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.

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Gov. Snyder's administration and Detroit officials have been working towards a consent agreement to address the city's financial crisis. Legal challenges have stalled the Detroit City Council’s ability to vote on an agreement with the state.

Tuesday afternoon Detroit City Council decided there are too many unresolved legal questions about the consent agreement and decided not to vote, but they try again on Wednesday.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek explains those uncertainties and what we might expect to see happen next.

Scott Martelle is a journalist and author. His new book Detroit: A Biography chronicles the history of the city from the 17oo's to the present day. He was also a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News.

Martelle believes there was a point in history when Detroit had an opportunity to diversify its manufacturing.

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Every Thursday we speak with political analysts Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas to get a better understanding of what's happening in state politics.

Last week we focused on Detroit's financial situation. This week it's all about what's going on in Lansing.

The repeal of the helmet law is on Gov. Snyder’s desk. Republican lawmakers recently created a measure that allowed Oakland County to redraw district lines, it was challenged in court, but the Republican Majority Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republican lawmakers.

So, it this politics as usual? Susan says "It's certainly has had a political tinge to it that I think perhaps we might have expected from a Republican-led legislature." Demas adds, "There hasn't been a lot of day light between Gov. Snyder and the legislature. One exception is on domestic partner benefits for universities, but that's one of the rare few."

Sikkema agrees, "The governor has pretty much stuck with his Republican colleagues and hasn't had much controversy."

At an open meeting of the financial review team in charge of evaluating the city of Detroit’s finances, protesters on Monday afternoon interrupted the meeting chanting, “No take over.”

The financial review team reaffirmed that a financial emergency does exist in the city and that a consent agreement was their preferred approach to fixing the city’s finances.

The city of Detroit and Michigan have yet to come to an agreement on how to stabilize the city’s finances.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A crowd wearing hooded sweaters of all colors gathered in downtown Ypsilanti Monday afternoon, one month after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Florida.

The unarmed black teenager was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. The man who shot Martin has not been arrested.

 Jeff Clark lives in Ypsilanti, and helped organize the event.

Screenshots from Ann Arbor Film Festival website.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The range of films and videos are diverse. They can be bizarre, funny, or beautiful. It's "art for art's sake," says Donald Harrison, the festival's executive director.

"We're most interested in ideas, and techniques and concepts, and engaging audiences in something that might be outside of their normal viewing experience," he says.

Harrison says the festival will highlight some of the best independent films from years past as well as new films.

Every Thursday 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.

We can't ignored Detroit’s fiscal crisis and where things stand right now.

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The vernal equinox, or spring equinox marks the end of winter today, and the beginning of spring.  But don't rule out the possibility of another snow fall - after all this is Michigan.

Record highs across the state are expected to continue through the rest of the week in Michigan.

The Associated Press reports:

The weather service office in suburban Detroit says there's been six consecutive days of 70 degree temperatures that started March 14 and continued through Monday. It says the last time there was such a stretch of warm weather in the area around this time of year it was April 16-24, 1886.

The weather service forecasts several more days of 70 degree temperatures. In southeast and mid-Michigan temperatures are expected to reach 85 tomorrow.

According to the Associated Press, the weather service in Grand Rapids says record high temperatures in West Michigan were broken on five consecutive days from March 14 through Sunday. In the northern Lower Peninsula, forecasters say high temperatures are coming in about 25 to as much as 40 degrees above average.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Click on the photo to see more images.

People in Dexter gathered on the streets this morning to assess the damage from Thursday's tornado, and to help clean up the mess.

DTE trucks lined Central Street in Dexter as crews worked on power lines. Nearby Keri Romine, co-owner of Dexter Mill, says two structures were destroyed on her property.

On Wilson Street, at the Huron Farms subdivision, cleanup crews like the Statewide Disaster Restoration Mobile Command Center were on site. Across the street, two cars had been crushed by a collapsed roof.

Homeowner Ricke Stauffer says he estimates the damage to his home at $20,000 to $30,000. Shingles and siding were ripped from his house, windows were blown out and the deck in his backyard was torn off.

Employees of Busch’s grocery store in Dexter were in the neighborhood giving away bottles of water.

This video was taken by Matthew Altruda at 5:30pm on March 15.

Warning: this video contains graphic language





"The Real Kwame Kilpatrick" a film by Ayanna Ferguson Kilpatrick (Kwame Kilpatrick's sister) is coming soon.

The documentary will recount the life of the former Detroit Mayor and promises “rare expressions” from his wife Carlita Kilpatrick.

The movie trailer released Monday on YouTube begins with the voice of Kilpatrick himself saying, “Today I want you to sit back, relax, open your mind, because I am the real Kwame Kilpatrick.”

Here's the movie trailer:

A book of memoirs titled "Surrendered: The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" was released in August of last year.  

The Michigan Court of Appeals said former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would not get to keep the money from sales of his new book.

The Associated Press reported:

A judge has ruled Kilpatrick's profits will be placed in escrow to help satisfy $860,000 in restitution he still owes Detroit as part of his plea to a 2008 criminal case.

Kwame Kilpatrick who was charged with perjury, spent 99 days in a Michigan prison, and was released Aug. 2. He lives now in the Dallas area.

The Republican-led legislature approved a measure that would prohibit schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of school employees last week.

Those in support of the measure say it puts more money in the pockets of employees who can then choose to write a check to their union. Opponents say it’s another attempt at union busting.

David Hecker, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

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Gov. Rick Snyder presented a proposed consent agreement to City of Detroit officials. Snyder wants to use a consent agreement rather than appoint an emergency manager to fix Detroit’s finances.

