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.

comedy_nose / flickr

Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau warned Detroit City Council members today that challenges to the ten-year Census results are rarely successful.

Detroit is hoping to add 36,000 people to its total. But in 2000, only 2,700 people were added to the rolls after all challenges in the country were complete. That’s 2,700 people in a nation of 281 million people.

Courtesy Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans has completed the purchase of the 14-story Chase Tower in downtown Detroit. The deal will allow the company to move the remainder of its workforce from the suburbs to downtown Detroit.

When the move is complete, about 4,000 employees of Quicken and its related companies will work downtown.

The Chase Tower sits just south of the Compuware Building on the other side of Campus Martius Park, where Quicken moved about 1,700 of its employees last year.

The move downtown is part of Quicken founder Dan Gilbert’s plan to help turn lower Woodward Avenue into a mecca for high-tech, Internet-based businesses.

Quicken is the nation’s largest online mortgage lender.

Plans for the Chase Tower include retail space on the first floor, and room for tenants who fit into Gilbert’s plan for a downtown Detroit technology hub.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say the Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – is “out of control.” They say agents are ignoring the agency’s own guidelines prohibiting enforcement near schools and churches.

Ali Abdel is the principal at Hope of Detroit Academy. He says ICE agents surrounded the school last week, terrifying parents and students:

"The school was like a ghost town. People were coming to get their students out of school, they were scared.... They were calling, flooding our lines – is ICE in the building? Are they around the corner? And this is no way for children to learn."

Jose Luis is one of several parents who hid inside the school last week as immigration agents waited outside. Luis says agents in three SUVs appeared to follow him as he dropped his kids off for school:

"ICE should be following people who they have warrants for. But that’s not what they’re doing, they’re following everybody."

The Alliance for Immigrants’ Rights has a series of demands. They include identifying who authorized the enforcement action at the school, and disciplining those responsible.

Bernt Rostad / Creative Commons

Former metro Detroiters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have formed a network that hopes to lend talent and assistance to the Motor City.

Bryan Fenster co-founded the Detroit Nation chapter in Chicago. He says there are scores of people with Detroit roots who want to help their hometown:

"People have law backgrounds, marketing, advertising, non-profit sector grant writing. It’s kind of all across the board. So when we partner up with more organizations in Detroit, I think we’ll have a better idea of who we can place where and how we can implement that."

Fenster says the first Detroit Nation event in Chicago in December drew about 60 people, and he expects its second event this week will draw twice that many.

Chapters in Seattle and Washington D.C. are expected to be established soon.

Elizabeth Albert / wikipedia commons

Detroit Public Schools is offering up dozens of its struggling schools to be turned into charters. And officials say they only want “superstar” operators with a proven track record of academic excellence.

But those operators might prove difficult to attract. The schools being offered up have the lowest student achievement, declining enrollment, or are located in areas that are not expected to be targeted for redevelopment.

Triin Q / wikipedia commons

New casinos would open in seven Michigan cities, under a measure a group hopes to get onto the ballot in 2012.

Bill Thompson is a casino expert from Las Vegas who helped draft the proposed constitutional amendment, which calls for a 19% wagering tax for the casinos. He says it would raise about $400 million in tax revenues. More than half the money would fund college scholarships and a tourism ad campaign.

Thompson says much of the rest would go to the communities that host the casinos:

"This will bring money into Saginaw, Benton Harbor – two cities that are in desperate financial situations, also Lansing, Grand Rapids – two cities that need help."

The measure also calls for casinos in Mount Clemens, Detroit and Romulus, where Alan Lambert is the mayor:

"There’s so many people out of work. In my own community there’s a lot of people out of work. So to a city like Romulus this means revenue obviously, and it means a lot of jobs."

Detroit’s three existing casinos will likely put on a vigorous fight to block the measure. And since it’s a statewide vote, opponents say it takes away residents’ rights to decide whether they want a casino in their communities.

The group failed to get a similar measure onto the 2010 ballot.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan RAdio

Thousands of kids in the Detroit Public Schools system could see their school close or become a charter school next fall.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb laid out his reorganization plan today. It calls for closing seven schools this summer and one next summer. Another 18 schools will close by the fall unless a charter school operator can be identified to run them. And 27 more schools will be offered for conversion to charter schools, but will remain open otherwise.

Bobb says national experts and the community will carefully vet the applications to find “superstar” charter operators:

"It doesn’t do us any good to have anyone come in and receive a charter if in fact they do not have a proven track record of student achievement."

