Lester Graham | Michigan Radio
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Lester Graham

Reporter, The Environment Report

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and previously hosted Stateside on Fridays. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.

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 15 first place national awards for journalism excellence and scores more at the national, regional, and state levels.

Ways to Connect

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If you leave your home, take proper hygiene precautions.

“You cannot possibly interact with an environment, go out into the world and wipe and secure every single surface,” said Sue Anne Bell, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Nursing. She added, “do your due diligence in maintaining hygiene.”

Courtesy: Karen Kahn, Nosh Pit

When Governor Gretchen Whitmer restricted restaurants to pick-up or delivery only, a few places decided to temporarily close. But many are trying to be nimble and stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Kahn is a co-owner of a vegan restaurant in Hamtramck. She says she’s watching her fellow-restauranteurs working hard to keep going.

“I'm very proud of them because it's staying positive in this environment. I really feel that if I had to close my doors, I don't know what I would do. You know?”

prison bars
Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Eight staff members at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department tested positive for the new coronavirus. At least seven of those employees have been in contact with other employees and inmates at the county jail.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Pageant Atterberry says any inmate who shows symptoms of coronavirus infection is separated from the general population and sent to jail medical facilities. If needed, an inmate would be transported for treatment. So far, only one inmate has been examined and found not to be infected.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There's a bracing herbal, minty, chocolaty, funky, bitter Italian liqueur (an amaro) called Fernet Branca. It became wildly popular among people who work at bars. It's often used in cocktails, but if you're a bartender visiting another bar, your colleague might pour you a shot as a greeting, a bartender's handshake. During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, let's call it a "bartender's elbow bump."

Dave Nakayama / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A Michigan prisoner who was sent to the hospital earlier this month has tested positive for  COVID-19. The inmate was taken to a hospital on March 11th for medical care unrelated to the new coronavirus. 

The prisoner was at that hospital for almost a week. Then he was transferred to a second hospital.

“Where he was placed on a floor with members of the public who were suspected of having COVID-19,” said Chris Gautz, Public Information Officer with the Department of Corrections.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The unemployment rate is rising because people are losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are new jobs opening up.

Retailers Wal-Mart and Amazon are looking for temporary workers. Fast food delivery services are hiring. Some pharmacies and medical supply companies need workers. Big chain supermarkets need people to keep the shelves stocked. In some cases small businesses are hiring too.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Charities are working to find a way to restore ‘substance abuse training’ for inmates. Without the training, many inmates who would be eligible for parole will remain in prison.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state is helping restaurants, bars, and hotels that have been effectively closed down for the most part by the COVID-19 pandemic. That help ranges from deferred taxes, to loans, to the idea of buying back liquor.

Restaurants and bars buy liquor from the state. Getting ready for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, they really stocked up. Now, because they were ordered by the government to close to the public, that alcohol is just sitting on the shelf. The state is considering buying back the last 30 days of purchases.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The timeline is still not certain, but the U.S. and Canada soon will be closing the border to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Non-essential travel will be stopped, but who is “essential” is not yet clear.

The Canada Border Services Agency says exemptions on travel across the border are being given to healthy workers in the trade and transportation sector such as truck drivers and crews on planes and trains. Healthy people who have to cross the border to go to work, including healthcare providers and critical infrastructure workers will be exempt.

Courtesy: Ann Arbor Distilling Company

You might have a hard time finding hand sanitizer at any price these days because of concerns about the novel coronavirus. Store shelves are often empty. But one Michigan company is making it and giving it away.

With all the hoarding people are doing, it’s nice to hear about people trying to make things better. 

Ann Arbor Distilling Company decided it had the main ingredient you need to make hand sanitizer: alcohol.

Danielle Berridge is the distillery’s tasting room manager. She says they’re using the neutral spirit they use in their gin.

“It’s actually made from local corn. And then we’ve got some aloe gel in there and a little bit of veggie glycerin. And then we also add water to it to bring it down to, I believe, 70%,” she said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit city bus drivers refused to work and demanded changes because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Those issues have been resolved and the bus drivers will go back to work Wednesday. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan worked with union leaders most of the day to resolve the issues.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Supermarkets are still short on some items, but shoppers say it’s better than last Friday.

Meegan Holland is a spokesperson for the Michigan Retailers Association. She says people have been stuffing their cabinets, freezers, and linen closets full of supplies because they’re panicked. She expects the hoarding to taper off.

smart bus driving down a street in Detroit
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

A driver shortage means Detroit Department of Transportation buses are not running today.

"We are asking passengers to seek other forms of transportation while we work to address our drivers' concerns," a written advisory states.

