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.

Saginaw Intermediate School District

The Buena Vista School District, located in the eastern area of greater Saginaw was dissolved on July 30th after struggling with insolvency. Its students will move to one of three surrounding school districts this fall.

Dr. Richard Syrek is superintendent of  Saginaw Intermediate School District, the group in charge of the redistricting process. He says right now the biggest task is making the transition as smooth as possible.

“That means the registration. That means the busing. That means what school they will go to. And the other issue that is very important to the parents is having a means to go into the new school and meet the principle, see the building and the rooms, so there is some idea of what the new building looks like.”

On Tuesday, August 13th Saginaw Intermediate School District will hold a community forum from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Buena Vista High School. Parents and students are invited to meet with representatives from Saginaw, Bridgeport-Spaulding and Frankenmuth school districts.

Detroit’s bankruptcy filing has triggered waves of speculation about what the future holds for the city. In recent months questions have circled around the Detroit Institute of Arts. The debate is whether the institution's art collection could be used to help Detroit balance its budget. But a recent opinion piece in the New York Times written by Director of the DIA, Graham Beal, cautioned against speculation about the museum’s future. 

Here's a quote from the article:

I call upon  journalists to resist the temptation to jump to disaster scenarios or to make the D.I.A.’s singular and highly complicated situation part of a broader story about the structural challenges faced by museums in general.

Listen to the full interview above.

Flickr/Patricia Drury

The eyes of the nation are on Detroit, as the city navigates through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.  And a group of Republican U.S. senators has wasted no time responding to the prospect of federal aid for the Motor City. They've crafted amendments to two separate appropriation bills to block federal intervention in municipal bankruptcy. That's despite the fact that neither Governor Rick Snyder nor Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr have put federal assistance on the table as a solution. So, moving forward, what does all this mean for Detroit, and for the state? For this, we talk with Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, columnist with Mlive.com
Detroit Regional Chamber

Now that the City of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, everyone is speculating as to how the city got to this point. 

As a former member of the Detroit City Council, Sheila Cockrel says, "The tendency on the part of some people who don't live in the city, who are not African American, who live in the region, or live in the rest of the country, want to point to a deficiency in leadership. That is absolutely incorrect."

Cockrel, who is currently a faculty member in the Honors College at Wayne State University, tells her students that poor leadership is partly to blame, but she says there are a number of other factors: disinvestment, de-industrialization and the migration of capital out of Detroit which has caused a severe reduction in revenue.

"When you take a tax base out, you don't have a viable financial basis to provide services," she says.

Cockrel served on the Detroit City Council for 16 years and says bankruptcy has been the most likely scenario for quite a while.

State lawmakers have formed a special bipartisan subcommittee to debate the merits of the Common Core Standards Initiative.  

Last month, the State Legislature blocked the state from implementing the school standards. Lawmakers said they needed more time to review Common Core before letting it take full effect in Michigan. The subcommittee met for the first time today in Lansing. 

Republican State Rep. Amanda Price from Park Township is the vice-chair of the subcommittee and she spoke with All Things Considered Host, Jennifer White. 

When you give someone "leeway" or tell someone to "pipe down," you may not realize you're using the language of sailors.

On this week’s edition of “That’s What They Say,” host Rina Miller and Professor of English at the University of Michigan Anne Curzan talk about all that sailing has given to the English language.

The more obvious ones for example are: “taking the wind out someone’s sails, being dead in the water, rocking the boat.”

But, did you know the term “to bail something out” is actually a nautical expression?

levin.house.gov

We talk with Democratic U.S. Representative Sander Levin about the effects of automatic federal budget cuts on the Great Lakes region. Today, Levin met with members of the League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action in Clinton Township. 

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In the mid 1970s, three teenage brothers from Detroit formed a band.

That’s not exactly an unusual story. Motown history is full of bands that made it, and lots more that didn’t.

But this band was unique. A new documentary explains why.

The name of the band is Death. And it’s often described as “the first black punk band.”

Here are brothers Bobby and Dannis Hackney in a clip from the film “A Band Called Death.”

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

We take a look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

The Michigan legislature has come to an agreement on targets for the state budget. The state is carrying a surplus of $483 million more than projected for just the current fiscal year. So, what does that surplus tell us about the state’s fiscal health?

Listen to the full interview above.

Each week, we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week the Buena Vista School District closed due to a lack of funds. The state took away funding because the district was taking money from the state for a program they were no longer operating.

Teachers in that district offered to work for free, but the district closed anyway. Now, the state says their hands are tied.

"Well this is a big issue. We haven't had a school district close because of lack of funding for 20 years. That was Kalkaska in 1993, which really precipitated the passage of Proposal A, school finance reform. Buena Vista is a small district...and these 400 kids have to be in the classroom. I don't think there is any question about that in anybody's mind. And, the state and local officials are going to have to figure out a way  to get these children back into a classroom immediately," said Sikkema.