Detroit Board of Education President Anthony Adams says the troubled school district can either continue to close schools, or rethink its approach completely:

"If it is our responsibility to provide the highest level of education for students within our community, then we have to embrace a different service model of what we do."

The list of 32 schools is fewer than half the troubled school district will have to close or convert to charters to erase a $327 million dollar deficit. Bobb says it will be his successor’s job to finish the job. His contract expires at the end of June.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson released a statement claiming nearly 4,000 registered voters in Michigan are not U.S. citizens.
michigan.gov

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has proposed changes to the laws governing how new political parties form in the state.
 
Johnson wants to prevent a repeat of last year’s confusion over an “imposter” tea party group that allegedly sought to siphon votes from Republicans in the 2010 elections.
 
Johnson says she expects legislation to be introduced in a few weeks that would require new parties to file a campaign finance statement, and give public notice for political conventions:

"We need to make sure the people and the political parties we see on the ballot really are who they say they are. And efforts to deceive voters, they really do rob every legitimate voter, and put our liberties and our freedoms at risk."

Last year a group calling itself the Tea Party said it planned to nominate candidates at a convention. Two former officials with the Oakland County Democratic Party are accused of putting candidates forward with forged documents.

Jon Sullivan / Wikipedia Commons

The ACLU is challenging a state law that allows children to be taken away from their parents without proof that they’re in immediate danger.

Claire Zimmerman says she hopes the lawsuit will make sure what happened to her family never happens to anyone else.

Three years ago, Zimmerman’s son, who was seven at the time, was at a Tiger game. Her husband, Christopher Ratté, unknowingly bought their son a bottle of lemonade with alcohol, and in the ninth inning they were approached by a security guard, who asked Ratté whether he knew his son was drinking an alcoholic beverage. Ratté said no, but the police were called. The boy was taken into the state’s custody later that day.

The state refused to release the boy to Zimmerman, even though she was not at the game with her son, and the next day he was placed in a foster home, where he stayed for three days.

Zimmerman says the ordeal was a nightmare:

"(It's) very difficult not to know where your child is physically. We of course felt that we had really let him down."

ACLU-Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg says if the boy’s parents had not been University of Michigan professors with access to the school’s legal resources, they might have been separated from their son for much longer:

"Families without the resources of our clients are sometimes unjustly separated for weeks, if not months."

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare Michigan’s law unconstitutional because it violates parents’ rights to due process.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

An Islamic advocacy group says border agents are harassing and violating the civil rights of scores of American Muslims re-entering the country from Canada.

Abdulrahman Cherri is a student at the University of Michigan. His fiancé lives in Canada, and he says when he returns to the U.S. from visiting her, his car has been taken apart, and he’s been subjected to invasive full-body searches. He says he’s also been questioned about his religion, even after telling border agents that he’s too busy with school to worship.

"But he insisted on me telling him where I attend, where I pray. I told him I go a few times and he asks me, what do I do there? What kind of activities do you have? Who’s the leader of your place of worship? What’s his name? Where’s he from?"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says parents have been ordered out of cars at gunpoint and handcuffed while their children watched.

CAIR is filing complaints with the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s asking the Justice Department to investigate.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Demolition on Detroit’s historic Cass Technical High School has begun. But a dedicated group of alumni and supporters still hope they can pull off an eleventh-hour effort to save it.

Cass Tech was and is one of Detroit’s most prestigious high schools. Alumni include Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, and Jack White of the White Stripes.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Hundreds of Detroiters are expected to get together on Sunday. Their goal? To kick an evil red dwarf out of the city.

Yep, you read that right.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder was greeted with boos at an event to celebrate the launch of the new Ford Focus today.

Workers at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant wore red T-shirts to show their solidarity with union workers whose collective bargaining rights are threatened.

Snyder says he wasn’t rattled by the reception.

"I respect people for having differing opinions, particularly when you’re talking about fundamental change."

Jennuine Captures / Flickr

Three major Detroit institutions are looking to leverage their spending to give a boost to the city’s economy.

Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University are all part of an initiative to revitalize the city’s Midtown area. And the “buy Detroit” campaign is part of that.

So far, the three institutions have shifted about $400,000 to Detroit businesses, says Lisa Prasad is with U3 Ventures, a firm that's helping with the project. 

"The number may be very small at the moment compared to their overall procurement, but we think the growth will be exponential once we really get it institutionalized."

Prasad says food is one thing all three institutions have been able to buy more locally.

Combined, the university and health systems spend $1.6 billion a year.

Shayan Sanyal / Flickr

A Washtenaw County judge is trying to broker an agreement that would allow the state and two counties to collect back child support and restitution from hundreds of women, while still protecting their identities.

