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

A tenure reform plan in the state Senate has the stamp of approval from Michigan’s largest teachers’ union.

The Senate proposal is very different from a tenure reform plan approved by the state House earlier this month.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association. He says the legislation would eliminate a state tenure commission, and instead assign arbitrators to school districts that want to dismiss tenured teachers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Oakland and Ingham counties are suing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over millions of dollars in disputed tax revenues.

Michigan has something called the real estate transfer tax, and it’s paid by the seller when a property changes hands.

Fannie and Freddie have been unloading many of the homes that revert to them in foreclosure sales.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says the companies are trying to have it both ways – getting the benefits of private companies, and the protections of government entities.

A state House committee could vote this week to outlaw a procedure critics call partial-birth abortion.
Similar efforts to ban the procedure in Michigan have failed in the past. Two bills were vetoed, and three laws that were enacted were struck down by the courts.
But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on the procedure in 2007. Ed Rivet of Right to Life of Michigan says this time around, he expects less of a fight.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s requested and received the resignation of his communications chief, Karen Dumas.

The move comes just two days after a bombshell lawsuit filed by a former Bing aide. The suit claims Dumas created a hostile and unstable environment, and wielded unprecedented authority in the executive office.

Bing says he plans to return his focus to the challenges facing Detroit.

"The controversy of the last few days cannot and will not be a distraction to me or this administration."

Also out is Bing’s chief of staff, Shannon Holmes. Kirk Lewis will return to the administration to replace her. Lewis left the mayor’s office earlier this year, after reportedly seeking the job of emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools without Bing’s knowledge. The lawsuit filed this week, however, claims Bing knew about Lewis’s efforts, and even tried to help make it happen.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

School is out for the summer in Detroit. And for several schools in the cash-strapped district, classes are done forever.

Until today, that was the story at Catherine Ferguson Academy – an award-winning school for pregnant teens and young moms.

Changing the storyline

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson is recuperating from serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Pontiac can have access to Oakland County’s financial and technical experts, but a merger of the two governments is out of the question. That’s the message County Executive L. Brooks Patterson delivered at a forum today on Pontiac’s deteriorating financial situation.

Pontiac’s financial manager asked Patterson to consider a merger in a letter last week. But Patterson says the county can’t afford to take on Pontiac’s problems, and isn’t equipped to deliver services at the city level. But Patterson says the threat of bankruptcy is real:

N1NJ4 / flickr

The state has reversed a decision to close 23 state forest campgrounds this summer.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Mary Dettloff says the DNR has found partners to run three of them, and is in talks with local governments and other groups for similar arrangements for the rest. But she says maintaining the campgrounds is an expense the state is less and less able to afford:

"We have to do regular environmental testing on the wells for the water, we have to have the pit toilets pumped out regularly. We have to have the trash hauled away, the grass mowed. There’s lots of maintenance and upkeep for these things that I think a lot of folks just don’t realize we have to do."

Funding for the state forest campgrounds has been cut by almost two-thirds over the last three years. There are 133 of the campgrounds across Michigan.

Dettloff says the typical state forest campground costs about $9,000 a year to operate.

Andrea_44 / flickr

A judge in Detroit has adjourned a hearing without ruling on the state’s request to levy sanctions against the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

It’s part of an ongoing court fight over the bridge company’s failure to build on-ramps to the bridge, and remove fueling stations and part of a duty-free store that were built without the state’s permission.

Deb Sumner is a community activist and long-time critic of the bridge company. She says without the on-ramps, thousands of trucks are forced to rumble through her neighborhood every day:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Liz Blondy opened Canine to Five – a dog daycare – on Cass Avenue six years ago. It’s a location few entrepreneurs have dared stake a claim, but Blondy has been successful. So successful, she wants to buy the two city-owned lots adjacent to her business, and expand. Trouble is, that’s the site of a beloved community garden that’s been there longer than her business.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made a pair of campaign stops in metro Detroit on his first trip to the state as a declared candidate.

The former Massachusetts governor was greeted with protests at a Livonia diner in the morning. Romney then headed to the business incubator Bizdom U in Detroit, where he offered advice to a handful of entrepreneurs.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter offered fellow Republican Mitt Romney a not-so-friendly welcome ahead of a pair of campaign stops Romney has scheduled in metro Detroit tomorrow.

