Lester Graham

Investigative Reporter

Lester Graham is with Michigan Watch, the investigative unit of Michigan Radio. 

He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report/Great Lakes Radio Consortium, 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 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. 

Graham 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

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Politics & Government
5:43 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Obama buttons, socks, and cozies: At the DNC souvenir stand

Buttons for sale at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan delegates are meeting and debating and planning at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

But the delegates are also buying stuff.

One of the things you find at these political conventions are souvenirs. 

I pulled Michelle Evans Pejokovich off the cash register for a moment to tell us what they're hawking.

"We have t-shirts, iPhone covers, car magnets, bracelets, bangles, cuff links, t-shirts, tote bags, runway for change," said Pejokovich.

Some of the other items for sale:

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Politics & Government
1:05 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Power company exec asks Democrats not to support 25 x 25

DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson asked Michigan delegates to the Democratic National Convention to oppose a state constitutional amendment increasing the use of renewable energy. The proposed so-called 25 by 25 amendment would mandate 25 percent of electricity come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or bio-fuels by the year 2025. It will appear on the ballot in November.

Anderson says he’s not opposed to increasing the use of renewable energy, but it should be done through the legislature, not by amending the constitution.

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Politics & Government
12:55 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Union leader urges Democrats to work to win

President of United Auto Workers Bob King spoke to Michigan delegates gathered for the Democratic National Convention.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Delegates here have heard from Dow Chemical Company, DTE, the AFL-CIO, various Democratic Party officials and Bob King. King is the President of the United Auto Workers and in Michigan, that carries weight.

He told them Michigan delegates that the platform approved by the Republicans at their convention calls for restricting labor’s right to bargain.

“The baby step in my mind is that they’d pass a national ‘Right to Work.’ They want to do much more than that. They want to take away the right from workers to bargain on conditions at work, their pensions, their healthcare.”

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Politics & Government
4:16 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Avoiding complacency among Democratic rank and file

Former Michigan Governor James Blanchard at the Democratic National Convention. He says Democrats must not take it for granted President Obama will be re-elected.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Leading Michigan Democrats are in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention.
They all say Michigan will go for Obama on election day.

This is a partisan crowd. So, of course, they're going to say the President will be re-elected. But these Democrats also know that recent polls show Mr. Obama and Republican nominee and native son Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in Michigan.

Former Governor James Blanchard says Democrats must work hard if they want their man back in the White House.

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Politics & Government
10:19 am
Tue September 4, 2012

Michigan Democrats say they're ready to compare last four years

U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) being interviewed by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham at the Democratic National Convention.

Michigan Democrats say they welcome the question of whether President Obama’s record leaves Americans better off than they were four years ago.

Democrats get down to the business of explaining their case to re-elect Barack Obama today. Michigan delegates say Republican Mitt Romney’s plan for economic recovery is no different than President George Bush’s.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says the contrast is that simple.

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Politics & Government
5:27 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

Democratic delegates optimistic to make Michigan a 'blue state'

Jack Schneider is among the Michigan delegates at the Democratic National Convention being held in Charlotte, NC this week.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Some Michigan delegates at the Democratic National Convention say the Republicans had their chance to bash President Obama. This week they believe they will hear why Barack Obama has earned a second term in the White House.

Smarting a bit after the criticism by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan at the Republican National Convention, some Democratic delegates are anticipating President Obama’s response. Michigan delegates to the Democratic National Convention had some not so nice things to say about the Republican team that wants to take the White House.

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Politics & Government
3:48 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

Access to vote for military

Democrats and Republicans have been asked to stop disenfranchising military voters.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

This election year, the right to vote and access to the ballot have been hot topics this election year in states across the nation. But one group of sometimes disenfranchised voters is getting attention.

Last week, an op-ed piece hit many newspapers across the nation, including the Tampa Bay area. It was written by Hans von Spakovsky. He was in the George W. Bush administration and is now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

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Politics & Government
10:49 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Democratic chair rallies Michigan delegates

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told delegates they must work to put Michigan in the "blue column" for Barack Obama.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Democratic party leaders are rallying the troops on the first full day of the Democratic National Convention.

Not all the Michigan delegates have arrived at the convention because of Labor Day events back home. But a few delegates gathered today to hear from their party’s leader, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Recent polls show President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney running neck and neck in Michigan. Wasserman Schultz told the Michigan delegates they have work ahead of them.

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Politics & Government
6:13 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Causes: In the streets and in Democratic convention

About 1,000 protestors took to the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina yesterday before the opening
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina to nominate Barack Obama for a second term as president. Others are in Charlotte trying to build political momentum for a cause.

Yesterday the streets of downtown Charlotte were filled with protestors.

(Sound of drums and chanting) "Education not deportation!"

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Investigative
3:44 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

The People Should Decide ballot petition challenged

Rendering of proposed New International Trade Crossing which might be blocked by a state constitutional amendment proposed by the Ambassador Bridge owners.