More than 500 women were part of $100 million settlement from the state because they were sexually abused while in Michigan prisons. Attorneys for the state and Oakland and Wayne counties want to know whether any of them owe child support or restitution.

whirlpoolcorp.com

The head of Michigan-based Whirlpool says the United States is a smart place for the appliance giant to invest.

The company announced last year that it planned to sink $1 billion into its United States operations over the next four years. CEO Jeff Fettig says since then, he’s fielded lots of questions about why and how the company planned to do that.

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

The fight over workers’ rights in Wisconsin and Ohio has become familiar fodder for news stories in recent days. But labor leaders in this state say Republicans in Michigan are just as hostile to unions.

UAW President Bob King says you need look no further than Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal to see an attack on workers, seniors and the poor.

King says Snyder’s proposal to eliminate an income tax credit for the working poor, to cut the child care subsidy for low-income families, and to tax pensions are key examples.

"This governor has talked nicely, but these actions suggest he’s same agenda with every other Republican across this country," King said at a press conference today.

King says Snyder has also made some anti-union moves.

He says the Snyder administration is undermining bargaining rights for home health and day care workers. And Snyder supports legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to set aside union contracts, and suspend collective bargaining in troubled cities and school districts.

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder defended his budget proposal in front of a group of Detroit business and civic leaders this morning.

The governor wants to get rid of the tax breaks Michigan gives certain industries, and replace them with smaller pots of money that would be issued as grants.

Snyder told the crowd Michigan has been offering tax incentives to certain businesses for years because its tax system is broken. And he says he’s been talking about his plan for fixing it since he was a candidate.

"People kept going around Lansing and saying: 'Well, he did what he said he was going to do.' And it was like that was a surprise."

Snyder says his proposal is more transparent, accountable and honest than what the state does now.

adwriter / creative commons

Baseball lovers and preservation advocates are working to win historic designation for a Hamtramck ballpark that was home to Negro League games in the 1930s.

The Detroit Stars played at Hamtramck Stadium between 1930 and 1937.

Gary Gillette is a baseball writer and and editor of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia. He says Hamtramck Stadium is one of only five Negro League sites that have survived.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has fired the head of its roads division after getting deluged with complaints about unplowed roads.

Metro Detroit has as much as ten inches of snow on the ground after a storm earlier this week.

Michelle Smart commutes to her job at Ford in Dearborn using the Southfield Freeway. She says on Monday’s drive, people were trying to make lanes where they could through the snow.

"The plows had not come through. It was extremely slippery and dangerous."

Road crews across the state have been struggling to keep up with this winter’s near-record snowfall with budgets that are much smaller than in years past.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had more than 700 people working for the roads division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 300.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Over a thousand people packed a metro-Detroit banquet center last night to try and rescue Michigan’s budding film industry.

They’re mounting a campaign to persuade Michigan’s governor and lawmakers to preserve tax incentives for filming in the state. For the past three years Michigan has had the most generous credit in the nation, at 42 percent. Governor Rick Snyder wants to eliminate the tax break.

Andres McFarlane / Creative Commons

Movie industry supporters are pulling together a campaign to persuade Governor Rick Snyder to reconsider his plan to slash the state’s film tax incentives. For the past three years Michigan has had the most generous credit in the nation, at 42 percent.

Actor Jeff Daniels and columnist Mitch Albom will headline a meeting tonight in Livonia to talk strategy.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Fourth and eighth graders who took a national science test in 2009 posted the worst results among 17 big-city districts.

The scores are from the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment in science, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test – which is often referred to as the “nation’s report card.”

Results for the fourth and eighth graders in Detroit who took the test were worse than 16 other big cities that participated.

Kate Boicourt / IAN

Environmental advocates are criticizing a plan to scale back pollution controls for the sewer system that serves metro Detroit.

Officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department say population loss and the poor economy have forced them to revisit plans to build a massive underground tunnel along the Rouge River.

The tunnel would store untreated and partially treated sewage so that it wouldn’t get dumped into the river during rainstorms. Officials with DWSD say they still plan to build it, but it would be considerably smaller, and construction would be pushed back about a decade.

But critics say the public should be skeptical. James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council says DWSD has consistently failed to deliver on promises of a cleaner system.

“Why should we believe you this time? We’ve had decades of permits being issued, and non-compliance from this system.”

Officials with the sewer system say their plan is affordable, and within Detroit’s ability to fund. And they say that will avoid delays tied to the city’s economic recovery.

