Sarah Cwiek | Michigan Radio
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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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Citizens Research Council of Michigan

Any growth in state education spending over the past five years is being eaten up by greater teacher retiree system costs, according to a new report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Since 2012, school districts have had to return per-pupil funds to the state to cover unfunded liabilities in the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS). According to current projections, those liabilities won’t be paid off until 2038.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers says it’s time to change state law and let more people expunge their criminal records.

Current state law only allows people convicted of certain offenses to expunge one felony or two misdemeanors. Lawmakers say that’s too narrow, and keeps too many people from really getting a second chance—especially when it comes to getting a job.

Bytemarks / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan House Democrats have introduced a series of bills that would expand unemployment benefits, and make fuller amends to people who were falsely accused of unemployment fraud during Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

The legislation would increase weekly benefit payments, and extend the eligibility period for collecting unemployment from 20 to 26 weeks.

students in classroom raising hands
gpointstudio / Adobe Stock

A new report lays out the specifics behind a widely-acknowledged problem in Michigan school districts—they can’t find enough substitute teachers, and the problem is only getting worse.

The report, from Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, details just how bad and widespread the substitute shortage really is, with around two-thirds of 177 school districts reporting they have trouble finding enough subs on a regular basis. 64% reported that multiple sub positions go unfilled every week.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Monday’s Detroit Labor Day parade was a low-key one by historical standards, despite being a high-stakes time for many unions—none more than the United Auto Workers.

The union is going through a tough time. Its leaders are under FBI investigation for possible corruption, as they try to bargain new contracts with Detroit’s three automakers.

Some low-income Detroiters with property tax debt should soon get a chance to get that debt wiped out, thanks to a new program from the Wayne County Land Bank.

The program will work through a legal process called quiet title. The land bank will take ownership of the home. Then it will use quiet title to clear any debt attached to the property, and return the home to the former homeowners.

The FBI on Wednesday upped its investigation into alleged corruption within the United Auto Workers with some dramatic raids on high-profile targets.

The government raided the Canton home of UAW President Gary Jones. It also raided the Corona, California home of retired President Dennis Williams, and the UAW’s Black Lake Conference Center in northern Michigan, among other targets.

Emma Hernandez poses, smiling, next to statue of a man in a hat
Courtesy of Esmeralda Samano / gofundme

The alleged owner of three dogs that attacked and killed a nine-year-old Detroit girl was arraigned on murder charges Thursday.

Family photo

In a rare move, the Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed the jury conviction of an environmental justice activist sentenced to two years in prison for brandishing a gun during a 2017 altercation in Detroit.

Siwatu-Salama Ra claims she acted in self-defense when she pointed her licensed, unloaded weapon at another woman. Ra, her mother and niece all testified at trial that the woman was enraged, and using her car as a weapon to threaten Ra’s mother and two-year-old daughter.

Antwan Green

For victims of violence, the recovery process usually goes far beyond healing from physical wounds.

But many never get help dealing with trauma and its aftermath. And sometimes, victims are treated like criminals — especially if they’re young and black.


Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Ten years ago this month, a Wayne County assistant prosecutor found more than 11,000 untested rape kits in an abandoned evidence warehouse.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Kym Worthy celebrated the decade-long effort that followed to test those kits, investigate cases, and prosecute offenders.

All the kits have now been tested, thanks to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, and a multitude of partners that helped fund and facilitate that process.

Worthy’s office has now investigated and closed more than 3,000 cases, winning 197 convictions so far. Another 588 cases are still either being investigated, or have yet to be tackled.

Wikipedia (public domain)

A tiny suburb in Detroit’s Downriver area has put some new restrictions on recording public meetings—some of which one attorney says seem to violate Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

The Riverview City Council passed those restrictions last week. Among them:

blighted home in Detroit
Bridge Magazine

Wayne County will foreclose on fewer Detroit homes this year for the fourth straight year, according to numbers the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office provided on Friday.

Wayne County has 3,023 residential Detroit properties on its tax foreclosure list right now. 1,083 of them are believed to be occupied homes.

Dave Woodward portait
oakgov.com

Former Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson died on Saturday, but the race to replace him is already becoming complicated and heated--and sparked public criticism from Patterson's team.

By law, Oakland County commissioners have 30 days to appoint an interim successor for Patterson. If they don’t, a special election will be held to fill the remainder of his term through 2020.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

One of two men convicted of a 1999 murder is suing two ex-Detroit Police investigators for allegedly fabricating the case against him.

Justly Johnson alleges the now-retired homicide detectives, Catherine Adams and Barbara Simon, coerced teenagers into falsely testifying that Johnson and Kendrick Scott shot and killed Lisa Steinberg Kindred in a robbery gone wrong.

