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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Law
7:08 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Lawmakers to look at legal aid for poor defendants

steakpinball flickr

Michigan's public defender system is consistently rated one of the worst in the country.

But this week, the House Judiciary Committee will consider creating a commission to establish standards for indigent defense.

Marcela Westrate is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice.

She says there are a host of reasons why poor criminal defendants don't always receive good legal help in this state.

"We don't have any statewide training requirements right now," said Westrate. "There's also things like consistency, where the same attorney represents a client until the completion of a case."

The commission would set the standards for Michigan's 83 counties - which each have their own public defender systems. Westrate says she hopes the commission could have new standards in place by the end of next year.

Law
4:00 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Final phase in Hamtramck construction project to put discrimination case to rest

The longest-running housing discrimination case in the U.S. is coming to an end.

A federal court in the early 1970s said Hamtramck had targeted African-American homes for demolition in the name of urban renewal. The city agreed to build 200 homes for the plaintiffs. And 40 years later, they're finally going to be finished.

"It's a huge deal for the city," said Jason Friedmann, the city's community and economic development director. "We're pretty proud of the fact that we're making right the problems that did occur in the past, and we're excited to give these plaintiffs a new opportunity in the city of Hamtramck."

Plaintiffs and their descendants get first dibs on the homes.

"Some of them are great-grandchildren of the original plaintiffs," said Friedman. "Quite a few of them still live in the Detroit area, but we have one person moving in from from California, and I believe there's another person actually moving from overseas."
 
Friedman says the city's fulfillment of its legal obligations will also lift a court-ordered ban on city-owned residential property sales. He says the ban has put a stranglehold on the city's development for 40 years.

Economy
12:06 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Detroit retail contest kicks off public voting

Public voting begins today in the second-annual retail entrepreneur contest called Hatch Detroit.

This year's ten semi-finalists include a kayak rental business, a cosmetics company and a biergarten.

"We actually aren't looking for chains or anything like that, though," said the project's executive director, Vittoria Katanski. "We're looking for independent retail. So if you're an independent retailer from Rochester who wants to open a second in the city of Detroit you'd be eligible, or if you're just a person in the city who has has a really great idea you'd be eligible also."

Katanski says there's been a 25 percent increase in business plan submissions this year compared to last year.

The winner will be awarded $50,000, plus about 20-thousand dollars worth of services.

Education
11:42 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Students go back to class as plaintiffs against their school system

As part of the lawsuit, attorneys had the plaintiffs submit writing samples. This plaintiff, I.D., is going into the 5th grade. According to the legal complaint, she has never been assigned to write anything longer than one paragraph.

Eight Highland Park school students returned to classes this week as plaintiffs against a school system they say has failed them. Their families and the ACLU say the school district and the state have  denied them the right to learn to read.

“It’s heartbreaking every day when you get up and people look in your face and say: oh, that’s that lady, her daughter can’t read,” says Michelle Johnson. Her daughter is heading into the 12th grade. But she can only read at about a fourth-grade level.

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Arts & Culture
6:20 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Supporters of man detained in Iran host benefit concert

Courtesy: Free Amir Freeamir.org

Supporters of a Michigan man who's been held for a year in Iran will hold a benefit concert in Flint tomorrow.

The Iranian government accuses Amir Hekmati of working for the CIA. The U.S. government denies that.

Ramy Kurdi is Hekmati's brother-in-law, and helped organize the concert. He says money raised from ticket sales will help the family with their legal fees. But he says it's just as much about raising awareness.

"We'd like people to know who Amir is, and that's not a secret," said Kurdi. "He's an outstanding person, outstanding son, citizen, brother, uncle, friend."

Hekmati was sentenced to death in January. There have been reports out of Iran that its Supreme Court has ordered a retrial. But family members say they have yet to get an official notice of that.

The concert is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the University of Michigan-Flint theater.

Politics & Government
12:06 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Survey: State, governor on the right track

About half of local leaders in Michigan think the state is on the right track, and that Governor Snyder is doing a good job. That's according to a survey released today by the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan.

The governor's approval rating rose more than ten points compared to a year ago. Tom Ivacko is the program manager for the Center. He says partisan leanings do factor into opinions about the governor's performance, "but even so what we found in the last year is increasing percentages also of independents and of Democrats believing that the state's headed in the right direction, and that the governor's doing a good job."

In 2011, 37 percent of local leaders rated Snyder's performance as "good" or "excellent." But Ivacko says at that time Snyder was a newcomer to politics, and an unknown quantity.