There is a public hearing on the proposal tonight at 7:00 at U of M-Dearborn.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Wayne State University will offer certificate programs in advanced energy storage. Courses will focus on things like electric vehicle batteries, and updating the electric grid to handle electric vehicle charging.

Jay Baron is the president of the Center for Automotive Research. He says the car industry is clamoring for engineers with those skills:

"When you speak to any of the auto companies, they will tell you: if you’ve got a field of study that has the term 'battery' or 'energy storage' in it, you’ve piqued the interest. My daughter is looking for a job, and I’ve told her if there’s any way she can get 'battery' into the title of her degree, she’d do much better."

Baron says several universities are retooling their engineering programs to incorporate more battery-related course offerings.

But he says there are lingering questions about the long-term viability of the electric vehicle market.

User zizzybaloobah / Flickr

Michigan now has its first-ever statewide advocacy group devoted to black-owned businesses.

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce will introduce its leaders and goals at a press conference in Detroit Monday.

Ken Harris is the group’s president and CEO. He says the number of black-owned businesses in Michigan is growing at three times the national rate:

"We want to identify emerging markets that we’re successful in currently, and then more importantly we want to move into areas where we’re not participating."

Harris says the organization will also lobby in Lansing and Washington DC, and there are plans for local branches in several Michigan cities. The group plans a convention in Detroit in June.

Federal prosecutors have charged 21 people with Medicare fraud in metro Detroit.

The indictments include doctors, physical therapists and clinic managers. They’re charged with billing Medicare for $23 million in services that either weren’t needed, or were never performed.

Andrew Arena heads the FBI’s Detroit office. He says one of the most striking examples is a physician who did $8 million worth of home visits:

sushi ina / flickr

Detroit’s two pension boards would be required to post all of their spending online, under a bill before the state House.

The legislation is a response to stories published in 2009 about board members’ travel expenses. The boards’ trustees, their attorneys and staff racked up bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for trips to places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

State Representative Tom McMillin in the bill’s sponsor:

Patrick Brosset / Flickr

An agreement between Detroit’s mayor and suburban leaders could end years of wrangling over how the city’s massive water system is run.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than 4 million people in Southeast Michigan. It’s been the center of controversy for years. Suburban customers have complained about rate hikes and cost overruns, and they’ve demanded more say over how the department is run. 

The tentative deal seeks to address those issues. And Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch says it could serve as a model for regional cooperation:

"Of all the regional issues that we’re at odds over, this is one that if we can show we can make it work, we can certainly apply the same formula to all the other challenges in the region." 

The plan calls for Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties to each choose an appointee to the board that oversees the department. A supermajority would be required to approve rates and contracts.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says it’s a good deal for everyone:

"This thing’s been a political football for decades now. And in the past, the parties weren’t able to come together and have a common basis. And plus Mayor Bing is not the previous administration. And I think that went a long way in galvanizing where everybody could work together."

The deal requires the approval of a federal judge. The water department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s for environmental violations.

Update 6:01 p.m.:

Egyptians in Michigan are disappointed by the news that President Hosni Mubarak plans to remain in office until elections in September.

Ola Elsaid  is a doctor who lives in Rochester, north of Detroit. She stayed home from work today to watch the developments in Cairo.

Elsaid says Mubarak’s announcement was like “a slap in the face,” and she’s worried about the reaction it could produce:

"So we’re afraid that everybody’s going to revolt even more. We see the reaction from our families. I was speaking to my cousin, he’s already dressed and going down to the street to join the demonstration. And we’re just worried about the bloodshed that might ensue in Egypt right now."

Elsaid says she wants to see the U.S. government support the push for democracy in Egypt.

Update 4:39 p.m.:

We're waiting to hear the reaction from local Arab Americans to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's decision not to resign.  The New York Times filed this report from Cairo:

President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people Thursday that he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but that he would not resign his post, contradicting earlier reports that he would step aside and surprising hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered to hail his departure from the political scene.  

In a nationally televised address following a tumultuous day of political rumors and conflicting reports, Mr. Mubarak said he would “admit mistakes” and honor the sacrifices of young people killed in the three-week uprising, but that he would continue to “shoulder my responsibilities” until September, and did not give a firm indication that he would cede political power.

Even as Mr. Mubarak spoke, angry chants were shouted from huge crowds in Cairo who had anticipated his resignation but were instead confronted with a plea from the president to support continued rule by him and his chosen aides. People waved their shoes in defiance, considered an insulting gesture in the Arab world. 

 NPR and BBC will provide continued coverage of the situation in Egypt throughout the evening on Michigan Radio.

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