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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Ramon Ward walked out of a Detroit courtroom a free man on Thursday, after serving 25 years in prison for two murders he didn’t commit.

Ward was just 18 in 1994, when he was accused of killing two women in Detroit. His 1995 conviction was based on a supposed confession. Ward never signed that confession, and insisted it was false.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Environmental and community advocates in Detroit are pushing for a newly-proposed ordinance that would regulate industrial operations on the city’s riverfront.

The ordinance would require riverfront industrial businesses to get yearly permits from the city.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit now faces a reckoning for its history of over-taxing homeowners—and a new class-action lawsuit.

The city admits it over-assessed many homeowners for years after the Great Recession, leading to inflated property tax bills. A recent Detroit News investigation pegged the amount of over-taxation at around $600 million from 2010-2016. Wayne County has foreclosed on around one-third of all Detroit properties since 2008.

Unemployment office sign
BYTEMARKS / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

Attorneys involved in two lawsuits over Michigan’s unemployment insurance debacle say they’ll join forces on those cases in hopes of moving them forward.

An automated computer system, the Michigan Data Automated System (MIDAS) falsely accused more than 40,000 people of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits from 2013-2015, under Governor Rick Snyder’s administration. Many suffered huge losses as the state garnished wages and tax returns as repayment for the alleged fraud.

close up of two doors on a car  that say Detroit Police
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Detroit Police Chief James Craig tried to reassure the public Tuesday that the department is equipped and committed to rooting out corruption within its own ranks.

The move comes after a coalition of grassroots organizations publicly questioned the DPD’s willingness and ability to do that in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the department’s narcotics unit, also known as the Major Violators Section.

Courtesy of Children First

Oakland County will try a new approach to providing health services to its un- and underinsured residents.

The plan, called Oakland Health 360, calls for consolidating more services at the county’s two health centers, in Southfield and Pontiac. Those will include a range of health services, including primary care, family planning, dental, and mental health services.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan will get a new leader this weekend, and it will be a historic event on two fronts.

The Reverend Bonnie Perry will be consecrated as bishop at a ceremony in Dearborn on Saturday. She will become the first woman and first openly-LGBTQ person to lead the diocese, which covers 77 Episcopal congregations in southeast Michigan.

A home in Detroit.
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is suing three major real estate investors the city calls “slumlords,” accusing them of an “invest and neglect” business model that leaves homes in deplorable conditions, and puts the health and safety of tenants at risk.

The city identifies the “notorious speculators and slumlords” as West Bloomfield father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Hagerman; Michael Kelly of Grosse Pointe Woods; and Salameh Jaser of Dearborn. Together, the city says the men own more than 1,000 blighted properties throughout the city, and have amassed thousands of tickets from city building inspectors. They purchased many of their properties through Wayne County’s annual tax foreclosure auction.

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A Wayne County program that targets cars suspected of drug activity or prostitution is an unconstitutional racket, according to a new federal lawsuit.

That lawsuit lays out how the county’s vehicle seizure unit regularly takes cars based on suspected criminal activity, even if no one is ever charged or convicted—and even if the car’s owner isn’t the one suspected of a crime.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

As most Democratic presidential candidates scurried off to New Hampshire in the wake of the Iowa caucus debacle on Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg paid a visit to Detroit.

Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is only about two months old. This was his second stop in Michigan.

courts.michigan.gov, michigan.gov

Michigan has a real shot at reducing its county jail population if it acts on some recent task force recommendations.

That’s what Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack told the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday. They co-chaired the task force.

A home in Detroit.
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Living in homes purchased at the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction, or near demolitions, increases the risk of lead poisoning in Detroit children.

Those findings are in a new, unpublished report from University of Michigan and Rutgers University researchers.

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Under state law, Michigan counties may act as delinquent property tax collectors for their local units of government. They do this using what is called a Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund (DTRF). Here’s how it works.

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A case before the Michigan Supreme Court asks this question: How much can the government take from you if you don’t pay your property taxes?

City of Warren Police Department / via Facebook

A woman is suing a Warren police officer with a troubled history for allegedly abusing her while she was in custody.

In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in December, Michelle Catinella says that in May of 2019, Officer Bernadette Moore shoved her face into a mirrored glass wall while she was handcuffed, leaving the glass “smeared with her blood.” This happened after Catinella told officers booking her for misdemeanor assault that she planned to file a complaint against them.

detroit police car
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Violent crime is still trending down in Detroit, according to preliminary numbers issued by the Detroit Police Department on Friday.

