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Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

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An aerial view of Little Caesar's Arena.
Michigan Radio

An African American carpenter says he suffered racial discrimination and harassment on the job during the construction of Detroit’s Little Caesar’s Arena.

Harold Wilson is suing Hardman Construction, the contractor he spent just two days working for in 2015.

Wilson says he had trouble getting hired, despite a need for skilled tradesmen and Detroit resident workers. A city ordinance requires that 51% of all employees working on major development projects in Detroit be city residents.

MDHHS
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The state says it’s taking new steps to fix Michigan’s serious lack of inpatient psychiatric care, in hopes of jump-starting a more comprehensive fix.

Michigan largely shut down its inpatient psychiatric facilities in the 1990s. Rather than picking up the slack, community hospitals cut back too.

That means there’s now a serious shortage of beds for people who need care for an acute psychiatric crisis.

Doctor's stethoscope
Pixabay.com

A former University of Michigan pediatric rheumatologist has been arrested and is in federal custody on child pornography charges.

Dr. Mark Hoeltzel was arrested as part of a larger investigation into a sexual relationship with a female patient that started when she was 18.

Police in Ann Arbor began looking at Hoeltzel in December, when the Michigan office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) was investigating that alleged relationship.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan House passed a bill along party lines last week that would change how state courts deal with asbestos-related cancer cases.

Supporters of the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act would prevent “double-dipping” among some plaintiffs. Currently, victims of asbestos exposure can file claims in state courts against solvent asbestos companies, and an asbestos bankruptcy trust for insolvent companies.

movingmacomb.org

One of the state’s busiest highway corridors should start getting some much-needed maintenance this week.

Portions of I-696 in Macomb and Oakland counties are literally crumbling. Some motorists have reported getting hit by flying chunks of road debris.

The situation has forced the Michigan Department of Transportation to do some emergency repairs.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County's L. Brooks Patterson, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and Wayne County's Warren Evans at an event in January.
Detroit Economic Club / via Twitter

With a few words during his annual State of the County address Wednesday night, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson appeared to doom an effort to revive a regional transit plan for metro Detroit.

 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder wants the public to turn up the heat on state lawmakers over road funding.

At a Michigan Department of Transportation facility in Oakland County Thursday, Snyder said his push is partly about the entire 2019 budget he proposed this week. It has an additional $150 million for infrastructure projects.

But Snyder also wants to bring in another $175 million of what he calls some “one-time” supplemental money that’s already elsewhere in the budget to pay for some additional projects sooner.

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia was indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury.
Tony Brown / Michigan Radio

New Lions head coach Matt Patricia made his official debut in Detroit Wednesday, saying he’ll “work tirelessly to build a team that everyone around here can be proud of.”

Patricia, 43, comes to the Lions from the New England Patriots, where he was the defensive coordinator. He’s already made some other key coaching changes at the Lions, mostly on the defensive end.

But Patricia said his staff is still a “work in progress,” much like the team itself. He seemed to tamp down any expectations of the Lions winning championships right away.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man now faces prison time for a 2016 Facebook rant against police.

Nheru Littleton pleaded guilty to making a terrorist threat this week. That was in the form of Facebook comments making general threats against police in July 2016, including statements like “Kill all white cops!” and “F**k them police.”

Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib for Congress / via Facebook

When Congressman John Conyers was forced to step down last December in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations, some political observers predicted there would be a crowd vying to replace him.

They were right.

Already, seven people have announced they’re exploring bids to fill Conyers’ seat in Michigan’s 13th Congressional district, which includes a large chunk of Detroit and some surrounding suburbs.

Detroit Economic Club / via Twitter

Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters says former Republican Governor John Engler might not be the right person to lead Michigan State University right now.

Peters made the comments after addressing the Detroit Economic Club Monday, where his speech focused on Michigan’s future as a center of development for autonomous vehicles, and the artificial intelligence capabilities they promise.

protesters carrying signs
Michigan Radio

The Metro Detroit man who’s become the face of about 200 Iraqis fighting deportation was allowed to walk free on bond after an immigration judge’s ruling on Thursday.

Usama Hamama, better known as Sam, has been in jail since he was swept up in immigration raids last June. Those raids centered in Metro Detroit, and targeted Iraqi nationals with prior criminal convictions.

Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj's younger son, Eric, speaks on his father's behalf outside ICE offices in Detroit Wednesday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Supporters of a Metro Detroit man scheduled for deportation this week rallied on his behalf outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Detroit on Wednesday.

With his deportation imminent, Ded Rranxburgaj and his family sought sanctuary in a Detroit church last week.

Rranxburgaj entered the U.S. illegally in 2001 and has faced deportation orders before. The government granted him stays because his wife, Flora, is seriously ill with multiple sclerosis.

The "Big Four." From left: Mark Hackel, L. Brooks Patterson, Mike Duggan, Warren Evans.
Detroit Economic Club / via Twitter

This year’s gathering of Metro Detroit’s “Big Four” political leaders highlighted more points of division than unity.