(Updated)

A newly created group is challenging a ballot petition that would require a vote on future international bridge and tunnel crossings.

The group Taxpayers Against Monopolies supports a New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, so it’s challenging a ballot petition filed by The People Should Decide which is supported by the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Moroun family.

The ballot petition would require a vote on all international crossings that use any taxpayer money.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Bridging the Border: Living with a new bridge (part 5)

The Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit hopes to benefit from the New International Trade Crossing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The fight between Governor Rick Snyder and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun about a new bridge connecting Detroit and Canada will be in the news for the foreseeable future. What’s often lost in the arguments is the people of the Detroit neighborhood where the new bridge will land.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Bridging the border: Who decides? (part 4)

The Ambassador Bridge company collected more than enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. It would require a voters approve any international crossing for motor vehicles that include state support.
Elaine Ezekiel Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is pushing for a new $2 billion bridge from Detroit to Canada. The owners of the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge are fighting to stop that new bridge. The latest move is to get a constitutional amendment calling for a vote of the people before building any new bridge to cross the border. That will give the company another avenue to delay or stop the new bridge from being built.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Bridging the border: Influence of money (part 3)

Ambassador Bridge from the Canadian side. The bridge owners have spent millions of dollars to influence the debate on whether a second bridge should be built by Canada and Michigan.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The arguments for and against building a new bridge to Canada at Detroit, for the most part, have been pretty one-sided. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are fighting it and spending tons of money in TV ads. 

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen one of the Ambassador Bridge-sponsored ads criticizing plans for a new bridge.

“Governor Snyder says, ‘Send Canada the bill.’ But, the Canadians have other ideas.”

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Bridging the border: Who pays? (part 2)

Ambassador Bridge from the U.S. side. The bridge owners say there's no need for a new Canada/Michigan public/private bridge because the Ambassador can build a twin span.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of confusion about how much a new bridge across the Canadian border at Detroit might cost taxpayers. TV ads say it will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year. The governor says it will cost Michigan nothing.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Bridging the border: Do we need a new bridge? (part 1)

Artist's rendering of the New International Trade Crossing.
http://buildthedricnow.com

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says we need a new bridge to Canada. It will mean more trade and more and better jobs. Not everyone agrees, especially the owners of the single bridge in Detroit which connects Michigan to Canada.

Eight thousand trucks a day cross the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

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Investigative
9:14 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Legal voters refused ballots

nopsa.hiit.fi

UPDATE:

Reports of voters being turned away because they declined to check a box asking them to verify U.S. citizenship have been coming in from several areas of the state.

Michigan Radio first became aware of the situation when talking to Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson who said he was refused a ballot because he would not check the box. He refused because it is not legally required.  Other media sources picked up on the story. (see Free Press)

Other political groups received calls from voters complaining they had been refused the right to vote after declining to check the citizenship box.

Chad Livengood with the Detroit News reported:

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Grading Michigan Schools
11:12 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Shop Rat Nation

Nov. 9, 2007
Lester Graham
The school system in this country in general has been going away from the vo-tech and shop classes. But one program provides an opportunity for college prep students to get some shop experience.

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Investigative
5:15 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Detroit Windsor Tunnel closing bad; bridge closing much worse

Ambassador Bridge closure would affect Michigan's economy.
user Mikerussell from Wikimedia Commons

Updated

A reported bomb threat closed the Detroit Windsor Tunnel today for several hours. Almost all of the tunnel’s traffic is passenger cars. Traffic was diverted to the only other alternative to cross the border, the Ambassador Bridge. Congestion slowed traffic.

It was certainly an inconvenience for travelers, but the economic impact of the tunnel closure was minimal.

However, if the Ambassador Bridge were closed for hours or days for any reason, it would be a much different story.

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Investigative
9:53 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Bridge: Some welfare recipients get reprieve; others struggle with welfare restructuring

Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge in a year-long collaboration, following families who were cut from welfare cash assistance by a Department of Human Services decision late last year. 

Some Michigan welfare recipients get reprieve

By Ron French/Bridge Magazine

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Money talks: Often, it's negative.

"Obamaville," and anti-Obama ad by the now defunct Santorum campaign made some viewers laugh. That probably was not the intended reaction.

This election year has seen a huge increase in the amount of money being spent on political campaigns compared to previous years. A lot of that money is being spent on negative political ads on TV.

As Michigan’s primary election gets closer, and the general election is only four months away, we’re going to see more and more political TV ads. And the bulk of those ads are going to be negative ads.

“I hear the negativity all the time. I’m tired of it. Tell me what it is you want to do not what you think the other guy is going to do," said Troy Hemphill.

“I don’t like to listen to that. I want some positive information," Kiirsten Olson insisted.

“Even when you think, ‘I’m not going to listen to negative ads, I’m not going to listen to negative ads,’ and then one creeps inside your brain. And then it sticks,” Shannon Rubago bemoaned.

Those are pretty typical responses of a couple of groups of people we talked to. We showed them a series of negative ads to see what their reactions would be.

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