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
8:41 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

EMU to offer housing incentives with "Live Ypsi"

EMU hopes to spur homeownership in Ypsilanti through its "Live Ypsi" program.
ellenm1 flickr

Eastern Michigan University plans to offer its employees incentives to become homeowners in Ypsilanti. Details of the "Live Ypsi" program are still being finalized. But Leigh Greden says university employees could qualify for five to 10-thousand dollars in loans for down payments or rehab work. "And if the employee continues to be employed by Eastern Michigan, and continues to live in that home, we will forgive 20 percent of the loan per year for five years," said Greden. "And then at the end, all of the loan will have been forgiven." Greden says the idea is to stabilize neighborhoods near the university. The DTE Energy Foundation and Washtenaw County are both kicking in money for the program, and Greden says negotiations are under way with a third organization as well.  The concept is modeled after the "live Midtown" program in Detroit. 

Politics
10:48 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Anti-Sharia rally planned at state capital this week

A rally is planned in Lansing this week in support of legislation to ban Sharia law in Michigan.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville). It makes no specific mention of Sharia. And Agema says his intent is not to single out the legal code of Islam.

"All this bill does - I don't care if it's coming from the United Nations or where it's coming from," said Agema. "If it's anathema to our state Constitution or our federal U.S. Constitution, I'm just clarifying to the judges: don't use it."

The legislation has languished in committee for months without a hearing. Agema says he hopes the rally will convince Republican leaders in the state Legislature to take up the bill.

Muslim leaders in Michigan say the bill is a distraction from the state's real problems. They say it can only serve to feed anti-Muslim sentiment.

"I think it's unfortunate that instead of dealing with the real issues such as the suffering economy and the crime rate that we have here in Michigan, that Mr. Agema is involved in these hijinks such as protesting this non-existent threat," said Dawud Walid of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan.

Two dozen states have passed similar legislation.

Politics
6:12 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan lawmakers push to hold down student loan interest rate

Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters talks with Wayne State University student Norman Dotson about student loan interest rates.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Troy) says tens of thousands of people in Michigan face the prospect of higher student loan costs, unless Congress acts soon.

The interest rate on government-backed Stafford student loans is set to double July 1, to 6.8 percent.

"Just here in the state of Michigan 330,000 students will be faced with a large increase in that interest, which will add $1,000 to the debt of the average student. So on average $4,000 if you get out in four years," Peters said

MaVida Burrus is a student at Walsh College in Oakland County. She says the interest rate hike would make it difficult to balance her household checkbook.

"I am the mother of three, and we have bills to pay, we have mortgages, we have car notes, and I am raising these children on my own," Burrus said at a press conference called by Peters. "So this interest rate would mean a lot to me." 

The U.S. House passed a Republican-sponsored bill last week that would maintain the lower rate, and pay for it with cuts to public health programs.

Reps. Peters and Hansen Clarke are co-sponsors of a bill that would instead end $6 billion worth of subsidies to the oil and gas industries. That's the cost to the federal government of keeping the lower interest rate.

Economy
2:40 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Report: Oakland Co. experienced "torrid" growth in 2011

Oakland County’s economy had a “red hot” year in 2011. That’s according to a report by economists at the University of Michigan.

The county added more than 23,426 jobs last year. The economists who prepared the report say they expect the recovery to continue in the next three years – although at a more modest clip.

Politics
5:46 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Concerns remain over Air National Guard cuts

The latest budget proposal from the Pentagon calls for keeping C-130 airplanes at bases around the country to preserve jobs.
Josh Beasley flickr

Concerns remain over what the Obama administration's proposed budget could mean for the Selfridge Air National Guard base in Macomb County.

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Shelby Twp.) says she's far from satisfied with the Obama administration's latest proposal to mitigate cuts to the Air National Guard. Miller's district includes the Selfridge base. Selfridge stood to lose hundreds of jobs under the Pentagon's original budget proposal for next year. 

After pressure from Congress and governors, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has come out with a proposal that would keep more C-130 aircraft in the National Guard. Panetta says that would restore 2,200 Air Guard jobs across the United States. 

Miller calls the plan "a slap in the face."

"Certainly I think the men and women of the Air National Guard deserve better than to be given more than old airplanes and temporary jobs," Miller said.

Selfridge no longer has C-130s. But it did before a 2005 base realignment. Rep. Sander Levin(D-Royal Oak)  says the development is promising, and that he'll push for basing some of the aircraft at Selfridge again.

Politics
5:00 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Rail group says it has money to build system, run it for a decade

An artist's rendering of a light rail station in Detroit.
M-1 Rail

A group with plans to build a privately funded light rail line in Detroit says it has the money it needs to construct it, and to run it for ten years. Backers laid out their case in a feasibility study submitted to the federal government.

