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.
The Michigan Parole Board has voted to release former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from prison.
Kilpatrick went to prison early last year for violating the terms of his probation. A judge found that the ex-mayor hid some of his assets that should have been used to pay a million-dollar restitution order.
The restitution was part of Kilpatrick’s 2008 guilty plea to obstructing justice. He admitted to lying about an affair with one of his aides during a civil trial after text messages revealed explicit details about the relationship.
Roy Roberts' budget plan submitted to the state today calls for cutting wages by 10 percent. It would also trim expenses by $231 million, and reduce contracts by $48 million. As Roberts already announced, the proposal calls for floating $200 million in bonds to help erase the district's $327 million deficit.
The emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools says he wants to work with the district’s unions.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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."