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Lester Graham

Reporter/Host of Stateside

Lester Graham splits his time between hosting Stateside (Fridays) and reporting. He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report, the environmental news service based at Michigan Radio, starting with the service in 1998.

He has been a journalist since 1985. Graham has served as a board member of the Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups.

Lester has received more than 100 awards at the state, regional, national and international levels for journalistic excellence, including five RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

Facebook link

email:  graham@michiganradio.org

Ways to Connect

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We’re outside the blacksmith shop of Joel Sanderson of Sanderson Iron near Quincy, Michigan. 

There's a steady putt-putt sound that comes from the heart of Sanderson Iron.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette’s record on pollution under fire

Jun 18, 2018
Jim Malewitz / Bridge Magazine

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican candidate for governor, frequently touts his conservative credentials by mentioning his opposition to environmental protections rolled out under President Barack Obama.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This spring, the Last Word’s Casey Miller had just returned from being named one of three Midwest Finalists in the 2017 United States Bartending Guild, Incorporated’s World Class competition. (His colleague at The Last Word in Ann Arbor, Giancarlo Aversa, has also been among the finalists in years past.)

“This cocktail I call the Kibby Cobb. It’s named after a little region of Jackson, Michigan where we would always go back in the summer,” Miller said. While his family was from Michigan, Miller grew up in Tokyo.

He says the cocktail includes ingredients that make him think of summers and springs in Michigan.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette talks tough on Line 5 pipeline

Jun 15, 2018

In Michigan politics these days, one environmental issue seems to trump all others: Line 5.

The 645-mile oil pipeline has become a magnet for environmental concerns. That’s largely due to its age (65-years old); the checkered transparency record of its Canadian owner, Enbridge Energy; and because its section of twin pipelines stretches beneath Straits of Mackinac, the gateway between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

A Canadian company will turn in a report tomorrow outlining whether it thinks a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac is a feasible option for its pipeline. A tunnel was suggested by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan Radio

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

Michigan Truth Squad: Michigan Republican Tonya Schuitmaker attacks foe on DACA

Jun 11, 2018
Tonya Schuitmaker
Bridge Magazine

With less than three months until its Lansing convention, the two Republican candidates for Michigan attorney general are pitching their message to a small, impassioned audience: the estimated 2,000 delegates who will choose between House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette says Michigan is ‘last’ in third-grade reading

Jun 7, 2018
Bill Schuette
Bridge Magazine

Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general and the frontrunner in the Republican primary for governor, has a line he offers in stump speeches and, last week, on a debate stage at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

Michigan, he says, is last in the nation in third-grade reading.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Since Michigan Radio started bringing you this series on Artisans of Michigan, we’ve been asking if there are any coopers in the state. We have learned of two of them: Lake Effect Cooperage in Traverse City and Kalamazoo Cooperage. We recently got to spend some time with Ben Aldrich, the owner of Kalamazoo Cooperage.

Michigan Truth Squad: Koch brothers group attacks Gretchen Whitmer’s tax votes

May 31, 2018
Gretchen Whitmer
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Americans For Prosperity, a national conservative advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers, has bought an online-only ad targeting Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan gubernatorial campaign, claiming she has supported tax increases that hurt the state.

Turns out, Whitmer, a leading Democratic candidate, doesn’t seem to mind.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Distillers in Beer City, USA are turning beer into whiskey.

Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids has been working with (so far) four local breweries to produce some distinctive whiskeys. Look for more in the series in 2018.

The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen of Tammy's Tastings and Lester Graham of Stateside had to check that out.

Alex Porbe / Incite Design

There are people in Michigan who are quietly making pieces of art with a purpose beyond art. 

One of them works in Detroit at a nondescript shop on Mack Avenue. Alex Porbe is with Incite Design, a  fabrication and custom design firm.

Porbe works with architects and project managers, working up designs to complement existing architecture or making a design statement.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wright and Company is a second floor restaurant and bar housed in a Queen Anne style commercial building done in brick with brownstone trim at 1500 Woodward in downtown Detroit.

The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and Lester Graham were there for a surprise drink mixed by Mark Cooney.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette’s stand on transparent government

May 9, 2018
Bill Schuette
Bridge Magazine

Republican gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley have traded barbs in previous weeks over accusations of political showmanship and lack of conservative bonafides.

Now the question of whether both candidates have a plan to increase government accountability has taken to Twitter, where Schuette threw down the gauntlet over their transparency track records.

Michigan Truth Squad: Democrat candidates blast Nestlé’s ‘free’ water

May 8, 2018
Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz

The Democratic race for Michigan governor is getting spirited, but all three candidates still find plenty to agree on ‒ including criticism of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for granting Nestlé Waters North America permission to tap up to 400 gallons of water per minute (up from 250 gallons) from one Osceola County well.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We travel the state to find the people who make useful things with their hands as part of our ongoing series: Artisans of Michigan. This time our stop is in a rural area near Rockford.

