First Coast Connect

Weekdays 9 a.m.

Hosted by Melissa Ross, First Coast Connect is an hour-long call-in program that features local newsmakers, civic and community leaders, artists and people planning a variety of events across Northeast Florida, along with a weekly roundtable of local journalists.

Coming up on Monday's show:


  • KIPP School Executive Director Tom Madjanics and Times-Union reporter David Bauerlein talk about the pension funding amendment.

  • Mudville Grille concert promoter Ray Lewis on concert to benefit Pet Rescue North.    

  • First Coast Success with EWC President Nat Glover

  • “Jake for Mayor” book event with author Lou Aguilar.

  • Cole Pepper

Join the conversation:

  • Call: (904) 549-2937 (Note: This line is only active during the program, 9:00-10:00 a.m.)

  • Tweet: @MelissainJax

  • Email:

  • Comment on Facebook at First Coast Connect


Learn more about the First Coast Connect Book Club

Subscribe to the First Coast Connect podcast on iTunes

Watch segments from First Coast Connect at our partner

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.


Our Friday Media Roundtable  featured discussion about the Harvard study that sharply criticizes Duval County for the number of convicts it sends to death row, they also looked at the latest University of North Florida poll. The SHARE and SEED Academy is performing “The Wiz” on Saturday and we heard about the “Sing Out Loud Festival” kicking off Friday night in St. Augustine.

Assistant state attorneys Bernie de la Rionda and Mark Caliel defended their department Thursday against accusations they send too many convicts to death row.

Melissa Ross also spoke to Jacksonville attorney April Greer about the use of the Hague Convention in local courts and we heard from Christopher Heacox, the director of Opening Nights Performing Arts at Florida State University about an upcoming performance by the 5 Browns.

Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT News

Former Jacksonville City Council presidents Bill Bishop and Stephen Joost joined host Melissa Ross to discuss why they oppose Mayor Lenny Curry’s pension proposal. We also heard from tutor Michelle Kaiser about the importance of communication between a student’s parents and their teachers, and local charity Dignity U Wear has launched a new challenge to help clothe school children living in poverty.    

Kevin Meerschaert

Florida Politics and Folio Weekly writer A.G. Gancarski talked with Melissa Ross Tuesday about next week’s primary election. Tobacco Free Florida has a new program to help people quit smoking, WJCT-TV is helping teens become successful adults and it’s time for “Wine, Women and Shoes” to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. 


St. Johns County Commissioner and Florida 4th District Congressional candidate Bill McClure appeared Monday with Melissa Ross on First Coast Connect ahead of next week’s primary election.  

We also spoke with transgender Jacksonville resident Denise Iondoli who is the subject of the latest video produced by local advocacy group “We Are Straight Allies.”

Our Friday Media Roundtable discusses this week’s political debates, there’s an upcoming fundraiser for Nemours Children’s Hospital and comedian Pablo Francisco stops by First Coast Connect. 

Kevin Meerschaert

Hans Tanzler III appeared on First Coast Connect on Thursday to talk with Melissa Ross about the Florida 4th District Congressional race.

WJCT’s own Cat Davis talked about her new social media campaign to celebrate poetry and public personalities.  

Thursday on First Coast Connect, host Melissa Ross spoke with a prominent Republican working on the independent presidential campaign of Evan  McMullin. Local attorney Wayne Hogan  talked about a new law aimed at protecting Florida rental car users and we heard about an upcoming blues concert highlighting female performers. 

8/17/16: John Rutherford; Amendment 4; UF Accreditiation

Aug 17, 2016
Kevin Meerschaert

Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, a candidate in Florida's District 4 congressional race, appeared on First Coast Connect on Tuesday. 

Also on the program, Steve Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, talked about solar energy Amendment 4, which is on the Aug. 30 ballot. We also heard about a prestigious honor awarded to University of Florida Health Jacksonville.

Louisiana State Office of the Fire Marshal

Tuesday on First Coast Connect, we discuss: Could recent severe weather be a sign of things to come? We also talk about how you can help the blind read printed books and a new art exhibit at the University of North Florida shows off fans' love for the band U2 in a unique way.   


Kevin Meerschaert

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both presented their economic plans last week, outlining very different ideas for what they'd do to grow jobs if they get elected.

On Monday's First Coast Connect, we talked with two University of North Florida economists about how Trump and Clinton's policies will affect the First Coast.

Beaches Residents React to Pension Proposal

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says "we're all in this together" regarding the city's pension obligations, but some residents of the Beaches are skeptical.

Curry has been traveling around Duval County drumming up support for his proposed solution to Jacksonville’s massive unfunded pension liability.

But he’s facing a tough sell in Jacksonville, Atlantic and Neptune Beaches, where some residents are pushing back against the idea of extending a half-cent sales tax.

Childhood Obesity

It’s a new way to fight a serious public health problem in this country and on the First Coast: childhood obesity.

About 13 million kids and adults in this country are considered obese.

In Florida, there’s been a decrease in obesity among preschoolers.

But as kids prepare to head back to school this month many of them are, ironically, overweight but at the same time not getting access to enough healthy food like fresh produce.

Hemming Park

Friends of Hemming Park, the organization in charge of running downtown Jacksonville's central park, recently stopped live music in during the park's weekday lunch hours due to budget constraints and feedback from City Council that city dollars should not be spent on programming or events. 

That announcement came on the heels of city government  concerns over a recent audit and a general reduction of funding for the group.

Media Roundtable

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: 

  • Andrew Pantazi, Florida Times-Union reporter; 
  • Julie Delegal, Folio Weekly writer;
  • Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor;
  • and Jacksonville blogger Fred Matthews.

Topics include Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign stop in Jacksonville this week, confirmed cases of the Zika virus being transmitted through mosquito bites in Florida, and more.