Police Chief James Craig says that in 2019, violent crime was down 4% from the previous year, and 16% from 2015.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The U.S. EPA has begun drilling into the soil surrounding a shuttered factory in Oakland County in an effort to figure out just how much toxic chemicals left there have contaminated the surrounding area.

The former Electro-Plating Services facility in Madison Heights was responsible for the green ooze that seeped onto the shoulder of I-696 last month.

Wikimedia Commons

New estimates released Monday from the U.S. Census Bureau show the state’s population creeping upward—but still just shy of the ten million mark in 2019.

EGLE / via Twitter

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she’s considering more criminal charges against the owner of a hazardous waste facility that gushed toxic green ooze onto I-696 in Oakland County earlier this month.

Gary Sayers, owner of the former Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights, is already facing a year in federal prison for environmental crimes.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some Detroit lawmakers and residents are keeping up the fight against the proposed expansion of a hazardous waste facility.

A state permit to allow U.S. Ecology to expand its Detroit operation ten-fold has been pending for years. The facility has stored and processed hazardous waste there for decades.

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A new federal lawsuit claims that regular protests outside an Ann Arbor synagogue go beyond free speech boundaries, and violate the constitutional rights of worshipers.

The lawsuit was filed by Beth Israel Synagogue congregant Marvin Gerber. It says that each Saturday since 2003, members of the groups Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends and Deir Yassin Remembered, led by defendant Henry Herskovitz, have protested outside the synagogue. They carry signs that the lawsuit says are “anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist,” and some that are also “flagrantly anti-Semitic.”

Aerial view of the Detroit River
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The partial collapse of a dock once contaminated with uranium into the Detroit River did not put dangerous levels of chemicals into the waterway, according to new test results from a southeast Michigan water utility.

The Great Lakes Water Authority tested both raw and tap water from its intake site near where the dock collapsed.

DTE Energy / via Twitter

DTE Energy missed the mark with many aspects of its proposed long-term energy plan, according to an administrative law judge’s ruling this week.

Judge Sally Wallace found that some portions of DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan don’t comply with state law. DTE has submitted its required IRP to the Michigan Public Service Commission for approval, laying out how it plans to meet the state’s long-range energy needs.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

Right to Life of Michigan has submitted what it says is enough signatures to move a proposed abortion ban on to state legislators, and the ACLU of Michigan says it’s already planning a court challenge.

The proposal would ban an abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation, the most common method used during the second trimester of pregnancy.

U.S. Department of Justice

The Trump Administration unveiled a new initiative aimed at tackling crime in some of the country’s most violent cities in Detroit on Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies announced the initiative, called Operation Relentless Pursuit, alongside Detroit Police Chief James Craig and U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Utica Education Association

The state’s second-largest school district and its teachers’ union begin mediation Wednesday, in an attempt to move contract talks that have become stalled and acrimonious.

Utica Community Schools has been bargaining with the Utica Education Association since March. The union’s contract expired in June.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An undocumented Ann Arbor man with serious health problems has received a medical deferment allowing him to stay in the United States, his lawyer says.

Abraham Navarrete-Morales is from Mexico. He received a kidney transplant last year, and needs costly medications to keep his body from rejecting the organ.

Detroit Police Department

Update: Detroit Police Chief James Craig has identified the deceased officer as Rasheen McClain, 46, a 16-year DPD veteran working out of the city's 12th precinct.

Craig called McClain's death a "heartbreaking day" for the Detroit Police Department.

McClain was "a  leader. Very tactical, very much about doing a great job," said Craig, adding that the slain officer made a “conscious decision that it was time to go in and deal with a very dangerous situation.”

General Motors

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones announced on Wednesday that he’s stepping down as president and retiring from the UAW.

That comes just as the union announced it was moving to expel Jones and another top UAW official, Region 5 Director Vance Pearson.

SMART Bus
Mysid / Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties hope that some proposed changes to state law will pave the way for an expanded regional transit system in southeast Michigan—minus Macomb County, for now.

The proposal involves changes to the state’s Municipal Partnership Act, which allows local government units to form partnerships for the purpose of funding and offering services such as transit. They would allow the three counties to create a regional entity that could levy and collect taxes to fund expanded regional transit.

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