“I make brooms, all kinds, different sizes, styles, colors. I like to use recycled materials: branches, golf clubs, old harnesses, lots of different things I put my brooms on,” Henry Tschetter of Brooms by Henry said.

He learned his trade when he was very young.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We like to hang out with people who make things by hand and then report back to you about their work. We call the series: Artisans of Michigan.

We visited Scared Crow Steamworks in Flint. Heather Wright is the designer of steampunk jewelry.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Republican candidates for two of the state’s top offices will be battling for their party’s nomination until the Republican nominating convention in August. Democrats for those two offices have those months to campaign for general election votes. The question is whether that gives Democrats an advantage?

cocktail and bottles of liquor
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings wanted to mix a drink to honor one of Michigan’s distillers.

“Our friends out at Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids just won a big award. They were named ‘Best of Class’ for their 'Old Aquavit’ at the American Distillers Institute.”  (See award winners here.)

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There was a showdown of sorts at this week’s Democratic Endorsement Convention. Young progressive activists are demanding more say in the party that’s been controlled to a great degree by labor unions. The key race of the convention was symbolic of the divide. 

a frame from the "shady schuette" ad with bill schuette in sunglasses
Calley Continues Comeback / YouTube

An attack ad against Bill Schuette is full of false statements according to Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad. Schuette is a Republican candidate for governor. The ad comes from a Super PAC supporting one of his Republican opponents. We talked with the reporter behind the Truth Squad report.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is running for governor. But first, he has to get the Republican nomination. His campaign is running a video ad that Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad finds stretches the truth a bit. 

Let’s go straight to the video. Here’s the main point Brian Calley wants to make to voters.

“I was the driving force behind historic tax cuts and cast the deciding vote to balance Michigan’s budget. What happened? Half a million jobs have been created. We hit the lowest unemployment rate in seventeen years.”

The Truth Squad’s Ted Roelofs says Calley is taking a lot of credit in this ad.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This weekend Democrats will endorse a candidate for Attorney General, a candidate for Secretary of State, and candidates for State Supreme Court. Jocelyn Benson is running unopposed for Secretary of State. Three Democrats want the job of Attorney General. Below are responses (in alphabetical order of the candidates’ last name) to issues such as consumer protection, the environment, Enbridge’s Line 5 which runs under the Straits of Mackinac, and LGBTQ civil rights. 

Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

We like to talk with people who make things we use. This time we make a stop in Jackson.

Chris Maples has been making ice fishing rods for a couple of decades. His company is called Frozen Puppy Custom Ice Rods

He designs the rod handles and hand ties everything. He makes the kind of rods that he likes, but he's open to what his customers want. Listen to his story above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A unique collection of Inuit art is being given to the University of Michigan Museum of Art. More than 200 stone sculptures and prints from the Inuit people on Baffin Island in Canada, just west of Greenland. The collection is valued at $2.5 million. There are additional funds to endow an Inuit art program. These gifts from from Phil and Kathy Power.

The story behind the collection is as interesting as the art itself. Phil Power gave Lester Graham a tour of the collection in this extended version of the interview.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen was coughing.

“I did a really stupid thing,” she said, explaining, “I told my friends, ‘It’s been great; I haven’t gotten sick all year.’ Now, I have a cold.”

There’s a drink for that. Well, there wasn’t, but Coxen, of Tammy’s Tastings, came up with one.

“This is Tammy’s Cure-All,” she said between coughs.

Her inspiration was trying to put all the things people say are good for fighting a cold: orange juice, ginger, lemon juice, and honey.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As it stands now, the likely nominee for United States Senate is three-time Senator Debbie Stabenow. Gretchen Whitmer is getting endorsements from leading Democrats in her pursuit of the nomination for governor. Jocelyn Benson is running unopposed for her party’s nomination for secretary of state. There’s also a woman running for attorney general, as well as two African-American men.

Dana Nessel is a former prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. She’s probably most famous for her efforts to get gay marriage legalized in the U.S.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We travel the state every once in a while for our Artisans of Michigan series, and this time we went to Flint.

C.H. Schultz & Sons has been repairing upholstery in cars nearly as long as cars have been around. Back in 1917, more than 100 years ago, Clyde H. Schultz was working at Buick and in the garage behind his house. A family business was born. Deborah Schultz-Pawloski is the third generation.

And all that car history is inspiration for her.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Swilling and spilling green beer is part of the Saint Patrick’s Day tradition for some folks. There is an alternative if you prefer something other than a cheap lager with green dye. It’s a cocktail named the Tipperary after the town and county in Ireland.

“It does have one green ingredient in it,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings quipped, adding “…the drink itself is not green.”

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