Romney plans a campaign stop at a diner in Livonia diner – right in the heart of Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s district. That prompted McCotter to call a press conference to criticize Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, and his one-time support for a healthcare overhaul in Massachusetts that created a system of subsidies and mandates, among other issues:

bettyx1138 / flickr

A Detroit lawmaker thinks he has the answer to that city’s high rate of uninsured drivers.

State Senator Virgil Smith wants to create a pilot program that would allow Detroit drivers to sign up for bare-bones insurance policies with reduced rates. The idea is to cover medical costs up to $50,000 a person, or $100,000 an accident. Right now, the state’s no-fault law requires unlimited personal injury coverage. Smith says that’s hampered efforts to reduce urban insurance rates.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vetoed the city council’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Detroit City Council trimmed an additional $50 million from the budget plan submitted by the mayor. Many members said they were not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections would hold.

Mayor Bing says the council’s plan would have resulted in layoffs in public safety, jeopardized Sunday bus service, and forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government. He says the council was bent on enacting drastic cuts to send a political message:

"But our fiscal crisis is too important to become just another political battle where no one wins."

The mayor and council members will spend the next few days on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The island has been the site of many political deals in the past. But if a compromise is not struck, the city council could vote to override the veto next week.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Trustees of Detroit’s general retirement system have agreed to let the city spread out its debt payments over a longer period. It's just one of the changes the city’s mayor is seeking to balance the budget.

The change will save the city about $13 million, and if Detroit’s police and fire pension board trustees agree to a similar move, it bring the total savings to $65 million.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has suspended the director and several staff of the city’s Human Services Department. The department is believed to have misspent at least $200,000 intended for services to the poor.

Mayor Bing says an investigation is under way. He says it’s not clear yet how big the problem is, "but it is important enough to this administration, to this city and our indigent population that we act immediately to make sure that we right the wrongs."

Supporters of Michigan’s film industry are conducting an eleventh-hour push to convince Lansing politicians to keep the state’s generous film tax credit.

Nancy Skinner has been a vocal opponent of plans to scrap the credit and replace it with a much more modest grant program. She runs a Web site that’s brought in donations from thousands of people:

"And what we are trying to do is put names and faces to these numbers. The spreadsheet wars that are going on in Lansing? We want these folks to see the names and faces of people who will be affected by this."

The ads will run on Comcast cable channels over the next week. They emphasize the economic impact of the film industry, and the threat of a continued “brain drain” if the film industry pulls out of Michigan.

Just the threat of the elimination of Michigan’s 42 percent tax credit caused her to lose business, says Rose Gilpin. She and her partner Kathy Remski own Real Style Extras Casting:

"They evaporated immediately. Kathy and I right off the bat lost three projects in February right after the announcement was made. So immediately gone."

Legislation has been introduced to preserve the tax credit. The governor has proposed replacing the tax credit with grants totaling 25 million dollars for film and video projects.

Wayne County has launched an initiative to improve health care for low-income children. The Wayne County Child Healthcare Access Program is modeled after a similar project in Kent County. It’s based on a concept called the “medical home.”

Project Director Jametta Lilly says that concept already exists for many kids covered by private insurance. But she says care is often less consistent and coordinated for kids in the Medicaid program:

Tony Buser / flickr

Community gardeners in Detroit are angry about new permit requirements for gardening on city-owned lots.

Reit Schumack heads an organization on the city’s west side called Neighbors Building Brightmoor, which puts in gardens, wildflower stands and pocket parks on dozens of city lots. Schumack says the new rules include a ban on bringing in new soil or compost, unless the city grants lot-by-lot permission:

About a third of the income taxes workers owe to Detroit are going unpaid, according to Mayor Dave Bing’s finance director.

Tom Lijana told the Detroit City Council today the city will take in about $226 million in income taxes this year. But he says another $110 million is going unpaid.

"That’s a critical hole in our tax system today," Lijana told council members.

He says the city will push for legislation to allow it to garnish tax returns for people who owe back income taxes:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing today flatly rejected the idea put forward by New York’s mayor that immigrants could be the key to reversing Detroit’s population loss.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the suggestion during an appearance on “Meet the Press” earlier this month, saying the U.S. became a superpower because of its immigrant population. But Bing ridiculed the idea during an event with the “Big Four” metro Detroit political leaders.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the past two years, Detroit has closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the school system's workforce. But the district is still staring at a deficit of more than $300 million, and thousands of students continue to flee every year. In a story produced for NPR's All Things Considered, we take a closer look at a plan to help the troubled district out of its downward spiral.

david_shankbone / flickr

The CEO of the New York Times Company says the Times’ decision to charge for some online content is going much better than expected. And Janet Robinson says she thinks similar models can work for smaller newspapers, like the Detroit dailies:

"Newspapers of all sizes really have the opportunity to have some kind of paid model. And the earlier they start to explore and test and experiment, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised in regard to what the results may be."

