First Coast Connect

Weekdays 9:00 a.m.

Hosted by Melissa Ross, this one-hour call-in program features local newsmakers, civic and community leaders, arts, activities and more, along with spot news features and a weekly roundtable of local journalists.

Coming up on Wednesday's show:

  • The Latest in the Search for Missing Toddler Lonzie Barton
  • North Florida Land Trust
  • St. Vincent's Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program

Join the conversation:

Join the First Coast Connect Book Club

Subscribe to the First Coast Connect podcast on iTunes

First Coast Connect is sponsored in part by Baptist Health and North Florida TPO.

Education coverage is sponsored in part by the Chartrand Foundation.

Legal and political coverage is sponsored in part by Farah & Farah Law Firm.

Thousands of unprocessed rape kits become a campaign issue in the race for state attorney. We speak with State Attorney candidate Wes White. White is calling on Duval County leaders and lawmakers to find the money to process some 2,000 rape kits that have sat on the shelf for as long as 20 years.

In our First Coast Success segment, the Daily Record's Karen Mathis profiles Paisley Boney, one of the developers behind the St. Johns Town Center. 

We get a preview of Stage Aurora's production of "Annie Jr."

We discuss the week's news with our roundtable of local journalists: Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union columnist; Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor; A.G. Gancarski, Folio Weekly and Florida Politics columnist.

Topics include crime and public safety in Jacksonville, a state investigation into the company that operates red-light cameras around the First Coast, and more.

A recent Associated Press analysis found that Hillary Clinton has raised more money in Florida than any other 2016 presidential candidate, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Meanwhile, an ABC News poll of potential Republican voters showed Donald Trump with a double digit lead on other GOP candidates. We discuss the 2016 landscape with Matt Corrigan, UNF political science professor and author of "Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida."

The Downtown Investment Authority, or DIA, will hold the second in a series of public workshops on the future of the Jacksonville Landing Wednesday night. We speak with Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, about how the public can voice their opinion on new design concepts for the iconic downtown site.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presented his $1.14 billion city budget proposal to the City Council on Monday. His spending plan calls for more police officers and firefighters, as well as money for roads, bridges and libraries, among other things. We discuss the budget with regular contributor A.G. Gancarski of Folio Weekly and Florida Politics.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate whether a political bribery scandal at a company that sells red light cameras extends to the firm's contracts with five Florida cities, including Jacksonville.

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that the former CEO of RedFlex had pleaded guilty in a federal bribery investigation. Also, a Tribune investigation uncovered wrongdoing in a Chicago contract, with allegations involving bribes paid to a politically connected former city official.

RedFlex operates the cameras at intersections all around town and in other major Florida cities.

We discuss the issue with Mark Seiden attorney and professor with Florida Coastal School of Law, and Paul Henry, a retired Florida state trooper who has been lobbying against red light cameras in the state via the Liberty First Network.

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; Matthew Shaw, Folio Weekly editor; and WJCT analyst John Burr.

Topics include Mayor Lenny Curry's new budget proposal, Duval County Chief Judge Mark Mahon recinding his order prohibiting photography at the county courthouse, and more.

We get a preview of Players by the Sea's production of "Aida" from director Bradley Akers.

First Coast residents with connections to Iran are expressing optimism about this week’s announcement of a nuclear deal with the Persian state.  The agreement, which was years in the making, was struck to keep Iran from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years. It also imposes new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.  And the deal is seen as giving an economic boost to Iran, which stands to finally rid itself of internationally-imposed sanctions and receive more than $100 billion in assets frozen overseas.  Reaction to the deal has been mixed though, with many Republicans denouncing the agreement. We discussed the deal with Marilyn McAfee, retired Ambassador and career foreign service officer who spent more than four years in Iran.

Duval County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti joins us to discuss his agenda for education on the First Coast. Major changes such as new magnet schools, single gender education, trade schools and more are being considered to improve student achievement. Vitti says he is trying to create more quality educational choices to lure parents and students back from charter and private schools while also saving some under-enrolled, under-performing schools from closing their doors.

This week Jacksonville University and the local chapter of the United Nations Association are sponsoring an open forum on climate, from greenhouse gases to sea level rise, and more. Climate experts agree that the world's overall temperature is headed upwards, but this doesn't mean every place is getting steadily and predictably warmer. Climate change is making the weather more variable, causing hotter summers, colder winters in some places, and more severe storms. What can we glean from the latest research, and in particular how is climate change expected to affect Florida with its thousands of miles of coastline? We discuss what's known and what isn't known about climate change with Dr. Jeremy Stalker, Jacksonville University ocean geologist.

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered an independent analysis of the state's prison system and the development of two prisons to test new ways of handling and housing prisoners with mental health issues, as well as the general population. Scott is also directing the Department of Corrections to work with the departments of Children and Families and Juvenile Justice on how to improve mental health services. That’s a change mental health advocates say is badly needed here in the Sunshine State. We discuss the issue with Denise Marzullo, President and CEO of Mental Health America of Northeast Florida.

  We discuss the week's top news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union columnist; A.G. Gancarski, Folio Weekly and Florida Politics columnist; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; and Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor.

Topics include the Florida Supreme Court ordering the state legislature to redraw several congressional district maps -- including the one represented by Northeast Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown -- the Andrew Jackson statue in downtown being vandalized twice in the past week, and more.

Activists with the group Photography Is Not a Crime, or PINAC, have filed a federal lawsuit against Jacksonville Chief Judge Mark Mahon after he issued an administrative order banning photography and videotaping outside the Duval County Courthouse. The group calls the ban unconstitutional. Mahon issued an order on July 1 that in part banned demonstrations or dissemination of materials on the courthouse grounds that “degrade or call into question the integrity of the court or any of its judges.”  The order also banned people from videotaping “all security features” of the courthouse, includi

The state legislature adjourned for the year without expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for about 800 thousand low-income Floridians. But the debate is far from over.

Federal money for the Low Income Pool, assigned to hospitals that care for the poor, will decline by another $400 million next year, and state lawmakers again will be under pressure to help hospitals offset their losses. It will also be the final year the federal government will pay 100 percent of costs for any Medicaid expansion plan the state approves.

We discuss the issue with state Sentator Aaron Bean and Representative Mia Jones.

The statue of Andrew Jackson in Downtown Jacksonville has been vandalized twice in the past week. On June 30, a Native American mask was placed on the monument in reference to Jackson's signing of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Most recently, the statue was tagged with the phrases “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 D," a reference to D'Angelo Stallworth who was shot and killed by officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in May.

Several monuments across the South have been tagged with the words "Black Lives Matter" recently, primarily Confedarate statues. We speak with Ciara Taylor of the activist group the Dream Defenders, and Emily Lisska, Director of the Jacksonville Historical Society.