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Flint’s Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz, says he will resign come June 30th, which may put Flint a step closer to returning to local control. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling talks with Jennifer White about the financial future of Flint.

Flint’s city council recently passed a resolution asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and appoint a transition advisory team.

“There are a number of requirements in the law that would have to be met by the appointed manager before a transition board could be put in place, such as the adoption of a two-year budget. So, city council leadership and I have been calling on for those steps to get done as soon as possible. The city of Flint does face financial challenges, let’s get addressed as soon as possible so we can move on,” says Mayor Walling.

When asked how financially healthy Flint is right now, Walling says:

“It’s marginally stable. But our position is that it’s going to take some long-term planning, some serious community partnerships to get the city to where it’s more sustainable going forward. And that work cannot be done effectively by an appointed manager.”

Listen to the full interview above.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ypsilanti's Matt Jones has been writing songs and performing around Michigan for the past 15 years. The 35-year-old has been receiving more critical acclaim and has a growing fan base. His story is one of overcoming personal demons and finding salvation in the thing he loves best: making music. 

Matt Jones and Misty Lyn Bergeron performed for us in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

Check it out here:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each Thursday we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week, we look at clashes over the budget which led to House Speaker Jase Bolger removing eight Democrats from their committee assignments. Four were later given back those assignments after what Bolger called “positive individual meetings."

And Gary Peters announced his run for Senate. Who might Republicans choose to run against him?

Listen to the full interview above.

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission.
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

A proposed reform to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance is circulating in the Legislature.

Among other things, it would cap benefits for people who suffer severe injuries in auto accidents at $1 million.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has come out as a strong opponent to this legislation.

Patterson is still recovering from a serious auto accident he had last summer, and his driver, James Cram of Owosso, was paralyzed from the neck down.

In this interview with Jennifer White, Patterson talks about his opposition to the proposed legislation and his recovery.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Patterson wanted to be clear that he and his driver were working at the time of their accident.

Their medical bills are covered by worker's compensation, so Patterson says his opposition to changes to Michigan's no-fault insurance laws are not for his own benefit.

"Did the accident make me more aware and more sensitized to the plight of people who suffer from catastrophic injuries? Absolutely," he said.

Senate Bill 136 would allow health care providers, facilities and insurance providers to deny service based on religious, moral or ethical objections. State Senator John Moolenar, a Republican representing Michigan’s 36th District is the bill’s sponsor. He spoke with Jennifer White earlier this week.

Listen to full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Democratic U.S. Representative Dan Kildee is one of the newest members of congress. Kildee’s first piece of legislation is a proposal  to free up more than $1 billion in federal aid to help cities such as Detroit and Flint tear down thousands of abandoned homes. He hopes this plan will serve to stabilize neighborhoods. Congressman Kildee represents Michigan’s 5th congressional district. 

Listen to the full interview above.

On this week's edition of "That's What They Say," we explore why the word seldom is fading from use. Host Rina Miller talks with Professor Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan.

Language change is similar to fashion trends, says Curzan. And it seems the use of "almost never" is replacing the word seldom. 

"When you think about it, 'almost never' is not a very efficient replacement for 'seldom,' but it's what came into fashion, and 'seldom' is out of fashion and 'infrequently' had its moment of fashion," Curzan says. 

Analogy is another reason for language change. For example, Curzan says "oxen" will most likely change to "oxes" because other nouns take "s" and through analogy people will start to use "s" to make ox plural. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week for a look at Michigan politics, we’re joined by Susan Demas, political analyst at Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

On today's "Weekly Political Roundup," Governor Snyder wants an expansion of Medicaid adding about 400,000 people to its roles. A state House subcommittee yesterday removed a budget provision that would make that possible. We talk about what’s behind the rejection. Plus, we explore the politics around  financially penalizing universities and school districts that sign long term contracts with unions in advance of the new right-to-work law, which goes into effect next week. 

This indie-soul group is getting a lot of attention around the Michigan music scene. Their new album Tarantula Manson comes out this fall.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about Hernandez's path to becoming a singer-songwriter, band manager, and female force in the Detroit music scene.

The group performs at Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit on Friday, March 22nd. For more information visit their website. But, for now check out an acoustic performance from band members in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

State of Michigan / screen grab

Each week we speak with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Governor Rick Snyder officially announced the appointment of an emergency manager for Detroit today. He named Kevyn Orr, a Washington D.C. lawyer who represented Chrysler in it’s 2009 bankruptcy as his manager of choice. Orr has many ties to Michigan including graduating from the University of Michigan Law School.

" I think the city is going to need some cash in order to meet some obligations and restructuring, whether or not that is going to be an easy sell is a different matter," said Demas.