Polling place
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The cities of Warren, Flint, and Jackson all had mayoral primaries on Tuesday, with the top two vote-getters advancing to November's general election.

In all three cities, the incumbents won their races and will move on.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Former United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell has been sentenced to 15 months in prison as part of a far-reaching corruption scheme that involved siphoning money from a joint UAW-Fiat-Chrysler worker training center.

Jewell pleaded guilty in April to violating federal labor law when he used his training center credit card to pay for union expenses, including trips to California golf resorts, steakhouse dinners and parties.

oak.gov

Longtime Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson died on Saturday at age 80. His political career spanned five decades.

Patterson leaves a formidable but polarizing legacy.

To some, he was a principled, no-nonsense leader with a blunt wit, who embodied the essence of good government. To others, he was a divisive figure who fanned the flames of racial and geographic tensions, and held southeast Michigan back by thwarting regional cooperation.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

11 years after the start of the recession and housing crash, the ripple effects are still felt acutely across Detroit and Wayne County, members of a U.S. House subcommittee heard at a field hearing in Detroit on Friday.

The issues are complex, but the numbers are stark: since the housing crisis began in 2009, Detroit has flipped from a majority-homeowner to a majority-renter city. That’s due in large part to the wave of mortgage and property tax foreclosures that swept the city in the following years.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Police Department has proposed a new policy for using facial recognition technology, but it’s already opposed by a coalition of civil rights groups.

DPD has been using facial recognition without a formal oversight policy in place for more than a year. The department withdrew an initial proposed policy after the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners tabled a vote on it in June, and submitted a revised version in its place last week.

Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate in Detroit over the next two days, hundreds of nursing home care workers have gathered in the city to highlight what they call in an “ongoing care crisis” in that industry.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection / via Twitter

Protesters targeted the new interim head of Detroit’s Customs and Border Protection office as he took over that job Monday.

Aaron Hull has been temporarily reassigned to Detroit from CBP’s El Paso sector. He was harshly criticized for conditions in several migrant detention centers there.

A US Homeland Security Inspector General’s report found dangerous overcrowding at one facility, along with lice outbreaks and staff falling ill from the squalor.

African American man with facial recognition scan
Pro-stock Studio / Adobe Stock

New technology brings with it new powers and questions. Since Detroit police began using facial recognition technology, there have been questions about how if it should be used, if it should be used at all.

Update: Tuesday, July 30, 7:40 a.m. The debate about police use of facial recognition software continues in Detroit.

Experts and activists shared their concerns about the technology at a forum Monday. Some experts say their fears about the technology extend beyond its current use in Detroit.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection / via Twitter

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection leader who’s been deeply involved in the migrant crisis on the Southern border is getting a new job in Detroit.

Aaron Hull is chief patrol agent for the CBP’s El Paso sector. The agency confirms he’s starting as interim chief patrol agent for the Detroit sector next week.

via NAACP

Ten presidential candidates, nine Democrats and one Republican, made their cases to voters at the NAACP’s national convention in Detroit Wednesday.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar took the stage at a voter forum moderated by White House correspondent April Ryan. Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and former Texas State Rep. Beto O’Rourke rounded out the Democrats in the field. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was the sole Republican there.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williams says the country needs to atone for slavery and racist oppression, and she’s the person who could bring that about.

Williamson spoke at the NAACP’s national convention in Detroit Tuesday, telling the audience that her years as a spiritual speaker, activist and author have given her the tools to facilitate racial healing.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is hosting the national NAACP’s 110th annual convention this week, and Democratic lawmakers are flocking there to address convention-goers ahead of the 2020 election.

This year’s convention motto is “When we fight, we win.” It’s heavily focused on engaging and mobilizing Black voter turnout next year, as well influencing policy on like voting rights, criminal justice reform, and other racial justice issues central to the historic civil rights group’s agenda.

The Detroit Police Department wants to expand its use of the city's growing network of high-definition surveillance cameras. And they're asking for $4 million to help them do it. That's in spite of objections from critics who say that law enforcement's use of facial recognition and video surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment.

Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek joins us to talk about why the police want more funding for video surveillance, and why their use of the technology has been so controversial.

John Seung-Hwan Shin / Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan publicly clarified his stance on police use of facial recognition technology Thursday, as his police chief tried to quell some skepticism from members Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners about the controversial technology.

“The Detroit Police Department has not and will not use facial recognition technology for surveillance,” Duggan said in a statement put out on social media. “No one is watching you on any camera in this city with facial recognition software. I will not support the software ever being used in that way.”

kitchen sink
Creative Commons

Yet another Michigan city is dealing with the issue of lead in tap water, as Highland Park officials announced on Wednesday that the results of state-mandated testing put them in violation of a new, tougher Lead and Copper Rule.

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