Stephen Henderson is the Free Press’ editorial page editor and of “American Black Journal.” He spoke with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White.

“The whole idea of the consent agreement is about control and power, and this agreement would ask the Mayor and City Council to give up a lot of that,” Henderson says.

Last week, we brought you a series on cancer and the environment.

I put together this visual representation of some of the statistics we learned about cancer and our lives.

If you like gospel music you might want to check out the 20th Annual Gospelfest in Ann Arbor.

The idea behind the event is to celebrate the diversity of music among different communities and faiths in southeast Michigan. Participants seek to bridge cultural, racial, and religious gaps between different churches, and develop friendships.

Jean Wilson is the co-founder of Gospelfest, and choir director at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline. She sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the event’s 20-year history.

Wilson says the event offers a variety of music, from traditional black gospel to contemporary Christian, pop-rock, and more. And she says the event is about diversity and unity.

“Although we are so diverse in our different ways of worship, we are all headed in the same direction; we are all children of the same creator. Although we have so many differences, we do have that thing at the core of our very being that really says that we are all related and are one, and we get to celebrate it.”

On Saturday March 10, choirs from Ann Arbor and Detroit will come together for the 20th Annual Gospelfest at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.

The gospel choir of New Prospect Baptist Missionary Church in Detroit will also participate in this year's event. Here's a video of the choir during a Saturday morning practice.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a special address on public safety this week. His plan calls for fighting crime in some of the state’s most violent cities.

The 34 point plan includes hiring 180 additional state troopers, increasing staffing at crime labs, decreasing urban blight, and linking welfare benefits to school attendance.

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates.

Kriste Etue is the Director of the Michigan State Police.  She says the lack of good jobs and the decline of police officers in the state has an impact on crime.

"The state of Michigan has lost nearly 3,400 police officers, so I’m sure that has some impact on the crime in our various cities."

The Michigan State Police is reaching out to returning veterans to join the state police force.

A group seeking repeal of Michigan’s emergency manager law has submitted 226,000 petition signatures to place a referendum on the issue in November.

If 161,305 signatures are verified by a state elections panel the emergency manager law will be suspended until the vote comes up in November.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke to 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 about the implications.

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.

At the beginning of the year Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park public schools. Shortly after that Martin was “de-activated” from the position. And now it’s unclear when he might be reinstated.

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District, which includes Highland Park.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry describes the history of Michigan’s primary as both fascinating and bizarre.

According to Lessenberry, Michigan held its first presidential primary in the early part of the 20th century. At that time people voted for Henry Ford in two separate primaries. To be exact, those primaries took place in 1916 and then in 1924, according to the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections.

Photo courtesy of Michigan GOP.

Michigan is just a week away from its Presidential Primary. The GOP candidates are campaigning across the state in preparation for the February 28 event.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak.

Mitt Romney is from Michigan, so a lot people believe he will win in his home state, but  Rick Santorum was leading in the polls over Romney. Schostak is  not surprised Santorum is doing well in the state.

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Governor Rick Snyder gave his endorsement to Mitt Romney today.  The question is whether or not that endorsement will help Romney.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke 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.

Here’s what Susan Demas had to say about the Snyder endorsement:

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Michigan’s Presidential Primary is only two weeks away.

On February 28, Republicans and Democrats can go out and vote for their nominee for President. That’s because Michigan is what you’d call an “open state.” Once you get to the polls all you have to do is request either a Republican or Democrat ballot.

Eleven Republican presidential candidates are on the ballot so far. President Barack Obama is the only Democrat.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Madgett.

Listen to the interview.

The 2012 Kresge Eminent Artist Award goes to Naomi Long Madgett.

She’s an award winning poet, editor, and educator. She’s often called the godmother of African-American poetry.

Dr. Madgett says the award came as a complete surprise because she didn’t even know she was being considered for the award.

“So it means a great deal to me that I can be alive to realize that my life’s work has had some positive effect on other people’s lives,” she tell Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White.

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Every Monday, we're checking in with people who are  trying to do what they think is needed to improve life for people in Michigan. This morning we speak with Sean Tracy. He’s a truck driver and World War II buff, and he’s working to show gratitude to the nation’s veterans—especially World War II vets. He builds models of the planes or ships the veterans served on while they were on active duty and gives them as gifts to the vets he finds.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

Photo courtesy of Seth Bernard and May Erlewine.

Listen to the interview.

Michigan natives Seth Bernard and May Erlewine have a new album inspired by their journey across Ethiopia.

Last year they were invited to join the project “Run Across Ethiopia," of the Michigan-based non-profit On the Ground. A group of eight eventually ran 240 miles across southern Ethiopia and raised over $200,000 to build schools in the coffee growing region of that country.

The album New Flower is based on that experience.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White interviewed Seth & May. You can see them perform in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

Produced by Mercedes Mejia and Cade Sperlich. Our audio engineer is Bob Skon.

Governor Rick Snyder's website

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White about his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013.

In the proposal are some funding increases for education, public safety and infrastructure.

Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.

Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.

Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.

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We continue our series on human trafficking.

Identifying victims of this crime can be difficult. But as Amy Allen tells us, there are signs we can watch out for.

Allen is a victim and witness specialist from Homeland Security Investigations. She is stationed in Michigan and travels locally and abroad to help victims of human trafficking.

Congressman's website

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers represents Michigan’s 8th district. He also serves as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Recently, he held the annual Open Hearing on Worldwide Threats Facing the U.S. Congressman Rogers spoke to Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.