The M-1 rail line would run along a three-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

Supporters say it’s an important project – especially at a time when the city of Detroit is cutting back dramatically on its spending.

"We view the M-1 initiative as a real catalyst for economic development along this entire downtown district that is undergoing a bit of a renaissance already, but we think this can even jump-start it.," said M-1 Rail President Matt Cullen.

The project was nearly derailed late last year – after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder pulled their support in favor of a rapid bus system. The mayor and governor now say they think both projects should move forward.

If and when a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan gets off the ground, the idea is to hand the system over to that authority.

"Our aspiration to own and operate a rail system long-term," Cullen said. "It’s a group of philanthropists that have put this together."

Construction is expected to begin in early 2013, and be completed in 2015.

Read more
Education
4:45 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Gov. to Highland Park parents: schools in danger of closing next month

Governor Rick Snyder has put Highland Park schools parents on notice that the district is in danger of closing next month.

The warning came in a letter Snyder sent to parents. It says the district’s finances have reached a crisis stage, and that Highland Park might not be able to finish the school year without state intervention.

"We were hearing lots of concerns, lots of frustration" the governor's spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said of the letter. "And so we just wanted to make sure we were communicating directly so they could hear from the governor, and he could begin to help answer those questions as best we can at the time."

But Highland Park school board secretary Robert Davis says the letter serves little purpose other than to scare parents, "and in turn may cause some parents to take their kids out of the district, which will further cripple the Highland Park school system."

The district's cumulative deficit is more than $11 million. Two weeks ago, the state had to front the district money to meet payroll.

A state review team has recommended that Governor Snyder appoint an emergency manager to run the district. Governor Snyder is expected to make a final decision once he receives a report from the state Treasury Department from a hearing held last week, at which district officials opposed state intervention.

courts
3:38 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Lesbian couple sues to overturn Mich. adoption law

Jayne Rowse, left, and April DeBoer with their three children.
Rowse/DeBoer

A lesbian couple from metro Detroit is suing to overturn a state law that prevents same-sex couples from jointly adopting children.

"We're doing anything any parent would do," said April DeBoer, who has adopted a daughter, 2. Her partner Jayne Rowse has adopted two sons, ages 3 and 2. But they are prevented by state law from adopting the children jointly.

"I am not recognized [by the state]," DeBoer said. "I'm a legal stranger to my sons."

The couples' attorneys say the law’s effects on DeBoer's and Rowse's three children are “devastating.”

Read more
detroit
11:25 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Detroit land use project opens walk-in office

The Detroit Works Project long-term planning team's "home base" is located in Eastern Market.
detroitworksproject.com

Detroit residents interested in Mayor Dave Bing’s planning project for the city have a place to go for information. The Detroit Works long-term planning team has just opened a walk-in office in Eastern Market.

Read more
Science/Medicine
5:05 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

DMC breaks ground on heart hospital

The new DMC Heart Hospital is scheduled to open in early 2014.
DMC

The Detroit Medical Center has broken ground on a $78 million dollar heart hospital.

It’s part of a broader expansion plan announced when Vanguard Health System purchased the DMC last year.

Theodore Schreiber is president of the Cardiovascular Institute, which will run the hospital. He says financing the facility would have been “inconceivable” without the DMC’s acquisition by for-profit Vanguard.

"Nationally as a whole, non-profit hospital institutions have tremendous difficulty obtaining capital, let alone the flagship institution in center city Detroit at the heart of the economic crisis," he said.

Schreiber says the hospital will be the only facility of its kind in Michigan, with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart disease.

It’s expected to be completed in early 2014.

Environment
8:42 am
Mon January 16, 2012

Proposed amendment would ratchet up renewable power mandate

user vaxomatic flickr

A coalition of business, labor and agriculture groups is backing a ballot campaign to boost the state’s renewable energy mandate.

Michigan utilities are already required to get 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2015. The proposed constitutional amendment would boost that to 25 percent, by 2025.

"There’s 20 other states that include and Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa that have already adopted measures similar to the initiative, without significant increase in utility costs for consumers," said campaign spokesman Mark Fisk.

A spokesman for DTE Energy says it would be difficult to comply with the 25 percent mandate without a significant increase in rates. The proposed ballot language says utilities could not increase rates by more than one percent a year to comply with the mandate.

A state elections board is expected to decide whether to approve the ballot language this week.

Financial Crisis
5:05 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Snyder: Financial crisis exists in Highland Park School District

State Treasurer Andy Dillon, left, and state Superintendent Mike Flanagan
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Update 4:58 pm:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the district’s money problems are deep and troubling. He says the state will advance the school district $188,000 so it can meet payroll tomorrow. 

