistros, bike factory, bachelor chic

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over schools’ use of American Indian mascots.

The civil rights department had argued that the images hurt Native American students’ academic performance, and create an unequal learning environment.

But federal education officials say opponents of Indian mascots and logos need to prove that they create a hostile environment for Native American students.

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