Mercedes Mejia

Reporter/Producer

Mercedes Mejia produces interviews for All Things Considered, including the music segment Songs from Studio East. She also produces content for Stateside. Mercedes relocated to Michigan from New Mexico, where she earned her BA in Latin American Studies and Journalism. She began in public radio as a reporter at KUNM in Albuquerque. She brings extensive video production skills from her work at Univision and Edit House Production.

A state wide teacher evaluation system is finally seeing some movement in the legislature. The plan would rate teachers and administrators based on student growth on standardized tests and in-class observations. If teachers and administrators are found to be ineffective for three year in a row, they would be fired.

Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons is the Chair of the House Education Committee. She joined us today.

Andrian Clark / Flickr

    

Healthy Michigan” is available to more than 470,000 low-income Michiganders between the ages of 19 and 64.

Joining us today is Krista Nordberg, director of enrollment at the Washtenaw Health Plan.

Nordberg says the Healthy Michigan Plan is “extremely comprehensive health care coverage” for low-income individuals. The kind of coverage available includes medical benefits, prescription coverage, dental, vision and mental health services.

But under the new plan, people will be responsible for some of the cost of their health care.

“The co-pays range from about $1 to $3 for the dental and the vision and the prescriptions. And for people with higher incomes – incomes between 100-133% of poverty – they will be asked to contribute to a health savings account, and that is still something being worked out with the state as to how that would be administered through their health plan, and how they will pay into that,” said Nordberg.

For more information about Healthy Michigan click here, or call 1-855-789-5610. 

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  A vote is expected on a final version of a bill that would expand the Education Achievement Authority into a statewide district. 

The EAA was created by the Snyder administration to initially oversee the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School system where it currently oversees 15 schools. Supporters say the EAA will give troubled schools the opportunity to turn things around, but critics say the EAA hasn’t proved that its model for education is a successful one. 

Brian Smith, the statewide education reporter for MLIVE.com joined us today. 

Mercedes Mejia

Starting a business can be hard. How about starting a business with a mission to help end homelessness? Well, that’s even harder.

Stateside’s Mercedes Mejia tells us about the Empowerment Plan. It’s a business with a social mission.  The company makes coats that double as sleeping bags, and gives them away to homeless people.

After nearly two years, its mission is the same. But its business model is evolving.

Wikimedia Commons

The city of Benton Harbor is no longer in a financial emergency. Gov. Snyder today announced the appointment of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

Behind the turnaround is Benton Harbor’s former emergency manager, Tony Saunders II. He spoke with the host of All Thing Considered, Jennifer White.


  As Detroit continues to move through the bankruptcy process, an outstanding issue is a plan to protect artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A group of foundations and private donors have pledged over $300 million that would help cover city pensions and offset the need to sell the artwork. 

A recent op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy questions the wisdom of this plan. William Schambra is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal in Washington D.C. and he joined us today.


Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

What do Olympic ice dancers who train in Michigan have to do with Michael Lee?

He's a professional mime and physical acting coach. Lee has worked with 10 of the 24 figure skating ice dance teams at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. That includes Michigan natives Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won a gold medal this year. Lee also works with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, who won silver. 

“These are professional skaters," said Lee. "They move beautifully, but at the beginning they don’t move as if they are performing, and that’s what I’m about."

Lee helps the skaters become performers by teaching them how to animate their bodies. He himself learned miming from the late Marcel Marceau, an acclaimed French mime. 

To learn more about Lee click here.

Watch as Lee explains the physical acting techniques he shows the ice dancers.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It's a question Michigan voters may have to answer this November.

The Board of State Canvassers yesterday approved petition language put forward by Raise Michigan, a coalition that wants to increase Michigan’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and also index the minimum wage to inflation.

To get the question on the November ballot, it needs to collect 258,000 signatures by May 28.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants spoke with All Things Considered Host, Jennifer White.

The Michigan House could vote this week to expand the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA.

