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Lester Graham

Reporter/Host of Stateside

Lester Graham splits his time between hosting Stateside (Fridays) and reporting for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative (DJC). 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 four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

Facebook link

email:  llgraham@umich.edu

Ways to Connect

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Mojito recipe:

  • 2 sprigs of mint
  • 1 oz. simple syrup 
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • 1/2 lime (quartered)
  • club soda

Directions:

Strip the leaves from one sprig of mint. Place in shaker cup. Put lime quarters on top of mint. Muddle. (Putting the limes on top of the mint helps prevent bruising the mint which causes it to be bitter.) Add simple syrup and rum. Shake. Strain into high ball glass filled with ice. Add club soda until filled. Garnish with other sprig of mint.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

  Sazerac recipe

1/4 oz. absinthe 

2 oz rye whiskey

1/4 oz. simple syrup

3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

lemon peel garnish

Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe. In a mixing cup, add ice, rye whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters.  Stir the ingredients until well chilled. Strain the drink into the glass. Add the Lemon peel for garnish.

Invented in the 1830s in New Orleans. Up until the 1870s, it was made with cognac and a few craft cocktail bars offer that alternative, but today it’s made with rye whiskey.

St. Louis Public Radio

  

More in this series from Michigan Radio and its Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners can be found at www.detroitjournalism.org

The news has been full of stories in recent years about police killing unarmed African-Americans. Those reports have been disturbing.

Zoe Powers

A couple of weeks ago, my stepdaughter was excited to show me an article in the local quarterly magazine, Homefront in Tecumseh. One of her classmates started her own business and it was featured.

Zoe Powers is 14 years old, and not only works at a catering business, but runs her own cakes and confection business with a memorable name.

"I kept trying to figure out what to call it, so I kept asking [my mom,]" Powers says.  "She decided to tell met to call it ‘Bite Me,’ just joking with me - and I decided it was a great idea!”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Oberon Sour

  • 2 oz Two James Grass Widow Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 bsp orange marmalade
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 oz Oberon
  • Garnish: orange wedge

Combine all ingredients except Oberon in shaker with ice. Shake, strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Add Oberon. Add Garnish.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

America struggles with race and those struggles are intensifying. As the white majority has been shrinking, racial tensions have been rising. You can see it in anti-immigration movements. It’s in the feeling among some white people that they’re being oppressed.

Meanwhile, a new generation of black protest organizations has been taking to the streets as black Americans feel a greater threat from white-dominated politics and police.

Race relations have changed since the civil rights movements of the 1960s and they seem to be changing again.

LBJ Presidential Library

News media around the world are talking about Detroit’s resurgence.

Politicians in the city and the state, such as Gov. Rick Snyder, hype its revitalization.

“New investments have helped fuel a rapid dramatic transformation of Detroit and today it’s America’s comeback city,” he said in a video.

But that’s only part of the story of Detroit.

In the city’s neighborhoods, many people are still struggling.

However, there was a plan released in the 1960s to help end racial discrimination in Detroit and the nation.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court recently blocked the Obama administration’s climate change rules. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would have required states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. It was based on the output of each state’s power usage.

It was a surprise move because lower courts had not yet come to a judgment on the rules.

The Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council, James Clift, indicates the effort to reduce the greenhouse emissions that cause climate change does not end with the court’s stay.

Recently I was led through an abandoned building in Detroit.

“The first time we came in here in 2013 it was still relatively intact. The power was off, but pretty much everything else was in decent shape. It wasn’t in great shape, but just a matter of months and this place was completely destroyed,” one of my guides told me.

So, who walked away from a perfectly good building, failed to secure it well enough to keep metal thieves out?

The Detroit Public School District.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Recipe for the Michigander:

 1 ounce apple brandy or applejack

1 ounce Cynar

3/4 ounce lemon juice

3/4 ounce honey syrup (2:1 mix)

1 twist of grapefruit peel for garnish

Shake with ice, strain, pour over rocks, garnish.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Now that Stateside is on Fridays, we thought we’d offer a toast to the weekend. Every once in a while Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings will tell us about a Michigan related drink.

The first is a classic cocktail called The Last Word. It was created at the Detroit Athletic Club during Prohibition.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A special report looking at the progress, struggles, and failures in Detroit during the city’s first year out of bankruptcy:

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Detroit approaches the one-year anniversary of emerging from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy, Michigan Radio is examining one of the lessons learned.

Courtesy: Michigan Department of Transportation

When the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Canada to the U.S. is complete, it’s expected that thousands of trucks a day will travel through the Detroit neighborhood of Delray. Residents there want the government to keep additional pollution to a minimum.

The entrance to Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The new bridge planned between Detroit and Canada will land on the U.S. side near one of Michigan's landmark jewels. Historic Fort Wayne dates back to the 1840s and played many roles in U.S. military history.

