Jennifer White

Host - All Things Considered

Jennifer White is Michigan Radio's All Things Considered host. Jenn has served as Executive Producer and host of the television program, "Out of the Blue: The Michigan Difference," on the Big Ten Network.

She was also the host of the nationally distributed public radio documentary "Finding Our Bootstraps: Americans Deal With Recession," and has served as Executive Producer and host of the public television programs "Out of the Box" and "Edible Legacies."

Recently, she has moderated several political forums, including gubernatorial and mayoral debates for both public radio and television. A native of Detroit and graduate of the University of Michigan, she has worked at Michigan Public Media since 1999, most recently as the station's Director of Media Outreach and Community Relations. From 2005-2009, she served as Station Manager for Michigan Television, WFUM-TV.

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.

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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.

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. 

Governor Rick Snyder has called on the Legislature to pass a Medicaid expansion in Michigan in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. Although the House passed the expansion, the Michigan Senate went on summer recess without voting on the bill. However, now a Senate Work Group will begin meeting over the summer months to consider the legislation.

Medicaid expansion has had the support of both the medical and business communities. Now former GOP House Speaker Rick Johnson is lending his voice in support of the call for Medicaid expansion. He discusses his reasons for supporting the proposed expansion, and the Senate’s hesitation on coming to a vote.

Former Speaker Johnson says that despite resistance to the Affordable Care Act from the Republican Caucus, the bill has been discussed for far too long to not be considered for a vote in the Senate.

“It’s been out here now six months, it’s been reviewed, it’s been kicked back and forth. We’re at a point where it’s time to make a choice. Let’s at least take the vote. Up or down, let’s take the vote,” Johnson explained.

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. 

Detroit City Council
Detroit City Council / Facebook

It's Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics. This week the legislature began its summer recess and there is a lot happening in Detroit so we focus our conversation there. With the city council rapidly losing members, what happens next and does it matter?

Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press, catch us up on the latest.

Listen to the full interview above.

Nancy Nall Derringer / LinkedIn

Governor Snyder’s school reform agenda includes rewarding schools for so called best practices.

Those include providing physical education, offering online instructional programs or blended learning opportunities, or being a school of choice. Districts meeting seven out of eight of those best practices are eligible to receive 52 additional dollars per pupil in the district.

State of Michigan /

Detroit's Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, has laid out his plan to restructure Detroit's finances, and he has spread the pain around.

He ended payment on unsecured debt, he is negotiating with creditors to take significantly less than the money they're owed, and he's looking to city employees and retirees to sacrifice financially as well.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

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, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service. On tap today, the latest happenings around the Medicaid expansion bill; developments in Detroit about whether the selection of the city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, was in conflict with the Opening Meetings Act; and possible bankruptcy proceedings in the city. 

It’s Thursday, the day 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.

The state budget is on its way to Governor Snyder for his signature, while there is an investment of $65 million in early education, the Governor did not get three of his major priorities met. Medicaid expansion, transportation funding, and Common Core for K-12 education.

"He [Snyder] can't afford to sort of roll over all the time on the conservative agenda items, where he signs everything they want without getting them [conservatives] to agree to pass some of his high priority items," says Sikkema. 

Listen to the full interview above.

On Thursday, June 6th, Global Detroit is hosting the Global Great Lakes Network Convening in Detroit. Jennifer White speaks today with Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit about how the organization works to strengthen the economy of southeast Michigan through projects that connect immigrants to the global economy.

The Great Lakes Network Convening in Detroit will bring together leaders from similar organizations across the Rust Belt to share best practices, and collaborate on how to once again make the Midwest an economic powerhouse.

“The most important thing is that we create a welcoming environment; letting the world’s talent, investment, and trade know that Michigan and its cities are open for business,” says Tobocman.

“We want to compete, and we want the world’s most talented employees and entrepreneurs.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber's Annual Mackinac Policy Conference wrapped up on Thursday. Jennifer White was on the island and talked with two members of Mothering Justice, a left-leaning advocacy group that works on issues important to mothers and families.  
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.

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.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Each week we take a look at 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.

Both houses of the Legislature are presenting their versions of the budget. We talk about major deviations between the House and Senate versions. And, pre-K education gets a lot of attention from Governor Snyder. Plus, two things to watch for in the coming weeks: road funding and the expansion of Medicaid.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

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

Michigan’s new emergency manager law went into effect today, so we wanted to find out how the new law differs from the one voters overturned in the November 2012 election. And we discuss the legal challenges to the new law. Plus, the Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week centering on same-sex marriage. In Michigan in 2004, voters approved a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and civil unions. There has been a legal challenge to that ban, but the judge overseeing the case chose to delay his decision until after the Supreme Court makes their ruling. 

Listen to the full interview above.

One in every nine kids in Michigan public schools repeated kindergarten, according to Michigan Department of Education data for the year 2010-11. That means the state pays an additional $7,000 per child every year, ultimately costing taxpayers $93 million.

Ron French, senior writer with Bridge Magazine has been investigating this story and found that the likelihood of a child repeating kindergarten was most closely linked, not to race or family income, but geography. In the article, he also writes about “planned retention," meaning parents actually plan to have a child do two years of kindergarten instead of one. 

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. 


The State Department of Community Health is launching a new program designed to address the needs of people with autism. Lisa Grost heads up the autism program. She tells Michigan Radio's Jennifer White there are seven key elements to the state autism plan, which include family engagement, early identification, education support, adult services, physical, mental and behavioral health care and training and professional development.