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.

Join the conversation:

Learn more about 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.

A Russian warplane was allegedly shot down near Turkey's border with Syria Tuesday morning. Syria has been embroiled for four and a half years in a brutal civil war that has killed hundreds thousands of people, and sent millions of others fleeing.

The incident at the border with Turkey comes as the nation continues its heated debate about the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

This week, Florida Coastal School of Law will host a panel discussion on the crisis and the legal issues around refugee resettlement. We speak with Ericka Curran, immigration attorney and Clinic Director with the school, and Florida Coastal law student Elizabeth Lazar. Her family, Assryian Christians from Iraq, fled persecution there decades ago. 

November 23 marks the third anniversary of the shooting of Jacksonville teen Jordan Davis. Davis was killed on Black Friday, 2012, after a gas station altercation with Michael Dunn over loud music.

Davis was an African-American teen. Dunn, who is white, is currently serving a life sentence in the killing. However, he controversially was tried twice for the murder, with a jury deadlocking on a first-degree murder charge the first time around.

HBO is marking the anniversary tonight as the cable channel debuts the new documentary "3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets," which details Davis' death and Dunn's trials.

Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, UNF race expert and  associate professor of sociology, joins us to discuss the impact these events had on the national conversation surrounding race and justice.

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

Topics include Mayor Lenny Curry and Gov. Rick Scott asking Congress to stop plans to accept Syrian refugees following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the first of several community conversations about whether Jacksonville should expand anti-discrimiation laws to cover LGBT citizens, and more.

What started as protests over offensive Halloween costumes and racial insensitivity at Yale and the University of Missouri has spread to colleges and universities nationwide with thousands of student-protesters across the country demanding an end to what they see as systematic racism on campus. That includes an incident in Jacksonville, where students last week found a noose on the UNF campus.

At the University of Missouri, a student’s hunger strike over racism, and an unprecedented football team boycott of future games, led to President Tim Wolfe’s resignation. Protesters have succeeded in ousting administrators at other campuses too.

We speak with Jacksonville resident Howard Taylor, a Mizzou graduate and former roommate of Michael Middleton, the newly named interim president of the University. The two of them were part of the group that formed the Legion of Black Collegians at the school and Taylor was the first African American member of the Student Union at Missouri.

  Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has joined Gov. Rick Scott and other governors around the country who’ve said they do not want refugees from Syria in their states. In a letter Tuesday, Curry asked Jacksonville’s congressional delegation to stop a plan to accept Syrian refugees.

Jacksonville has the fifth largest Syrian population in America, and one of the largest Arab-American populations overall.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have raised concerns about refugee resettlements from the region. The leaders of World Relief Jacksonville, which works to resettle refugees from all over the world, say those concerns are misplaced.

We speak with Michelle Clowe, Refugee Services Coordinator, Travis Trice, Church Mobilizer, and Katie Sullivan, Volunteer Coordinator with World Relief Jacksonville.

 A potentially historic U.N. summit on climate change later this month in Paris, expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders, will be scaled back due to security concerns following Friday's terror attacks that left 129 people dead across the French capital.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls reportedly told local radio Monday morning that the conference will be "reduced to the negotiation" between countries' representatives, adding that "a lot of concerts and festivities will be canceled."

We discuss what could be expected out of the conference with Josh Gellers, assistant professor at UNF and research fellow at The Earth System Governance Project, the largest network of social scientists working on governance and global environmental change issues.

  Police in France and Belgium launched dozens of anti-terrorism raids this morning as authorities search for the suspects in Friday's deadly attacks in Paris. Sunday, France responded to the attack it blames on the Islamic State with airstrikes on the group's Syrian stronghold in the city of Raqqa. We discuss the events in Paris with Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and Professor of Finance with the Coggin College of Business at the University of North Florida, and Dr. Christopher Roederer, Professor of Law and Director of International Programs with Florida Coastal School of Law.

Florida's Children First, a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness about issues related to the rights of at-risk children, especially those in foster care. FCF is holding a special event tonight to honor champions for children's rights. Executive Director Christine Spudeas joins us in studio with more. 

Norman Silent Film Studios is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but now it has a chance to become a National Landmark. The nomination will be presented next week in Washington. Norman Studios Spokeswoman Rita Reagan is here to explain how this all came about, and how the public can help. 

Locally, several organizations and groups such as Ability Housing, Changing Homelessness and the VA collaborate every day to help make veteran homelessness rare, brief and one-time. 

Shannon Nazworth of Ability Housing joins the show to discuss Housing First, an approach to eradicating homelessness by focusing on providing housing as soon as possible, then providing services. 

State Attorney Angela Corey recently won two high-profile endorsements as she seeks re-election from former Sheriff John Rutherford and Property Appraiser Jerry Holland. Corey’s fundraising also far outpaces her challenger in the race former Assistant State Attorney Wes White.

White has criticized Corey for her handling of several high-profile cases and for the way the 4th Judicial Circuit handles juvenile offenders, among other things. White was recently a guest on "First Coast Connect." 

This morning, State Attorney Corey joins us in studio to talk about her record and the campaign. 

On Nov. 18 and 19 Operation New Hope, the Ford Foundation and #Cut50 will host expert practitioners, government officials and thought leaders for a bipartisan summit on criminal justice reform and re-entry solutions for people leaving incarceration in Jacksonville. The summit will focus on re-entry solutions and on reducing recidivism through employment-based solutions. 

Kevin Gay, president and CEO of Operation New Hope, joined us to discuss the two-day summit being held at Hyatt Regency in downtown Jacksonville.


Duval County School Board members are thinking about sending a letter to Superintendent Nicolai Vitti.

Several Duval County School Board members are considering signing a letter to Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti chastising him for a “persistent lack of respect” when talking to them.

Mayor Lenny Curry has announced that he will hold a series of community conversations over the next several weeks around the issues of discrimination and human rights in Jacksonville.


We begin the hour by talking about the election going on in St. Johns County today to decide whether to approve a 10-year, half-cent sales take hike to benefit public schools. If voters approve the sales tax, the revenues would be used to build four new schools, and fix up or expand most schools across the county.


Federal inspectors say they’re investigating the ministry that’s running Eureka Garden, the Westside apartment community that has been plagued by high crime and deplorable living conditions.

Denise Hunt, a local activist, joins us today with her thoughts on the investigations – and what she calls Jacksonville’s “tale of two cities.”