The EAA was created by Gov. Rick Snyder as a separate school district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools in Michigan. The idea was that under the oversight of a state appointed emergency manager, those schools could be transformed into higher performing, stable schools. Supporters of the EAA say the district is showing student improvement. Critics of the district say the EAA is failing students and schools.

Democratic Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton is the sponsor of House Bill 5268. She spoke with All Things Considered host Jennifer White.

net_efekt / Flickr

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, says the harsh winter will make the pothole situation in Michigan this spring the worst we’ve seen in our lifetime. He testified this week before the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

Joining us to talk roads are Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

A set of bipartisan bills moving through the state legislature would reshape Michigan’s teacher evaluation system.

Democratic Rep. Adam Zemke from Ann Arbor sponsored Bill 5224. He spoke with All Things Considered host Jennifer White. 

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Each Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

As predicted, the state budget surplus has become a hot topic in the state Legislature, more specifically how to spend that money.

A state Senate panel approved a bill that would cut the income tax rate from 4.25 % to 3.9 % over the next three years. But, are Republicans on the same page about this tax cut?

The 37th Ann Arbor Folk Festival kicks off this Friday. This year’s celebrated national acts include artists like Iron and Wine, and Neko Case. But the festival also features local bands. 

One band is The Appleseed Collective, based in Ann Arbor.

As part of Michigan Radio's Songs from Studio East, Stateside’s Mercedes Mejia sat down with the group to talk about their new album "Young Love" and hear a live studio performance.

President Obama is expected to talk about raising the federal minimum wage in his State of the Union address tonight.  Across Michigan, there’s also increasing focus on raising the minimum wage for the first time since 2008.   The Raise Michigan campaign is working to get an initiative on the ballot that would raise the minimum wage to somewhere between $9 and $10.10 per hour. But the Michigan Chamber of Commerce strongly opposes raising the minimum wage.  Joining us to explain why is Wendy Block, director of health policy in human resources at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.   We also spoke with Michigan State University economist Charles Ballard.

Official legislative portrait

This week during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, Gov. Rick Snyder renewed his call for civility. His comments seemed to again be pointed toward Dave Agema, a Republican National Committeeman. Agema is being criticized for comments made against gays and Muslims, and the calls for his resignation are getting louder. 

To talk about this, we're joined by Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s co-host of "It’s Just Politics." 

Mercedes Meija / Michigan Radio

In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a pilot program for year-round schooling. Since that speech, education advocates and teachers’ unions have been weighing in on the question.

Schools that move to a year-round schedule would still have the same number of vacation days as traditionally structured schools, but those days would be dispersed over the course of the year rather than having a long summer break.

Joining us now is the director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, Dan Quinn. He is also a teacher of economics at Grosse Pointe North High School.  

Governor Rick Snyder gave his fourth State of the State address, Thursday night. In a speech covering a wide range of topics, he spent a lot of time focusing on his accomplishments and gave a broad overview of what he hopes to accomplish in 2014.

Joining us to take a closer look are Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Zoe Clark, co-host of It's Just Politics on Michigan Radio. 

Graham Davis / flickr

Each week we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. 

The state legislature is back to work, and as Sikkema predicted last year, talks are swirling around what to do with the state’s projected budget surplus. Estimates are putting it at about $500 million. What should be done with the money?

Mike Perini

The weather and temperatures in Michigan, and across the country, have been particularly brutal in recent days. Wind chill readings have dropped to 30 degrees below zero in some places. Some Michiganders are facing this weather without shelter.

We’re joined now by Ellen Schulmeister,  the executive director of the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. 

Writers online, and now speakers in informal speech, are using "because" in innovative ways.

This week on That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan talk about the American Dialect Society's 24th Annual Words of the Year vote. 

Curzan says, “It used to be that because had to be followed by a clause. So, I would say, ‘I don’t want to go outside because it’s really cold.’ And now I can say, ‘I don’t want go outside because  cold.’”

More words of the year include: selfie, Obamacare, and slash.

Click here for more on the Word of the Year for 2013.

