Sarah Cwiek | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

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.

Ways to Connect

The new statewide school system for the lowest-performing 5% of Michigan schools faces growing criticism over transparency.

The Education Achievement Authority will formally start with a few Detroit schools in 2012. That means the district doesn’t have any students or any money yet—except for private donations.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will meet with City Council members behind closed doors Wednesday.

Among other things, they’ll discuss a confidential analysis detailing the city’s finances.

The analysis itself hints at cash flow problems for the city. Detroit is trying to work its way out from under a $155 million deficit.

Detroit officials are finalizing plans for the city’s annual Angels' Night campaign.

That’s an effort to put a damper on the arson sprees that once characterized the  “Devils' Night” period around Halloween.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Nearly two months into the school year, more than a quarter of Detroit Public Schools are reporting overcrowding issues in some classrooms.

That’s according to an annual survey by the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The union’s contract caps class size at 35 students.

Some schools reported classrooms with more than 50 students. Some also reported lacking supplies like textbooks.

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain was in Detroit touting his so-called “9-9-9” tax plan Friday.

That plan has come under attack for being unfair to lower-income people. But Cain says it has provisions for economically distressed cities like Detroit.

A new FBI probe into Wayne County government may hamper the County Commissions’ effort to investigate the compensation of appointed employees.

The Commission’s Special Committee on appointee compensation met again Thursday. They expected to hear about an internal review by County Executive Robert Ficano’s office.

That review is looking into how former economic development director Turkia Awada Mullin got a $200,000 severance to leave that and become CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority. She has since agreed to return the money.

It looks like a system that monitors drinking water for at least three million people in southeast Michigan will stay online for another year.

The monitoring system gives early alerts if chemical spills are detected—so it keeps contaminants out of the drinking water system.

The system was in danger of shutting down when federal and state dollars ran out. But officials from Macomb and St. Clair counties have each come up with enough money to keep the system going for another year.

But policymakers are still searching for a long-term solution.

Macomb County Commission Chair Kathy Vosburg says a long-term fix will likely mean a small consumer fee.

“Consumers are very willing to pay for that, it comes out to be something like 50 cents to a dollar per household per year.”

But implementing that would take cooperation from the many different cities that send out water bills--and the city of Detroit, which owns and operates the whole drinking water system.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’ll do “whatever it takes” to get the city out of its current bus crisis.

Pressure is mounting for Bing to do something about the problem, which has some city residents waiting more than three hours for busses. Bing admits that amounts to a “crisis.”

“As we look at people standing in line for two or three hours waiting for a bus…at children trying to get to school on time in the cold weather, waiting for a bus…if we look at people trying to get to their jobs on a daily basis waiting for a bus…that is unacceptable.”

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have agreed to terms for a four-year contract deal.

Chrysler is the last of Detroit’s three carmakers to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW.

The agreement follows some tense negotiations between the UAW and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by the Italian automaker Fiat.

Chrysler is smaller and more indebted than its fellow U.S. automakers, but the UAW sought a contract with similar terms to those it got from GM and Ford.

Like in the GM and Ford contracts, entry-level Chrysler workers will get a wage hike under this deal. Workers also stand to get more in bonus pay and profit-sharing.

“The overall framework, the overall labor cost agreement [compared to GM and Chrysler] is very, very comparable,” said UAW President Bob King. “We tweaked them, shifted them a little bit in each case, because of the specific needs of the individual companies.”

Also like the GM and Ford contracts, this agreement focuses more on creating and retaining jobs for U.S. workers than on boosting worker pay. Chrysler says it will invest $4.5 billion in U.S. production, and create 2100 U.S. jobs.

King thinks most of his members understand the focus on future investment.

“Our members overwhelmingly supported the goal of bringing more jobs into our plants,” King says.  “And our members understand overall that they can’t be secure unless there’s product and investment long-term in their facility.”

UAW officials hope to get Chrysler workers to ratify the deal within the next two weeks.

GM UAW workers ratified their contract by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. Ford workers are still voting.

Mercury levels in the Great Lakes have dropped over the past 40 years.

But those levels are still high enough to pose risks to humans and wildlife, especially in many inland lakes, according to a new summary of the latest research on Great Lakes mercury levels.

Researchers summarized 35 new scientific papers to get a clearer picture of mercury in the Great Lakes.

The good news: due to pollution controls, those levels continue to go down.

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says the U-S Congress is facing fundamental questions about whether it can continue to function.

Levin spoke at the Detroit Economic Club Monday.

Levin spoke in spoke in personal terms about “the dilemma that I and other members of Congress face.”

A Dearborn soccer field was the site of a traditional Muslim prayer service Friday.

But it was more than that—an effort to show visible solidarity with protesters in Yemen, who have spent nine months in mass demonstrations against the 34-year regime of President President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Like the recent pro-democracy movements in other Arab countries, the protests in Yemen have been fueled by youth frustrations.

AP

The free speech case of a controversial Florida Pastor best known for burning the Quran has started in Wayne County

A jury found Terry Jones guilty of breaching the peace in April. Dearborn police arrested him before he could proceed with an anti-Islamic protest outside the country’s largest mosque on Good Friday.

Jones wants that decision reversed. He also wants the court to lift an ongoing injunction that bars him from protesting in that spot.

The revelation that Wayne County paid its former economic development chief a $200,000 “severance package” to take another, better-paying county job has raised a lot of eyebrows.

It’s also raised questions about whether the payment to now-Metro Airport CEO Turkia Awada Mullin violated the law.

Detroit schools are doing everything they can to get students in class for the annual state “count day.”