While Detroit residents are aware of the fort, many Michigan residents outside of the city say they don't know much about its history and have never visited. So here's a short video on the history of the fort and a look at what little that's known about its future.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

  

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. But the end of slavery in the United States wasn’t official until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in December of 1865. The end of slavery also meant the end of the Underground Railroad. Detroit was one of the last stops before freedom for thousands of former slaves. 

Bill McGraw / Bridge

by Bill McGraw

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is a disciplined speaker whose message rarely varies from the nitty-gritty ways he and his administration are repairing the wounded city they inherited: improving emergency response times, auctioning vacant homes, turning on streetlights, demolishing abandoned property, and trying to lower auto insurance rates.

Mike Wilkinson / Bridge Magazine

Detroit has a host of well-documented problems – poverty, crime, street lights, mass transit – that hamper its recovery.

But the ability to create jobs may be its biggest hurdle. More jobs could mean less poverty and more tax revenues to fix the many broken things.

“It’s absolutely critical that Detroit grow jobs,” said Teresa Lynch, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution and a principal at Mass Economics, which is helping the Detroit Future City’s group work on economic development strategies.

This story was updated to include a link to the 2015  Event Price Structure.

After two weeks and several requests via email, telephone, and in person, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has finally revealed information which should have been easily available to anyone.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

  

Alarms are going off. People are checking gauges, trying to determine what's wrong.

We’re in a large simulator of a nuclear reactor control room at the DTE Energy Fermi 2 power plant on Lake Erie near Monroe. Employees are being trained to deal with just about any foreseeable problem a nuclear power plant might face. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 

For many years Detroit residents and businesses didn’t see a lot of services from the city. After an emergency manager and bankruptcy, one of the first city officials some people saw was an inspector or police officer citing them for a building or business violation. Some business owners say it got ridiculous.

Last fall Arab-American gas station owners asked to meet with the Detroit Police Department about getting multiple citations for the same offenses. They complained that police officers would issue tickets for things such as an expired business license. The gas station owners would apply for the license and pay the fee. Before City Hall would issue the license, the police would stop by and issue another ticket.

World War II ended 70 years ago in September. Here are three stories from veterans who live in Michigan.

We'll start with a love story.

Bill Berkley, U.S. Navy, Pacific

Bill Berkley was just a kid without a care in Paducah, Kentucky until December 7, 1941.

“I was 14 years old, but I can remember that day just like it was yesterday. We had been playing football and I got home and mom was crying,” Berkley says, recalling when he first learned of the attack and the death of so many sailors.

Bridge Magazine

If Mike Duggan wants to remove a major barrier keeping people from moving to Detroit, he may have to deal with an even bigger barrier: Michigan’s guaranteed lifetime benefits for catastrophic auto accident injury.

Several bills wending through the Legislature's attempt to alter a popular state benefit: no-fault auto insurance. Among those proposals, the one sparking the most chatter doesn’t even address no-fault insurance for most of the state. Duggan’s plan, called “D-Insurance,” would create first-ever coverage caps that could drastically lower rates in Detroit.

Read the story here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

People in Detroit pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan believes that’s part of the reason people move out of the city. He’s put together a plan to provide cheaper auto insurance for city residents. Some critics think it would be a bad deal for Detroiters.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of the Highland Park schools organized a community forum which turned out to be a carnival of surrounding schools. They set up tables and handed out flyers, trying to entice Highland Park’s students. That’s  because the charter school operating the district is closing the high school.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit has one of the busiest fire departments in the nation. One problem in the city causes fires to be worse than they should be: broken fire hydrants. It’s a problem city hall doesn’t want to talk about.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It seems every new restaurant, bar, or national retail chain opening in Detroit generates excitement in the wake of the city’s bankruptcy. Most are owned or operated by white people.

But Detroit has many black-owned businesses that survived the worst of the city’s struggles. One of them has even become something of a landmark in the city.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of Detroit and Wayne County homeowners face tax foreclosures.  Some of those families still have time to save their homes, but they might be paying more in taxes than they should have had to pay.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan planned to have a lot more buses on the streets by this point. There’s been progress in some areas: more buses, better maintenance. But the bus system is still not reaching its goals.

A new art project that's made a stop in Michigan is trying to empower women and value girls by recognizing their potential. Girl Noticed has a message and is stating in ten-foot-tall terms.

Watching someone sketch is interesting. Watching someone sketch a mural on a wall is fascinating because of the scale. But, there’s a problem when you do a mural on an outdoor brick wall using charcoal and chalk. It’s going to weather away. It will eventually fade to nothing.

And the artist I'm watching says that’s part of the message.

“We go through our lives feeling invisible a lot of times, feeling unnoticed, or feeling like we’re noticed for the wrong reasons,” Lori Pratico said as she stepped down from the ladder.

She says she wants people to re-think what they notice about women before the chance fades away and they miss the best part of someone.

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