"And now that it's a year later and he has a track record - and a fairly bold track record of policy reform in Lansing - what we see now is increasing optimism."

Approval ratings for state lawmakers remain low. Just 27 percent of local officials give the Legislature high marks. A third of them rate state lawmakers as "poor."

Grading Michigan Schools
11:28 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Ready Or Not, Here Comes College

Nov. 8, 2007
A high school diploma should mean a graduate has mastered the basics. But that hasn't been the case in Michigan - where many college and university students are learning subjects they should have mastered in high school.

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Grading Michigan Schools
10:17 am
Wed July 11, 2012

The Math Problem

Nov. 15, 2007
Arithmetic and algebra haven't changed for centuries. So why do kids - and adults - have such a hard time with math? One mathematician says he thinks he knows the answer.

Read more
Grading Michigan Schools
10:01 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Bill Schmidt on the "Math Crisis"

Nov. 15, 2007
Bill Schmidt is well known in education circles for his research into the academic content in K-12 schools, testing, and the effects of curriculum on academic achievement. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett, who asked him whether he believes a "math crisis" exists.

Education
4:30 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

EMU regents to president: Control your drinking or face termination

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin
EMU

Regents at Eastern Michigan University are threatening to fire the school's president unless she gets her drinking under control.

Three of the university's regents wrote a letter to President Susan Martin after an April incident in Washington D.C. Apparently, Martin got into an alcohol-fueled argument with an alumnus.

The letter also references "prior incidents," although it does not elaborate.

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Law
12:03 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Young offenders say database marks them with scarlet letter

Zachary Payne has a rap sheet that reads like it belongs to someone who’s spent more than 18 years on this earth.

“Four Minor in Possessions,” he recounts, “two retail frauds, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, assault and battery, like two or three domestic violences, and a couple other ones I can’t remember.”

Payne might not be able to remember them. But the Internet does.

ICHAT is the name of an online database that anyone with ten dollars can check, and they do - especially employers, looking to vet potential hires.

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Law
4:58 pm
Wed July 4, 2012

Appeals Court reinstates case against former Highland Park emergency manager

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated an embezzlement case against the former emergency manager for Highland Park.

Arthur Blackwell II is accused of taking $264,000 in payments that were not authorized by state officials.

The appeals court decision reverses a lower court ruling - which had dismissed the case. The lower court agreed with Blackwell - who said as the city's emergency manager, he had the authority to sign the checks to himself. The appeals court says there's enough evidence that Blackwell acted improperly to try him.

Blackwell was appointed to fix Highland Park's finances in 2005, by then-governor Jennifer Granholm. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says she's pleased with the appeals court decision.

Politics & Government
6:32 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Federal grant expected to offset Detroit firefighter layoffs

A round of firefighter layoffs in Detroit might not be as severe as city officials announced earlier this week.

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin says Detroit will be awarded a $22.5 million federal grant that would save most of the fire department jobs slated for layoff.

Word of the grant comes just a few days after the layoff announcement. The job cuts were to take effect at the end of July.

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Education
6:03 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

DPS budget projects surplus, job cuts, enrollment decline

kconnors morguefile

Detroit Public Schools officials say they expect to end this fiscal year with a $12 million surplus. Meanwhile, the district's proposed budget for next year projects the loss of about 15,000 students, and about 1,900 jobs.

Detroit Public Schools is preparing to shrink next year as 15 schools become part of the Educational Achievement Authority. That's the new statewide system for failing schools.

Steve Wasko is a spokesman for Detroit Public Schools. He says the job cuts are not as alarming as they might sound.

"It's not necessarily a net loss of education jobs, public education jobs, public teacher jobs in the city of Detroit - in public schools in the city of Detroit, but a shift that we knew was coming for some time," said Wasko.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for next Wednesday.

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Politics & Government
5:06 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Detroit finance team meets for first time

user cletch flickr

Detroit mayor Dave Bing opened the first meeting of the city's newly formed financial advisory board by telling its members their task is to help return Detroit to greatness.

The problem is, the city has a massive budget deficit to wrestle with while it tries to keep the street lights on and the busses running.

Sheila Cockrel served on the city council for 16 years before retiring in 2009. She says there needs to be a major shift in the culture for the intervention to work.

"Them and us doesn't work," Cockrel said. "This is not someone taking something away. This has got to be everybody coming to the table for the common good and for the greater good. 'Cause what's good for Detroit is good for Michigan."