"I have no comfort that the district has a handle on their finances," said Dillon. "The numbers move hourly. We have three people down there today trying to get a handle on how much they actually need for payroll. And I’m very uneasy about it, because I can’t tell you in the middle of February that they’re going to make payroll."

But school board member Robert Davis says the state has contributed to the district’s financial woes by requiring that it close a career academy that enrolled 1,500 students.

"Their plan and intent is to fold the Highland park School system into the Detroit Public School system," Davis said. "That’s what this is all about."

Highland Park Schools' student population has declined 58% percent since 2006. 

State officials say their objective is to keep the district’s doors open through the end of the year. But they say that will be difficult. The district needs a cash infusion of at least $3 million to get through the school year. But the maximum the state is allowed to advance under hardship cases is $2 million.

The district's cumulative deficit is $11.3 million. That’s about $10,000 for every student enrolled.

12:56 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a financial emergency in the Highland Park school district, Rick Pluta reports. The district will have a chance to challenge the finding at a January 17th hearing before the governor names an emergency manager.

In a statement released today, the Governor says:

“It is critical that students in the Highland Park School District get the education they need and deserve. For that to continue, the Highland Park School District must have stable finances. Through the comprehensive reviews that have been conducted, it is clear the district faces monumental financial challenges.”

On January 4th a state review  panel recommended the governor appoint an emergency manager to fix the school district’s "financial emergency." The financial review team had been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November. Earlier this month, Steve Carmody reported:

The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10 thousand for every student enrolled.  The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year. The school district’s debt has grown, as its student population has fallen. Nearly 3,200 students attended Highland Park schools in 2006. This year, fewer than a thousand students are enrolled.

Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools,  as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster's books.

Read more
Auto/Economy
5:24 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Energy Secretary: innovate or be overtaken

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu
U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says now that domestic carmakers weathered the storm, they need to innovate to stay competitive.

Secretary Chu says the government rescue of Chrysler and General Motors has paid off, but there’s hard work ahead.

"And our choice is very clear. We have to continue to innovate, or we’ll be overtaken," he told the Detroit Economic Club.

Chu says innovation is more than just discovery and invention. It’s figuring out how to make things like batteries at low cost and high volume.

Secretary Chu says U.S. automakers also need to adjust to the fact that foreign markets like China, India and Brazil are where the growth is.

Chu is one of four cabinet members in the Obama administration who toured the Detroit auto show this week. 

immigration
5:37 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Feds halt deportation hours after rally in support of Detroit mom

Cecelia Manquera showed up to the ICE field office in Detroit with a suitcase of clothes for her sister-in-law, Leslie Hernandez. Hernandez was scheduled for deportation this week, but ICE officials halted her removal and will release her tomorrow.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Advocates for a Detroit woman held a rally today urging the federal government to scrap its plans to deport her to Mexico this week. Hours after the demonstration, immigration officials announced they would stop Leslie Hernandez’s deportation and release her.

Hernandez is – by her family’s account – exactly the kind of immigrant for whom the Obama administration says deportations should be halted.

Hernandez came to the U.S. as a child and has lived here longer than she ever lived in Mexico. She has a clean record, and three young children.

"She’s not a criminal, and it wasn’t her fault that she was brought the United States when she was a minor," said Hernandez’s sister-in-law, Cecelia Manquera.

President Obama wants immigration agents to focus enforcement efforts on removing immigrants convicted of crimes.

A spokesman for the Detroit immigration enforcement office says Hernandez will be released under federal supervision.

health
5:04 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Blues, Beaumont reach settlement, avoid booting HMO patients

Beaumont Health System

Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan has reached a five-year deal with Beaumont Health System that will increase reimbursements to the hospital. It also includes a new performance-based payment model.

The health system had threatened to stop accepting patients covered by the Blues’ HMO, Blue Care Network,  starting next Thursday. 

"It was very unfortunate but the good news is that we’ve rescinded that now, and BCN members will not have gone one day without their services being covered at Beaumont and we think that’s a very positive outcome,"  said Beaumont CFO Nick Vitale.

Officials on both sides say the deal will better coordinate care by establishing programs that avoid unnecessary tests "to make sure that the primary care physicians are speaking to the specialists who are speaking to the hospitals to make sure that if there’s a test performed that it’s only performed once," said BCBSM vice president Sue Barkell.

The five-year contract will boost reimbursements to the hospital. But the two sides would not disclose what the rate increase will be.

abdulmutallab
1:15 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Judge denies "underwear bomber" request for new lawyer

The young Nigerian man convicted of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight two years ago will not be appointed new legal counsel ahead of his sentencing next month.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab says the “stand-by” attorney who’s been assisting him throughout his prosecution has misled and neglected him.

