Mercedes Mejia


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.

Mike Duggan

The field for the next mayor of Detroit has been whittled down to two. Benny Napoleon, former Wayne County Sheriff and Mike Duggan, former CEO of Detroit Medical Center.

Duggan recently released his 10 point plan focused on rebuilding Detroit neighborhoods. 

One big issue facing Detroit is the amount of abandoned buildings, and how sparsely populated the city is now, which makes it difficult to provide services. Duggan joined us today to talk his ideas for addressing that problem. 

"If you’re in an area where you are down to a couple of houses per block, what we want to do is create incentives so that those houses that we cease in densely occupied blocks can be made available to people who would relocate from the block that only have one or two houses left and I think in a positive way we can convince people to move from the declining neighborhoods to the neighborhoods that are stable," he said.

Spc. Garett Hernandez/flickr

Over the past 12 years, nearly 50,000 American troops have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The visible injuries are often lost limbs from roadside improvised explosive devices. 

But, there are so many who are coping with the "non-visible" injuries: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, for example. The kinds of injuries that can worsen with time and tear apart a soldier's home life, or worse.

Today we talk with Rick Briggs, a retired Air Force Major who has come up with what he thinks will be a perfect refuge  for these vets: Camp Liberty, using the beautiful outdoors of mid-Michigan as a place of healing.

Briggs is also the manager of the veterans program for the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. 

Click on the link above to listen to the full interview.

It seems like if you, or your clothes, or your hair can be disheveled, it should be possible for them to be sheveled.

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 discuss negative words without a positive counterpart.

Curzan explains, “The word gruntled, which was back-formed from the word disgruntled - people assumed if you could be disgruntled you could be gruntled -  goes back to 1938. The word wieldy has also been around for quite a long time. Consulate meaning something like comforted, existed in the 15th century through the 19th century it’s now obsolete. So, it’s not that some of the words have never existed, but they are certainly not common compared with their negative counterparts. And then a word like sheveled doesn’t seem to have ever existed.”

It’s odd when you stop to think about it that everyone who graduates from college is a bachelor of something.

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 discuss opaque abbreviations, and often forgotten acronyms.

“The B in BA stands for bachelor, and it’s the same word we use to refer to an unmarried man,” says Curzan.

“The word [bachelor] goes back to the 13th century in English. It used to refer to a knight, a young man, and could refer to a young man who had achieved the lowest rank of something. From there it’s come to mean someone who has achieved the lowest rank from university, the lowest degree.”

Of course back then those would have been all men, but now we have lots of women who are Bachelors of Arts, or Bachelors of Science.

Then there’s the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. that many people mix up. The latter, exempli gratia (e.g.) means “for example.” And, id est (i.e.) means “that is” as in "that is to say." Thanks to us you will never mix those two up again. 

Let’s turn now to acronyms once learned and quickly forgotten. LASER is the acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.  And, RADAR stands for Radio Detection and Ranging.

Finally, here’s an acronym you will want to talk about this week with friends, and that's SNAFU, which stands for Situation Normal All F’d Up.  

Thanks for joining us for another enlightening edition of “That’s What They Say.”

Ifmuth / Flickr

It's our weekly review of Michigan politics with Susan Demas, columnist for and Ken Sikkema, former senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

We start with Medicaid, and while the expansion finally passed in the Senate the vote didn’t happen without a bit of drama and struggle.

"There was still an awful lot of controversy. There was some horse-trading involved with an issue Senator Tom Casperson, who represents the Upper Peninsula wanted, and that finally changed his vote. And, it was just a typical messy process which is what happens in the legislature," said Demas.

However, this isn’t the end of the story. The law passed without immediate effect. As it stands now, the law won’t go into effect until April. The Snyder administration says this will cost the state about $630 million in lost federal funds. Demas said there are still a lot of hurdles before Medicaid expansion goes into effect

Let's turn now to Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.  Tea Party activist, Wes Nakagiri says he plans to challenge the renomination of Calley at the Republican convention next summer. Nakagiri says Governor Snyder needs a more conservative lieutenant governor to help the administration stay the conservative course.  

"If this Tea Party challenge to Brian Calley is successful at the convention, it gives the Democrats a huge issue during the fall general election campaign. They will use the argument that the Lieutenant Governor is far too conservative or radical for the Michigan electorate," Sikkema said.

Click on the link above to hear the full interview.

A survey conducted by Michigan State University's Charles Ballard shows an improved approval rating for Governor Snyder.

The state Senate could vote on a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan this week.

The legislation would extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Michiganders through the federal Affordable Care Act.

On today's program we talk with Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University about the pros and cons of Medicaid expansion in Michigan.

Prison bars
Ken Mayer / Flickr

Lawyers in Michigan are hoping a federal ruling will eventually change the way the state sentences juveniles in murder cases.

A federal court judge recently ruled that inmates who received mandatory life sentences for offenses committed when they were juveniles should have an opportunity to be re-sentenced. Michigan has more than 350 juvenile lifers, the second-highest highest number in the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that laws like Michigan's that automatically send some juveniles to prison for life without a chance for parole are "cruel and unusual punishment."

Cary McGehee is a civil rights attorney. She's provides pro bono legal counsel to two inmates currently serving mandatory life sentences. She says "...children who are involved in crimes really don't have the same recognition of the significance of their actions. They're much more likely to engage in impulsivity and reckless behavior.... When we go back to look at these individuals who were convicted when they were 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, these are factors that need to be considered to determine whether the sentence that was given to them was an appropriate sentence."

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikimedia Commons

Each week 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, columnist for

Governor Snyder has been calling for increased funding for Michigan roads to the tune of $1.2 billion a year. This is one of the items he has not gotten a lot of traction on so far from lawmakers on either side of the political aisle.

According to Sikkema, the last time Michigan increased fees and a tax for transportation funding was back in 1997.

"The reason we keep going back to this sales tax issue is because Michigan is relatively unique. It has a sales tax on top of its state and federal gas tax and that sales tax doesn't go to roads it goes to schools and revenue sharing. There are only about three or four states in the country where all the taxes at the pump don't go to roads. Michigan is one of them," he said.

Are better roads, better for business?


Shakespeare in Detroit was founded by Detroit native, Samantha White. As its inaugural performance on Wednesday, August 14 at 7 p.m., the company will present Shakespeare's Othello at Grand Circus Park in Detroit. Samantha White spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about the company, the performance, and why the works of Shakespeare need a home in Detroit.

Tricky plural words

Aug 11, 2013

The word data is plural in Latin. But that etymological fact may not make it plural in English at this point. 

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 whether the word data should be plural or singular.

English borrowed the word data from Latin in which it is plural, the singular is datum. But, in scientific technical writing you will see data very often as plural.

"Many speakers have reinterpreted data as singular, as a mass noun much like information, so then you’ll see data is. The good news is for those of us who use it as a singular, and there are a lot of us, is that that is becoming more and more accepted, and in fact at this point if you look at the American Heritage Dictionary and the usage panel note on this, only 23% of the usage panel still rejects data as a singular," explains Curzan.

Listen to the full interview to hear more examples of making tricky words plural, including syllabus, focus, alumnus, and hippopotamus

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, columnist for, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Today, what's next with Medicaid expansion? And, why Governor Snyder is keeping an eye on who will become Detroit's next mayor. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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
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?

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. 


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.


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.