The nine-member board is mandated by the city's consent agreement with the state.

Politics
6:27 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Troy recall organizers submit petition signatures

Supporters of an effort to kick Troy's mayor out of office say they've submitted more than enough petition signatures to get the measure onto the November ballot.

John Kulesz is one of the recall campaign's organizers. He says he expects Mayor Janice Daniels and her supporters will put up a vigorous fight to keep her in office.

"These people are take no prisoner types,” said Kulesz. “So we know that they'll throw everything in the book at us to discredit us and accuse us of this that and the other thing. But we're going to stand up for our rights, and we're going to stand up for the people of Troy."

Kulesz Daniels is harming Troy's reputation. Daniels gained notoriety over a gay slur she used on her Facebook page before she took office. She later angered many people when she voted to turn down federal money for a transit center.

But Daniels says those are not legitimate reasons for recall.

"If the new standard for recall is that a group of people doesn't like the way an elected official voted on an issue, or they don't like an elected official's opinion on issues, then we've gone to a very dangerous point in our history,” Daniels said. “I haven't committed a crime."

The Oakland County clerk's office has 35 days to certify the petitions.

Politics
6:30 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Michigan State Police trooper training begins

Michigan is on track to get dozens of new state police troopers in October.

Michigan's Trooper Recruit School just got under way. About 90 recruits are enrolled, and another 90 are expected to start training in October.

This year's crop of recruits is larger than in recent years. But the number of new troopers still won't outpace the number expected to retire.

"It may give us a slight uptick, but it's pretty much going to keep us pretty much at the same level when we look at the number of people we have eligible for retirement, we're losing quite a lot of people over the next few years," said Michigan State Police  spokeswoman Shannon Banner.

Michigan currently has just over 900 troopers stationed at 29 posts around the state. That compares with about 1,300 a decade ago.

Politics
5:00 am
Mon June 11, 2012

Troy mayoral recall organizers say they have enough signatures to put issue on ballot

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels could face a recall vote in November.

Organizers of an effort to recall Troy's mayor say they expect to turn in more than enough petition signatures to get the measure onto the November ballot.

John Kulesz is one of the recall campaign's organizers. He says Mayor Janice Daniels has thumbed her nose at the city charter, and is hostile to her co-workers at city hall.

"I think if you total up her actions, they've harmed the city's reputation, she's ignoring the business community, and this is not good for a city as big and as diverse as Troy," said Kulesz.

Mayor Daniels gained notoriety over a gay slur she made on Facebook. She later angered many people when she voted to turn down federal money for a transit center.

In a response to the recall effort on her website, Daniels says she was elected to address fiscal transparency and integrity in budgeting.

The petition signatures need to be submitted to the Oakland County clerk by Friday.

Business
12:00 pm
Sat June 9, 2012

Detroit Bus Co. officially up and running

Detroit Bus Co. Facebook page

Downtown Detroit gets a new transportation option this weekend with the official launch of the Detroit Bus Company - a privately owned service launched by 25-year-old entrepreneur Andy Didorosi.

For $5, you get an all-day pass to ride. Right now, Didorosi is offering customers service on a 13-stop downtown loop.

"And then after that's successful and has a good ridership we plan to add our Royal Oak-Ferndale-Hamtramck-Detroit loop very quickly, because we have a lot of demand for that one," Didorosi said.

The Detroit Bus Company will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and during Detroit Tigers home games.

Didorosi says he hopes to someday be put out of business by reliable public transit.

Politics
6:33 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

Wayne commission votes to censure Ficano

Wayne Co. Commissioner Joe Palamara (D-Grosse Ile) sponsored the censure resolution.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has been formally censured by the board elected to run the county with him. The censure vote comes in the wake of a federal probe into how county contracts are awarded.

The Wayne County Commission was widely criticized for pulling its punches when it approved a censure resolution last month that did not actually include Ficano's name.

The amended resolution does name Ficano. But it does not call for the executive's resignation, as Commissioner Laura Cox (R-Livonia) wanted. Cox was the lone "no" vote on the resolution.

Commissioner Joe Palamara (D-Grosse Ile) sponsored the censure resolution. He says the commission has no power to force Ficano to step down - so a resolution calling for his resignation would be pointless.

"It's akin to firing a starter's pistol at a track meet," said Palamara. "At the end of the day it makes a lot of noise, gets a lot of attention, but all it is is firing a blank."

Four people have been indicted on federal corruption charges related to Wayne County contracts. Ficano has denied any wrongdoing.

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