The New York Times uses what’s called a “metered model.” That means people can read 20 articles for free each month before they’re required to pay for unlimited access. Home delivery subscribers also have unlimited access.

Robinson says from mid-March to mid-April more than 100,000 people signed up for paid online access.

Robinson spoke to the Detroit Economic Club in Birmingham today.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is under fire for what critics are calling aggressive and overzealous tactics.

ICE officials say they are concerned enough that they're reviewing a recent incident involving immigration agents.

But the union that represents agents is complaining that ICE isn't standing behind its officers.

A Ghost Town

The principal of Hope of Detroit Academy, Ali Abdel, says he was helping out with morning safety patrol on March 31, just like he does most mornings.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As long as there have been schools, there have been school bullies.

But experts say today’s tormentors are more brutal and efficient than ever before.  And that’s left teachers and principals scrambling to figure out how to manage the problem.

In Detroit, training sessions for handling bullies start tomorrow. And the school district has also launched conflict resolution programs to help stop bullying behavior.

"They told me I seemed different"

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A rally by Florida Pastor Terry Jones erupted briefly in Dearborn, as a crowd of counter-protestors rushed barricades, prompting riot police to force them back.

The confrontation broke out when Jones – who was delivering a speech condemning radical Islam – left the steps of city hall and approached the sidewalk. That provoked several people in the crowd of counter-demonstrators from the opposite side of the street to rush across Michigan Avenue. They spit, and hurled soda bottles and shoes at Jones.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner / United States Treasury Department

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the government will almost certainly lose money on its investment in the domestic auto industry.

But Geithner told business leaders in Detroit today  that making a profit was never the objective. He says the aim of the Troubled Asset Relief Program – or TARP – was twofold:

"One is to get these companies back in private hands as quickly as we can, it makes no sense for the government to be in there a day longer than is necessary, but we also want to recover as much of the taxpayers’ money as possible."

Geithner says, on the whole, he expects the TARP investments in all sectors – including banking and insurance – will yield a profit.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools praised Governor Snyder’s education agenda.

Robert Bobb says his call to have every child proficient in reading by the end of third grade is important. And Bobb says he likes Snyder’s ideas for allowing more charter schools.

"I just think that he has put a very bold plan in front of every educational institution in Michigan. And it’s now up to all of the professionals in education to stand behind him and to move as aggressively as possible."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Muslim and Christian clergy say people should not confront the controversial Florida pastor who plans to protest jihad and Sharia law in front of a Dearborn mosque today.

Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini leads the Islamic Center of America, where Pastor Terry Jones wants to stage his protest. He says Jones is looking for publicity, and that’s his right:

"But when he calls himself a religious leader, a pastor, then he should hold himself to a higher standard, and that is our problem with him."

Reverend Charles Williams Junior says there will be no conflict in Dearborn if the protest goes forward tonight. And he says he hopes the reaction is the same elsewhere:

"We want to call on our brothers and sisters across the world: please do not respond to this ignorant fellow. Please do not respond."

Violent protests erupted in Afghanistan after Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an at his Florida church.

Jones is representing himself at a trial to decide whether he should be required to pay a hefty security bond to stage his protest. Jones says he’ll hold his rally as planned, whatever the jury decides. 

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A standing-room-only crowd packed a union hall in Dearborn tonight for a rally to protest what they call harassment by immigration officials. Hundreds of people poured into UAW Local 600 to hear activists and politicians discuss allegations of wrongdoing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – agents.

Complaints include warrantless searches, racial profiling and enforcement actions near schools and churches.

calamity_sal / flickr

An $11 million deficit could force Detroit Public Library commissioners to close the vast majority of the system’s branches. Commissioners are weighing a few options. But all of them call for closing at least half the library branches in the city, and one proposal would leave only five of 23 branches open.

Shrinking tax revenues are largely to blame for the system’s budget shortfall.

Detroit is not alone. Libraries all over Michigan are struggling with falling tax revenues and cuts to state aid. Even Troy, a relatively affluent suburb of Detroit, is closing its library.

Detroit library commissioners are expected to finalize their plans for eliminating the deficit next month.