Graham Davis / flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

The legislature has wrapped up session for the year. And, after the holidays we’re entering an election year. Let's find out, besides the gubernatorial election, what other major elections should we be watching next year, and what might the legislature accomplish in 2014?

chrt.org

Last week, the Michigan legislature approved a voter-initiated law that bans abortion coverage in standard health insurance policies. The law does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Joining us now to help us better understand the new law is Marianne Udow-Phillips, Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation based at the University of Michigan. 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

 


A major holiday performance happens this weekend in West Michigan. Students, teachers and parents at Mona Shores High School have spent thousands of hours preparing for the event, where they create a living breathing, and singing Christmas Tree — that’s five-stories tall, and holds more than 200 student singers.

It’s getting lots of national attention. In 2011, TLC featured the tree on its aptly-titled holiday show, “Extreme Christmas Trees.” This year, it’ll be highlighted on the Travel Channel.

The show is now in its 29th year.

Almost 300 hundred students from Mona Shores High School have been practicing for this show — held at Muskegon’s Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts — since Labor Day.

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

 Today, Judge Steven Rhodes of the United States Bankruptcy Court ruled that while the City of Detroit did not negotiate with creditors in good faith, it did file for bankruptcy in good faith. His ruling makes Detroit eligible to file for the largest municipal bankruptcy in this country’s history.

David Shepardson, Washington reporter with the Detroit News has been following the bankruptcy. He joined us to talk about this historic ruling, and what to watch for in the coming months. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Storycorps website.

StoryCorps is celebrating its 10th anniversary of bringing us conversations that move us, make us laugh, make us think...and of course, draw some tears. 

Today, we talk with the founder of StoryCorps, David Isay about their new book "Ties that Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps”.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The Michigan legislature is on recess until the first week of December. This feels like a much more subdued legislative session compared to last year. Today we ask, what has the legislature checked off it's list, what bills are likely to come up in December?

Listen to the full interview above.

sushi ina / flickr

There is legislation pending at the national and state level that seeks to increase the minimum wage. In Michigan it's $7.40 per hour, just over the federal minimum wage of $7.25.  A person working full time and earning the minimum would pull down just over $15,300 per year before taxes. 

Now, there are three bills from Democrats in the state legislature seeking an increase of Michigan’s minimum wage to $9 or $10 per hour. Opponents of those bills say it would lead to layoffs, decreased hours, and a spike in prices. Proponents say now is the time to increase the minimum wage.

Today, we talked with Yannet Lathrop, policy analyst with the Michigan League for Public Policy and author of the study “Raising the Minimum Wage: Good for Working Families, Good for Michigan’s Economy.” 

Listen to the full interview above.

raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

Raquel Castaneda-Lopez is the newest member to the Detroit  City Council representing District 6 in Southwest Detroit,​ which includes the largest concentration of Hispanic voters in the city.  Lopez gained political experience running state Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s campaign in 2008. She has worked with non-profit groups for years with a focus on youth programs in disadvantaged communities.

Lopez says she want to keep the focus on the needs of her constituents - safety and access to city services for example. 

Each week we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

The election results are in and Mike Duggan will be Detroit’s next mayor. His tenure begins while the city remains under the control of an emergency manager. What does his win say about what Detroit voters want in their next mayor?

And then, the city of Royal Oak passed a human rights ordinance, it provides protections against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Also, Lansing, Jackson, and Ferndale all passed ordinances to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Does this give us any indication of where Michigan is headed on some of these social issues? 

Listen to the full interview above.

It's Election Day, and federal election monitors are keeping an eye on voting in Detroit, Hamtramck and Flint. The Department of Justice wants to ensure those cities comply with the Voting Rights Act. 

Joining us to talk about the monitoring is Executive Assistant United States Attorney, Stephanie Dawkins Davis. 

"This is an effort to protect the integrity of the process. It isn’t that there has been any specific concern or that there has been any wrong doing in any of these jurisdictions. The U.S. government would like to protect the integrity of the process," Davis said.

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