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.

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Economy
6:05 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

'We didn't get anything before the bankruptcy, we're not going to get anything after it'

Motor City Blight Busters founder John George, right, has demolished, boarded up, built or rehabbed 1,500 buildings since 1988. He says he doesn’t count on city hall for much of anything.
Credit 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.

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Offbeat
1:00 pm
Sat July 27, 2013

Detroit Mower Gang takes on neglected city parks

Tom Nardone started the Detroit Mower Gang in 2010.
Credit 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.

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Politics & Government
10:54 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Detroit retirees wonder how bankruptcy will affect benefits

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.”

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News
10:07 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Detroit Businesses See Opportunity In Bankruptcy

The Detroit skyline gleams from Grand River Ave., a major thoroughfare into some of the city's blighted neighborhoods.
Carlos Osorio AP

Originally published on Sat July 20, 2013 4:48 pm

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.

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Politics & Government
5:58 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Pontiac schools inch closer to state takeover

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.

Economy
6:29 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

What Whole Foods' opening means - and doesn't mean - about Midtown Detroit

Midtown Detroit is having a renaissance. But it's still not what you'd call affluent.
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

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Education
9:08 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Feds dismiss state complaint regarding American Indian mascots

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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Economy
2:00 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Third-annual Detroit retail contest opens today

If you have a great idea for new retail in the city of Detroit, now is the time to make your pitch. You could win a $50,000 pot of money to help you do it.

This is the third year Hatch Detroit is holding the contest for new retail ideas. Entries are being accepted today through July 13.

Joe Posch won the contest in 2011. Last November, he opened Hugh - his "classic bachelor pad" shop on Cass Avenue.

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Transportation
4:38 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Ambassador Bridge owners ask judge to invalidate permit for NITC

Lawyers for the Ambassador Bridge owners say the competing NITC would violate their exclusive franchise rights.
cmh2315fl flickr

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are asking a federal judge to invalidate a presidential permit that would allow the construction of a competing bridge a couple miles away.

The State Department last month gave the go-ahead to the New International Trade Crossing. That prompted this amended complaint to a long-running lawsuit in federal court.

Attorneys for the Ambassador Bridge say building a competing bridge would violate its perpetual and exclusive franchise to own and operate a toll bridge linking Detroit and Windsor. The complaint points to studies that say up to three-quarters of the Ambassador Bridge's truck traffic, and more than a third of its passenger traffic would be diverted to the new bridge. 

The complaint also says the new crossing is an unconstitutional agreement. It says the state of Michigan can't legally enter into an agreement with the Canadian government.

The new bridge has strong support from Governor Snyder. The Canadian government has promised to pick up Michigan's share of the two-billion dollar tab for building the bridge.

To read the complaint, click here.

Politics & Government
11:44 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Parade-goers pay tribute to military in Dearborn

Dearborn holds one of the state's largest Memorial Day parades.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. It’s also the day when throngs of people line the sidewalks of cities and small towns across the state to watch marching bands and politicians parade down the street.

Crystal Schonfeld watched the parade in Dearborn with her mother. Her brother, Army National Guard Sergeant Michael Derome, is scheduled to return home from Afghanistan on Thursday.

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Politics & Government
12:37 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing won't seek re-election

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will not seek re-election.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will not seek re-election.

Bing made that announcement after months of indecision. He frustrated reporters weeks ago when he pulled petitions for re-election, only to say he hadn't committed to running.

Then he called a press conference, and handed out pamphlets highlighting his successes in office.

Then he spoke for nearly 20 minutes about his achievements before announcing "that I have decided not to seek another term as mayor Detroit."

Bing said his political career might not be over.

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Law
10:50 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

NAACP files lawsuit against emergency manager law

Detroit Branch NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony announces the federal lawsuit challenging Michigan's emegency manager law.
NAACP

Michigan's controversial law that allows the state to take over the finances of cash-strapped cities is the subject of yet another lawsuit.