Empty grocery store shelves
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Grocery stores in Michigan are working to keep shelves stocked during the coronavirus/COVID-19 event. Cleaning supplies as well as routine items such as toilet paper are in high demand.

Reports indicate sales are up dramatically at supermarkets. A spokesman for Busch’s Fresh Foods indicated sales had increased by two to three times.

Back of a school bus
Pixabay

The State of Michigan is using some of the settlement money from Volkswagen’s Clean Air Act violations to subsidize new school buses. Volkswagen installed a device to fool emissions tests to show its cars polluted less than they did. 

The state received a total of nearly $65 million and more than 20% (almost $9 million) is going to replace old diesel school buses. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan residents are sending more trash to the state’s landfills than they have since before the Great Recession.

Last year Michigan homes and businesses sent more than 43 million cubic yards of trash to the landfills.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates it will take years to regulate PFAS in drinking water, if it does at all. 

The USEPA has proposed to regulate two forms of the thousands of chemicals in the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances family. PFOA and PFOS were the most commonly used.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A proposed large solar farm is moving ahead for approval. The 24 megawatt solar installation could power the equivalent of five thousand households. 

“When you add in the hydro energy that we generate, as well as the methane that we capture from the landfill, this gets the city of an obvious municipal operations government footprint — our electrical use — to about zero. Hundred percent powered with clean, renewable energy,” said Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When you walk into Buffalo Traders Lounge in Grand Rapids, it’s the kind of space that just begs you to get comfortable, relax, and sip a drink.

“I have to say this is a gorgeous space, kind of mid-century modern decor. And I love it,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said as she looked around.

We were there to visit with the lead bartender, Tony Jones and to sample one of his craft cocktails.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmentalists, the Michigan Attorney General, and many others are keeping an eye on every step of the process of replacing Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge’s Line 5 is the pipeline that crosses the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan to transport oil and liquid natural gases to Canada.

But there’s another place where Line 5 is going under a body of water that’s part of the Great Lakes. Enbridge is replacing that pipeline under the St. Clair River just south of Lake Huron.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wildlife are being poisoned and much of the time people using the poisons are not even aware of the danger. One Michigan resident is on a crusade to make people understand what’s at risk when they use rat poison.

Ann Arbor State Representative Rebekah Warren
Oakland County Sheriff's Dept.

State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) is scheduled for a court hearing later this month on drunk driving charges. She was arraigned Thursday in the 52nd District Court.

Courtesy Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is giving two companies in Detroit until this Friday to come up with a new protections for the Detroit River. Two previous plans have been rejected as inadequate.

A dock collapsed along the Detroit River in November. EGLE instructed Revere Dock, LLC and Detroit Bulk Storage to submit an interim plan to keep further aggregate rock and soil from getting into the river.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You might know New Holland Brewing for its beer, but New Holland also is a distiller. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and I visited New Holland’s Grand Rapids brewpub called the Knickerbocker where the company also distills gin.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings and I visited the Grand Rapids distillers at Eastern Kille Distillery. If that name is not familiar to you, you might know it by its old name: Gray Skies.

Brandon Voorhees greeted us in the tasting room which has been described as “industrial chic.” We asked about the name change.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There is so much to catch your eye: Tiki statues, tiki mugs, tiki décor of every description, and more than a dash of 1960s living room kitsch. Max’s South Seas Hideaway is the newest tiki bar in Grand Rapids and the epitome of a “tiki palace” in Michigan.

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings sat down with co-owner Mark Sellers in a cozy little corner filled with tiki art and mid-century suburban furniture to talk to him about the two-story tiki bar and restaurant.

Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg)
Michigan House of Representatives

A law to recall politicians needs to be changed. That’s the assessment of a group trying to recall Representative Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg). He faces federal charges of soliciting bribes, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI.

The state changed the recall requirements in 2012. The period of time to collect signatures was cut from 90 days to 60 days. A recall campaign cannot begin until the elected official has served six months in office.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Yikes!

So what do you offer your guests to drink?

“You'll see a lot of guides of what wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner. And there's no right answer, right? Because the Thanksgiving table is so diverse, there's so many different food items on it, you're never going to have a perfect pairing. So cocktails can be a different way to go,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The woman was using her muddler like a weapon, smashing something to bits in her tin mixing cup.

“I had some frustrations to work out, Lester,” said Tammy Coxen with Tammy's Tastings.

It turns out she was pounding diced up beet pieces, making mush of them.

“How do you feel about beets,” she asked me.

She already knew the answer. I despise the taste of beets.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We know that burning fossil fuels releases a lot of greenhouse gases. But there are other human-caused sources that contribute to climate change. As Lester Graham with the Environment Report found, one of them is how farmers plant crops.

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