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.

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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.

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.

Recovery Park is a project hoping to revitalize the city of Detroit and get people working. 

Gary Wozniak is the President and CEO.  

He has big plans for Recovery Park involving everything from growing Tilapia, to processing foods, and establishing a 30-acre farm scattered throughout the city.

“So the models that we’re looking at are a combination of the community gardening that’s happening in Detroit, the indoor agriculture that’s being promoted by Michigan State University and then a lot of the larger indoor models in Europe, predominately in the Netherlands,” Wozniak says.

A new urban agriculture ordinance will certainly play a big in making this redevelopment project a reality.

The idea started with Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation or (SHAR), a Detroit based substance abuse treatment program. 

SHAR’s mission is to transform individuals with addiction and those recovering a chance at a new life.

Wozniak has a very personal mission as well.


Mercedes Mejia

The Detroit Planning Commission recently approved a new Urban Agriculture Ordinance. The action takes the city a step closer to officially recognizing the dozens of urban farms and gardens scattered across the city.

The ordinance also defines the kinds of projects that would be allowed, such as farm stands, orchards or greenhouses. Stateside’s Mercedes Mejia reports some residents are experimenting with aquaponic systems. It’s a method of growing crops and fish at the same time.

Noah Link: Over here is our chicken coop. We have about 42 chickens and 4 ducks so far. You can hear the ducks – they’ve awfully loud and hungry probably.

Noah Link is the co-owner of Food Field. He lives and works in the Boston-Edison neighborhood in Detroit. I met up with him on his farm called Food Field. It’s on the site of a former elementary school - imagine a small farm tucked away in the city.

 "So if you go a few blocks one way there are huge historical mansions, and you go a few blocks the other way and it’s all run down old shops, and total poverty, and we’re right in between," he says.

Link and his business partner worked on several farms across the country. They knew it wouldn’t be easy to own a farm, but they’re doing the hard work. On the land are different kinds of crops, chickens, a few beehives, and a young orchard of fruit and nuts trees. There’s also a hoop house to grow vegetables year-round.

"And we’ve just built an aquaponic system to be able to raise fish in there, which I’ll show you."

An aquaponic system is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture - growing plants in water and fish farming.

"And it takes the best of both of those in a self-sustaining system so then rather than having to worry about toxic fish waste to get rid of or keeping it sterile hydroponic environment for your plants, the plants grow out of the waste water from the fish that just get circulated with the pump and they clean out the water to keep it safe for all the fish in the tank," Link says.

Bytemarks / flickr

Negotiations to prevent the nation from going over the fiscal cliff seem to be slowly progressing. Also under discussion is whether to continue the extension of federal unemployment benefits. An extension would be good news for the thousands of Michiganders currently receiving unemployment benefits. Without an extension, those benefits could end for those Michiganders at the end of the month. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talked with Steve Gray. He's the director of the Ann Arbor office of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project. It's a non-profit law firm that provides free unemployment insurance advocacy and assistance to Michigan workers.

Rick Robinson is a bassist, arranger, composer and artistic director of Cut Time. John McLaughlin Williams is a violinist and Grammy award winning conductor.

Both musicians are part of Classical Revolution Detroit. Their mission is to take classical music to the people, whether in bars, clubs, or cafes, to demystify classical. The group will celebrate its second anniversary at The Majestic in Detroit Sunday December 16, from 7 to 10 pm. Go here for more information.

Here's a video of Rick and John performing a Beethoven Duo, in Studio East. Check back for more videos of the performance soon.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

This lame duck session of the Michigan legislature has been moving at very face pace.

In addition to the passage and signing of so-called right-to work legislation, the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have a number of other bills on the agenda. They include a package of abortion related bills, a bill that would give health care providers the right to deny service due to religious or ethical objections, and a new emergency manager bill that would replace the one overturned by Michigan voters last month.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks 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.

NBCnews.com / MNA Facebook page

With Michigan poised to become the country’s 24th so-called "right-to-work" state, thousands of protestors have flooded the State Capital today to demonstrate against the legislation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse, and president of the University of Michigan Nurses Union. Oppenheim is also affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association.

The English language is constantly changing. How do English teachers keep up?

Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller recently got a letter from a listener, Bill, from Eaton Rapids who asks why there isn’t a difference between researching English change and teaching language usage.

“I think there is a difference,” said Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan who specializes in linguistics.

She believes teachers can teach the standard language usage and talk about language change with their students.

“And I think maybe one way to help think about this, is I often talk about it as a repertoire, and the bigger the repertoire we have as speakers and writers, the more versatile we are. So what I’m trying to do is to make sure that students have in that repertoire the standard, formal written variety and perhaps the formal spoken variety so they can use it when they need to or want to. But if they have other varieties in there too, all the better,” Curzan said.

Listen to the full interview above to hear why it’s okay to use ain’t in writing. Also, Curzan explains how people in the 19th century “hated” the English passive progressive construction, “the house is being built," but now it is completely standard. An example of why people should not be too quick to judge a certain form, as it might become popular years from now.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Bonnie Raffaele, mother of Kelsey Raffaele, a teenage girl who died in a car crash on January 24, 2010 while using a cell phone. Bonnie has been advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 756. The bill, also known as Kelsey’s Law, would prohibit novice teen drivers from talking on the cell phone while driving. The bill, passed by the Senate earlier this year, will be discussed tomorrow in a House Transportation Committee Hearing.

Merriam Websters’s definition of retronym is a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the original meaning of the noun. “Film camera” is a retronym.

Every Sunday, Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller talks with Anne Curzan a professor of English at the University of Michigan, specializing in linguistics.

In many cases the retronym is formed in response to technological advances.

“We now specify a land line because when you say phone people may assume it’s a cell phone and we need to now, talking about a phone, say a land line,” said Curzan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

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, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

The House GOP Health Policy Committee, today voted by a 9-5 vote  against legislation to establish a state-run health care exchange. The health care exchanges are a requirement of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Governor Rick Snyder has been pushing for a state-run online market where people can compare and buy health insurance plans, but Republicans in the House continue their opposition to Obama's federal health care act. Today, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger asked fellow Republicans to pass the legislation.

"Here you have a situation where the Speaker finally said lets do this, and his own members said, 'No, we don't want to do it.' So, I think that's somewhat of an embarrassing moment here for the Speaker, not so much for the Governor," said Sikkema.

Demas says there are no signs of an extension for states to set up the exchange. At this point it's likely the state will get a federally created exchange.

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