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.

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.

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.

More candidates are entering the Detroit mayoral race. State Representative Fred Durhal Jr. announced his plans to run this week.

In the best of times, running a city the size of Detroit is incredibly challenging. The city will face some considerable challenges for some time to come. So we asked Rep. Durhal Jr. why he wants the job.

Others possible candidates for Detroit mayor include State Rep. Lisa Howze, Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Current Mayor Dave Bing has not yet announced whether he plans to run for reelection.

Why do some people say, “I could care less” to mean they don’t care? It doesn't make sense. The expression is, "I couldn't care less," right?

“What has happened here, as far as I can tell, is that speakers are no longer parsing this phrase for every word. And this is what happens with idioms. Idioms take on a meaning that surpasses their parts,” says Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan.

“I think the ‘less’ there feels negative to speakers. It already says, ‘I don’t care,’ so for them, ‘I could care less -- I couldn’t care less,’ they mean the same thing,” she says.

Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller asks Curzan to explain this idiom, “Butter would not melt in her mouth.”

“People tell me that the pronoun ‘they’ cannot be singular. But here’s the thing - it already is,” says Anne Curzan. She’s a professor of English at the University of Michigan who specializes in linguistics.

Most speakers already use “they” as a singular pronoun in speech.

“In writing, we are told to use ‘he’ or ‘she,’ or change the whole sentence,” Curzan says.

English teachers have been telling us for years that “they” is not a singular pronoun. But, Curzan offers a few examples of indefinite pronouns that speakers make singular.

Michigan Senate Democrats

Listen to the full interview.

The Michigan legislature enters the lame duck session this week. Republicans held onto a majority in the State House, so they’ll be setting the legislative agenda, but Democrats will be watching closely.  Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer talks with Jennifer White. Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, was overturned by Michigan voters last week, could a new version of the law emerge? Plus, a discussion on right to work. And, what could the repeal of the personal property tax on businesses mean for local municipalities?

Merriam Webster has one pronunciation for the word lackadaisical, but often people pronounce it laxadaisical.

“I would guess that what’s happened here is that speakers have reinterpreted lackadaisical as related to lax. And once they do that they change the pronunciation of lackadaisical to laxadaisical” said Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan.

Curzan says in surveys she’s done, half the people say lackadaisical and half say laxadaisical, but it doesn’t seem to be because of generation differences.

It’s seems that the combination of the letter K and S is what causes the confusion. Another mix-up can be found in words like especially and espresso.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

It is perhaps the busiest day of the year for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Michigan polling locations will be open until 8 p.m. tonight.  And, it will likely be some time before we have the final calls in many of the races.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Ruth Johnson about the long lines at the polls, frustration over the voter verification check box, and when we should all expect to hear some results.

Less vs. fewer

Nov 4, 2012

“There are people who cringe at the grocery store when they see the sign '10 items or less,'” said Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan.

It seems as though the rule for less vs. fewer is becoming less clear.

She said, “The rule is that with nouns that are countable we should use fewer. And with nouns that we can’t count, such as water, we should use less.

“Ten items, clearly you can count them because there are ten, so it should be fewer. If you have money it would be less money, but fewer dollars.”

The principles are the same with amount vs. number, so amount for an uncountable noun, and number for a countable noun.

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Every week Michigan Radio talks with political analyst Jack Lessenberry about some of the stories making news across the state.

This week Lessenberry and Rina Miller talk about the critical decisions Michigan voters will make on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 6). Also, the Michigan Secretary of State has dismissed all but one of several complaints against Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger and newly-Republican Representative Roy Schmidt. Plus, a Wayne County judge says the ACLU can move ahead with its right-to-read lawsuit against Highland Park schools.

CedarBendDrive/flickr

Michigan House Representatives are up for election next Tuesday. All 110 seats. Both Houses of the legislature hold Republican majorities, but this election could mark a shift of power in Lansing if Democrats gain more votes. Jennifer White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst with Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

On the November 6 ballot you'll find a non-partisan section, along with the names of candidates running for the Michigan Supreme Court. Jennifer White talks with Bridge Magazine correspondent Peter Luke who has taken and in-depth look at how Michigan Supreme Court Justices are elected, and what you should know about the candidates before heading to the polls. Go here to read the full article.

Um, yeah, no, hmm...

Oct 28, 2012

Discourse markers are the little words at the beginning and ends of sentences that help people organize conversation and relate to listeners.

“I noticed ‘yeah, no,’ ‘no, yeah’ and ‘no, I know,’ where no seems to mean yes,” said Anne Curzan, an English Professor at the University of Michigan.

‘Yeah, no’ does a few things. It helps people agree with another person who has made a negative statement.

Flickr/jnn1776

Recently, there was a protest rally in Southwest Detroit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement over raids and deportation, and what’s seen as overreach by ICE officials. Non-citizens can't legally vote, but how does the heightened sense of tension impact the Latino vote here in Michigan? Also, the Latino community is one of the fastest growing minority groups in the state. Should there be more Latino representation among lawmakers? Jennifer White talks with Laurence Garcia, an attorney, and the Chairman of the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan.

Screen shot from Sundance Film video.

The film, Middle of Nowhere tells the story of a young woman caught between loyalty to her incarcerated husband, and possibilities she finds outside the walls of the prison. Jennifer White interviews actor Omari Hardwick who portrays Derek, the incarcerated husband. Hardwick has also appeared in the films Sparkle and For Colored Girls, to name a few. Ava DuVernay won the Best Director Award for the film at the 2012 Sundance film festival, the first time that award has been won by an African American woman. The film is showing in Southfield.

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