Lawyer Anthony Chambers has denied those charges. And prosecutors argued Abdulmutallab – who’s insisted on acting as his own attorney – has no legal right to standby counsel, let alone one of his choosing. The government also said granting Abdulmutallab’s request would delay justice for the passengers of Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the request.

Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in October. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16.

Auto
5:47 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Deal inked to keep auto show in Detroit through 2017

Detroit will hang on to the North American International Auto Show for at least another five years.

The deal signed today by auto show and Cobo Center officials should reverse years of suggestions that show sponsors might take their business elsewhere.

"It is our way of saying: 'Detroit, we are with you,'" said Bill Perkins, chairman of the 2012 show. 

A regional authority took control of Cobo away from the city two years ago. The move paved the way a $278 million renovation of the aging facility. Perkins says those renovations will put the facility on par with other top global venues, "helping us to maintain our position on the world auto stage as the show at which to introduce new and exciting vehicles."

The renovation is under way that will add space to Cobo and open views to the Detroit River. The facility is also getting new loading docks and other amenities. The auto dealers who put on the show had warned the city could lose the auto show if renovations were not made.

The show opens to the public January 14.

Politics
5:42 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing says city won't run out of money this April

Detroit Mayor Bing says with changes, the financial crisis in the city is not as bad as previously forecasted.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

Update 5:39 pm:

The mayor’s plan includes $360 million in savings over the next year and a half. But some city council members  say they’re skeptical.

"There’s not much here that we haven’t already heard before," Councilman Ken Cockrel said. He and others say the savings appear overly optimistic. 

Mayor Bing disagrees.

"Add up the numbers," he said. "The numbers don’t lie."

The mayor plans to present his proposal to a state review team next week. That review team could recommend an emergency manager take over the city finances. Meanwhile, his administration continues to negotiate with city unions. Bing says the unions have until the end of the month to agree to concessions, or steeper cuts and layoffs are inevitable.

1:01 pm:

The Associated Press reports that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has declared the city's financial crisis is easing, and the city is "no longer at risk of running out of cash by April as previously expected."

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is following this story and will have more for us later.

More from the Associated Press:

Mayor Dave Bing on Thursday released a financial and operational restructuring plan update. It highlights cost savings from 1,000 imminent layoffs, overdue payments from the Detroit Public Schools district and a corporate tax increase that Bing says will mitigate a cash shortfall.

Bing planned to present the update Thursday afternoon to the Detroit City Council, which has scheduled discussion time for the plan.

A review team is looking into Detroit's finances - a step in a process that could lead to Michigan taking over the city's government. Its recommendations will be forwarded to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Last November, Mayor Bing cited a financial audit that showed the city might run out of money this April.

Education
12:12 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

UM Law opens clinic to help student entrepreneurs

U of M Law's Entrepreneurship Clinic will assist students with their business ventures.
screen grab

Beginning this month, law students at the University of Michgian will be able to sign up for a new Entrepreneurship Clinic. The clinic will focus on helping students do things like set up businesses, and protect intellectual property.

Law School Professor Dana Thompson will run the Entrepreneurship Clinic.

She said it makes sense to help the growing number of entrepreneurs at the university with their legal issues, such as employment law issues, developing contracts for their businesses, leases, and financing.

Thompson said the clinic will give law students a great opportunity to connect with business, engineering or other students, "and begin to make those connections with future clients or colleagues, and to do it while you're in school and everybody's kind of in that learning stage is a great opportunity for them."

Ten students will be part of the clinic's inaugural class, but the plan is to more than double the capacity.

The program attracted more than five times the number of applicants as there were spots available. Thompson says the interest reflects the fact that the employment landscape is changing, with a shift toward entrepreneurship.

Economy
5:00 am
Thu December 29, 2011

State clears unemployment debt with feds

Bytemarks flickr

The state has issued bonds to wipe clean a $3.2 billion debt to the federal government.  That’s money Michigan had to borrow to cover its unemployment benefits costs.

Michigan racked up the debt because the tax employers pay into the Unemployment Trust Fund wasn’t keeping pace with payments that needed to be made to laid-off workers.

Employers will be the ones on the hook for paying off the bonds. The state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency will send out invoices this spring.

The bond sale was made possible by legislation passed just before lawmakers adjourned for the year. That’s important, since repaying the federal government by the end of the year will ultimately allow employers to save as much as $200 million in interest costs.

Michigan had to pay $38 million in interest on its unemployment insurance loans this year.

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