The numbers recorded Wednesday are more important than ever. They’ll account for 90% of state aid to schools, up from 75%  in past years.

Some Detroit schools are using gimmicks and incentives, like iTunes gift cards and “get out of homework passes,” to boost their numbers.

People looking for help with rent, utilities and other monthly bills crowded a resource fair Union Grace Baptist Church in Detroit over the weekend.

Many of them faced their first month without cash assistance from the state. A four-year welfare benefit cap kicks in this month.

One such person is Tamika Thomas. She says she’s been getting assistance on-and-off for four years, using it to pay the bills while she goes to school.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says it’s time to get tough with countries that flout international trade rules.

She’s pushing a three-part legislative package, the American Competitiveness Plan, that aims to crack down on those countries.

Stabenow singles out China as the worst offender when it comes to manipulating international trade rules to its advantage. But the U.S. government has generally been reluctant to take action.

The new Detroit Metro Airport CEO says she'll return the $200,000 severance package that has erupted into a major controversy.

Both Wayne County Airport Authority CEO Turkia Awada Mullin and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano initially defended the payout to Mullin, who voluntarily left her job as Wayne County's Chief Economic Development Officer to run the airport.

There appears to be no end in sight for frustrated bus riders in Detroit.

Budget cuts have forced Detroit to eliminate more than one-third of its citywide bus service over the past six years. But the city’s bus service has gotten dramatically worse in just the last few weeks. Many riders recount waiting up to three hours for buses to arrive--and finding severe overcrowding  once they do.

Congressman Hansen Clarke wants Detroiters to stop paying taxes to the federal government, that money should be put aside as a trust fund to help re-build the city.

Clarke made the case for his Detroit Jobs Trust Fund before the Detroit City Council Tuesday. That’s legislation he’s introduced that would divert the money Detroiters pay in federal taxes over five years.

Some would go to erase the city’s—and its school district’s—debt burden.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit suburb of Romulus is at the center of a massive police corruption scandal that includes the city’s ex-police chief.

Officials say in 2008, a “highly placed” Romulus police official asked Michigan State Police to investigate corruption allegations within the department.

UAW, Ford talks heat up

Sep 26, 2011
UAW
UAW

Ongoing contract talks between the UAW and Ford are heating up.

The union has indicated it expects more for workers from the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy.

Since Ford is the best-positioned of the three US carmakers, union leaders expect to get better terms from that company than from GM and Chrysler.

Three Michigan members of Congress talked about jobs, the federal budget deficit, and partisan gridlock at the Detroit Economic Club.

Democrats Gary Peters and Sander Levin, and Republican Candice Miller all represent suburban Detroit districts in the U.S. House.

Miller says the current problems in Washington stem from ideological differences about the role of government. She thinks the government needs to slash what she calls “out of control spending.”

www.tour-de-troit.org

Thousands of bikers are expected on Detroit streets Saturday for the 10th annual “Tour de Troit.”

Most of them will take part in a 22-mile, police-escorted tour that explores a different part of Detroit’s historic landscape every year. This year, it will kick off in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station, the hulking former
train depot that’s sat empty for more than 20 years (there’s also a 62-mile loop for more adventurous bikers).

Wikimedia commons

Canadian officials say they’ve identified the source of a persistent “hum” that’s aggravated many Windsor residents for months.

Their conclusion, based on seismological data: the vibration is coming from the vicinity of Zug Island, a heavy industry hotspot that sits just downriver from Detroit.

Windsor City Councillor Al Maghnieh is relieved to finally have some answers about the noise, which has shaken houses--and residents--for nearly a year. But he says investigators still need to locate the exact source of the mystery vibration.

Some people in southwest Detroit say the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol continues to practice racial profiling in their community. Detroit is home to the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Residents say Customs and Border Protection agents regularly question and detain people who look Hispanic.

At a press conference Wednesday,residents produced pictures they say show a young Latino man being handcuffed without cause by Border Patrol agents in July. It happened outside a Catholic church during Mass.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Three more high schools will open in Detroit for the 2012 school year as part of the Michigan Future Schools program. That’s an ongoing effort by the think tank Michigan Future, Inc. to open 35 new high Detroit high schools in eight years. Its goal is to “revitalize Detroit’s failing education system” by adding 35 quality high schools in eight years. Three such schools opened this fall, and Michigan Future Inc.

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

Detroit’s water department has been under federal oversight for almost 35 years. Recently, the city tried to get that oversight lifted. But the federal judge who monitors the department shot that effort down, and he ordered stakeholders to find a way to fix the system’s decades-long problems--within two months. Some people wonder about that short timeline—and whether some of the Judge’s suggestions hint at a possible takeover. 

Governor Snyder says the partnership between a Detroit non-profit and an automotive supplier can serve as a “groundbreaking model” for job placement and workforce development.

Android Industries began leasing space at Detroit’s Focus: HOPE about two months ago. There, employees trained by the Detroit non-profit churn out parts for the Chevy Volt, which is manufactured at the nearby Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.

Android CEO Jerry Elson says his company was only interested if the partnership made business sense. He’s now convinced it does.

Officials from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office say a union work slowdown is to blame for the city’s worsening bus service. Dozens of people lined up to speak at a Detroit City Council hearing on that subject Friday. Riders complained about severely overcrowded buses that arrive up to three hours late. Union leaders deny taking part in a work slowdown. They say they’ve been struggling for more than a year with a shortage of mechanics, which got even worse about a month ago when the Mayor cut overtime. Leamon Wilson is President of Detroit transportation employees’ union.

Pages