Those leaders are Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

A spirit of regionalism did not prevail at this year’s event, held annually at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. And the future of regional transit was a major source of contention.

A neighborhood in Detroit
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s plan to get all city rental properties up to code launches at the start of next month.

Landlords in certain parts of the city will have 90 days to register their properties, and another 90 days to comply with a city ordinance.

Detroit updated and strengthened its rental ordinance last year, after letting it largely go unenforced for years.

Detroit Medical Center / Detroit Medical Center

The Detroit Medical Center is still trying to reach a new contract with some unionized workers at its five Detroit hospitals, after service and maintenance workers overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract agreement earlier this month.

Those workers, who range from janitorial staff to equipment technicians, say the first deal offered by the DMC’s for-profit owner, Tenet Health Care, was simply “inadequate.”

Willie Brooks
Oakland County

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority has named Willie Brooks its new CEO.

This is actually the second time Brooks has been offered the job as head of the state’s largest community mental health services provider.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Southgate family is now living above Detroit’s Central United Methodist Church.

They’ve sought sanctuary there in a last-ditch effort to save the father from a deportation order.

Wikimedia Commons

Southeast Michigan regional leaders have been meeting for months to develop a new regional transit plan, but at least one of those leaders says there’s nothing he can get behind yet.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says there’s no reason to build any system that relies on buses, suggesting those systems will soon be “obsolete.”

Part of the new Chevrolet Silverado lineup at the 2018 Detroit auto show.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show’s media preview week got started in Detroit this weekend.

Expect to hear a lot about trucks at this year’s show. GM got things rolling Saturday night with the debut of its new Chevrolet Silverado lineup.

With country music and nostalgic videos on loop, GM reminded us that it’s been doing trucks for 100 years. It’s a market that’s increasingly profitable and competitive in North America.

YouTube screengrab

Fiat Chrysler has announced it will shift production of heavy-duty Ram trucks from Mexico to metro Detroit by 2020.

Fiat Chrysler says the move will bring Ram production to the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, along with a $1 billion investment and 2,500 new jobs. There will also be a $1.5 billion investment in the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant to build the next-generation Ram 1500 truck, creating an additional 700 new jobs.

The automaker also announced it will give one-time, $2,000 bonuses to its U.S. employees.

number of hepatitis A case in Michigan by year
Data from MDHHS / Michigan Radio

As of last week, Michigan officially has the deadliest of several hepatitis A outbreaks going on nationwide.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, at least 22 people have died from outbreak-related cases since August 2016.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit swore in a crop of city officials to new, four-year terms Tuesday.

Unlike four years ago, when the city was just about to emerge from bankruptcy and was still still under state control, this time nearly all are incumbents who have done the job before.

That includes Mayor Mike Duggan, who says he’s back for another full, four-year term.

Highland Park municipal building
City of Highland Park

Highland Park is a small city with a lot of vacant land. Now, it's trying to use that vacant space as an asset to lure developers.

At just under three square miles, the city is basically an enclave within the city of Detroit, along the central Woodward Avenue corridor. A once-prosperous city built on the backs of automakers, Highland Park is now close to economically destitute.

Mariam Elamine / Southwest Solutions

When the weather gets as bitterly cold as it is right now, an already-dangerous life becomes downright lethal for people living on the streets.

There are teams who try to bring in them in from the cold, if only for a couple days. But first, they have to find them.

detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit leaders say violent crime is trending downward in the city, a fact Mayor Mike Duggan and law enforcement officials touted Thursday as they released the city’s complete, but still unofficial, 2017 crime statistics. 

Police Chief James Craig admits that while the numbers are looking better, Detroit is still one of the most violent big cities in the country.

“We’re not saying we’re successful. We’re saying we’re making progress, and we want to sustain the progress,” Craig said. “And we’re doing it.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Public Service Commission acted appropriately when it signed off on a 2015 rate hike for Consumers Energy customers, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a ruling this week.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and groups representing business and residential Consumers customers sued to overturn the new rates.

They said Consumers didn’t make a strong enough case for the 10.3% rate hike.

The FAST bus route along Michigan Ave.
via SMART

Three of Metro Detroit’s main traffic corridors are getting new, faster bus service along some main thoroughfares starting New Year’s Day.

The new FAST service will be run by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, better-known as SMART.

FAST buses will run along Gratiot, Woodward, and Michigan Avenues, connecting downtown Detroit to points in Macomb, Oakland, and Western Wayne counties.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Gov. Snyder signed end-of-year bills to “modernize” the state’s unemployment system, but some say they don’t do enough to repair the damage caused when the state switched to an automated claims processing system.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) wrongly accused more than 40,000 people of fraud, sometimes going back as far as six years, and collected over $46 million in penalties. State assessments of the program during that time found false fraud error rates of at least 70%.

wikihow

Detroit has illegally collected millions of dollars in parking ticket fines since 2014, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

In April 2014, Detroit’s then-emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, issued an order raising ticket fines. The lowest fine was set at $45, and the city began ticketing at the higher rates in the summer of that year.

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