"If this gentleman [Kevyn Orr] can actually show some results to get this city in the right direction than I think the attitude in Lansing would be different toward more money, and more investment," Sikkema said.

Listen to the full interview above.

user FatMandy / flickr

Michigan is one of 25 states that allow convicted teens, under the age of 18, to be imprisoned with adults.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle is a juvenile justice advocate with the ACLU. She estimates nearly 200,000 children have been abused in adult prisons. LaBelle recently returned from Washington, D.C. where the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a hearing on this issue with representatives from the U.S. State Department. The hearing focused on the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse experienced by children when housed with adults in prisons.

"In addition to the physical and psychological harm that's going on, putting children in the adult facilitates also results in them losing the very two things that makes them children: education and contact with their family and parents," LaBelle said in this interview with Jennifer White.

You can listen to the full interview above.

As part of its "Theme Semester on Race," The University of Michigan is engaging the community in a conversation on race. Imagine capturing your beliefs, feelings, experiences around race and fitting them into just six words. Well, The Race Card Project does just that, and it is the brain child of NPR’s Michele Norris who stopped by our Ann Arbor studio to talk about her project.

Click here for more information about the U-M project.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Each week we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Today we talk about transportation funding. Governor Snyder has called for $1.2 billion to address roads and transportation in Michigan, but there's no agreement in the legislature about how to get the money.

Plus, people are filing taxes and starting to feel the impact of some of the changes in the Michigan tax code, which includes the reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit. Now a coalition is calling for the EITC to be restored, and Democrats in the House and Senate agree. What's next for the EITC?

And, as the Detroit City Council plans to appeal Governor Snyder’s decision to appointment an emergency financial manager for the city they are doing so without the support of Mayor Dave Bing who says it’s a fight they can’t win. Is he right?

With President Obama and Congress failing to come to a budget deal, automatic spending cuts have gone into effect. There have been dire warnings about the impact of those cuts though the effects won’t be felt immediately. But Michigan gets over half its budget from the federal government which means the state will have to face the impact of the cuts if impasse isn't resolved soon. We speak with Budget Director John Nixon.

Candice Miller's official website

In the national debate over immigration reform, border security has risen as an issue of concern. It's certainly important for Michigan, which has 721 miles of border with Canada.

Republican U.S. Representative Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District. Miller also serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. She’s calling for a comprehensive examination of border security.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

As part of the theme semester Understanding Race, the University of Michigan has brought in a special exhibit to further examine what race means. "Race: Are We So Different" is currently on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. I met up with Dr. Yolanda Moses, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside  - to take a walk through the exhibit.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

On Thursdays we talk politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

On tap today: Governor Rick Snyder presented his budget proposal. It included a 2% increase in funding for K-12 education, $130 million increase for Great Start, an increase in transportation funding, and an expansion of Medicaid.

Photo/Doug Coombe

Michigan-based Frontier Ruckus has a new CD, Eternity of Dimming out from Quite Scientific Records. The double album with 20 songs is “dense,” according to Matthew Milia, lead singer-guitarist for the band.

“They’re not two-minute-long pop songs with recurring choruses that people can latch on immediately to…but the people that do take the time to dig in and listen, seem to find themselves being rewarded… in ways that exceed the simply pop song,” he said.

Milia’s inspiration comes from his memories of growing up in metro Detroit. Banjo player David Jones calls the lyrics “obsessively suburban,” a kind of homage to the 90’s era.

The country folk-rock band  draws inspiration from Michigan, specifically from the geography and landscape of suburban Detroit, along with the complications of coming of age.

While some artists choose to move away to places like New York or Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, Jones says “It would be heart-breaking to leave Michigan," and adds there's an "overwhelming love and nostalgia for just being here."

Check out Frontier Ruckus performing songs from their new album. Matthew Milia, lead singer-guitarist; David Jones, banjo and vocals; Zach Nichols, trumpet, singing-saw, other instruments; and Ryan Etzcorn on percussion.

Website screen shot. / http://tonitiptonmartin.com/

For many people, the name Aunt Jemima immediately brings a certain image to mind - pancakes anyone? The image -- with the broad smile, round face, and hair wrapped in a bandana -- is powerful, and often controversial.

Author Toni Tipton-Martin examines the image of Aunt Jemima through the recipes and histories of real-life African-American cooks. The Jemima Code is a blog, book project, and traveling art exhibition that looks beyond the bandana.

Tipton-Martin will be a special guest at Zingerman’s 8th Annual African-American dinner tonight. She will also present a special talk on food and diversity on Wednesday January 23rd at 7:00pm. You can visit this link for more information.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service. As a wrap up to the year they talk about the most important legislation that passed this year. Plus, they discuss Governor Snyder’s veto of legislation that would have allowed concealed pistols in school, day cares, and places of worship.

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