The Detroit branch of the NAACP filed the lawsuit in federal court today. It claims the state's emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

“It's fundamentally about our right to vote, and our right, as constitutionally guaranteed, to select and elect our own publicly elected officials,” said Detroit branch President Rev. Wendell Anthony.

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Education
6:00 am
Mon May 13, 2013

In Buena Vista, a school district's future hangs in limbo

Student artwork given to Buena Vista kindergarten teacher Marci Karwat.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

State officials announced over the weekend that they will lend money to Pontiac schools, and avert a payless payday there this week.

But there’s still no resolution in Buena Vista Township, where the school system abruptly shut down after running out of money a month before the end of the school year. So teachers, parents and students in the tiny school district near Saginaw are trying to figure out what to do next.      

“I hope the school district can work something out there,” Gov. Rick Snyder said late last week about a plan to educate Buena Vista’s 400 students.

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Law
12:55 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Detroit federal court officials look to improve jury diversity

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen, at lectern, says changes to the juror selection process should improve jury diversity.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The federal court that serves 32 counties in the eastern half of Michigan is changing its juror selection process in the hopes of improving jury diversity.

Judges on the bench say one of the main problems is a high rate of "undeliverable" mail in ZIP codes where minorities live. So starting this month, when mailings to potential jurors come back to the court, another mailing will go out to the same ZIP code.

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Law
2:12 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

In Royal Oak, human rights law appears headed for ballot

morguefile.com

Royal Oak's city clerk has certified the signatures on petitions to force a referendum on a new gay rights ordinance in the Detroit suburb.

Fred Birchard submitted petitions Tuesday with 1,226 signatures seeking repeal of the law that Royal Oak's City Commission approved on a 6-1 vote March 4. The city clerk determined Wednesday that the necessary 746 signatures were valid.

The ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors. It was set to take effect last month. But opponents circulated petitions to try and block it.

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Politics & Government
6:11 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Feds indict two Detroit pension officials

Federal prosecutors say two people linked to Detroit's pension systems took part in a bribery and kickback scheme involving more than $200 million in investments for the funds.

The U.S. Attorney in Detroit says Paul Stewart, a former trustee for the city's police and fire retirement system, took thousands of dollars in cash, trips and entertainment from people looking for investments from the pension fund.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Sat March 2, 2013

Can Detroit Be Saved?

Michigan is taking over Detroit's finances and will appoint an emergency manager to deal with the city's massive debt.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Sat March 2, 2013 11:04 am

Detroit is broke. On Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the state will take over the city's finances.

"It is time to say, we need to start moving upward with the city of Detroit," he said.

But the question on many people's minds is whether state intervention will be enough — and whether the more ominous and painful scenario of municipal bankruptcy can be avoided.

Adding Up The Debt

Just how far gone is Detroit? Eric Lupher, director of local affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, sums it up like this:

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Education
5:00 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Civil rights complaint ignites debate over Native American mascots

Marshall High School changed its nickname to the Redhawks nearly a decade ago, but "Redskins" gear still way out-sells "Redhawks" T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

For years, the debate about using American Indian names and imagery for sports teams has centered on the question of whether they create a “hostile environment” for Native American students. Courts have been split on that question, and so has public opinion – even among American Indians.

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Business
7:24 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Interior Secretary, Levin to talk historic preservation in Detroit

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Carl Levin and Michigan officials will host a meeting in Detroit tomorrow to talk about how tax breaks for historic preservation projects can help distressed cities.

In a statement, Secretary Salazar says the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program has been used for 70 projects in Detroit since 2000. He says he wants to talk about how that program can help revitalize the city.

The meeting will take place in the Odd Fellows Building, which was rehabbed in 2006 with the help of historic tax credits.

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Environment & Science
4:23 pm
Mon January 21, 2013

Study looks to get to bottom of 'Windsor hum'

University of Windsor Professor Colin Novak stands in front of some of the equipment that will be used to pinpoint the source of the "Windsor hum."
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Researchers in Ontario will spend the coming months trying to get to the bottom of the noise and vibration known as the "Windsor Hum."

People in Windsor have complained about the low-frequency rumbling for the past two years.

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