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 Tuesday's show:

  • New Survey Finds Increasing Acceptance of LGBT Communities
  • Cat Rescue Sanctuary
  • Flying Lessons for Kids

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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.

LGBT Acceptance Survey

A new survey from the national LGBT rights advocacy group GLAAD finds growing acceptance for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community across the country, even in the traditionally more conservative southern states.

However, other indicators in the "Accelerating Acceptance" survey show that complacency may be setting in for some LGBT allies.

We discuss the survey, media representation of LGBT citizens, and local efforts for LGBT rights with Dan Merkan, chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, and Ross Murray, director of U.S. south and global programs for GLAAD.

Chasing the Dream

The deplorable conditions at the local low-income housing project Eureka Gardens captured national headlines when it came to light residents were living with dangerous mold, leaky gas pipes, and dilapidated stairs. But those conditions aren’t unique to that complex. 

Many local, low-income residents deal with these conditions every day.

For poor people in Jacksonville, finding housing that’s both affordable and livable can be hard to come by. Finding shelter often means settling for dangerously run-down apartments and dealing with the constant threat of eviction.

WJCT’s "Chasing the Dream" series, launching this week on 89.9 FM, examines what housing is available when you’re poor and what’s being done to help against a public housing system that’s underfunded nationwide.

We discuss the issue with WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo, and attorneys Katherine Hanson and Jeff Haynie of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Media Roundtable

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Tessa Duvall, Florida Times-Union reporter; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly editor; and Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor.

Topics include the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, Marco Rubio's announcement that he will run for reelection in the Senate, and more.

Paula Bartlett

Paula Bartlett, Democratic candidate for Duval County Clerk of Courts, joins us to discuss her decision to challenge incumbent Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell.

After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year, Fussell ended all courthouse weddings. Bartlett says that one of her top priorities is to reinstate those marriage ceremonies.

Same-Sex Marriage

This weekend is the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

A new Avvo survey finds increasing support for marriage equality, with 48 percent of Americans now believing same-sex marriage should be legal. That's compared to 43 percent last year.

Jacksonville's Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church is marking Marriage Equality Day with a day of free marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

We speak with Rev. Patricia Ray of Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church.

Gun Control

Monday night, the U.S. Senate rejected four measures to enact tighter control on firearms in the United States.

The amendments were proposed following the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando last week.

Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties introduced measures they said would have strengthened background checks and prevented suspected terrorists from obtaining weapons.

We discuss last night's vote with Josh Gellers, assistant professor of political science at the University of North Florida.

Nikolai Vitti

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti joins us to discuss the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville schools, including the ongoing debates over transgender bathrooms, school boundaries, and more.

Media Roundtable

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Paula Horvath, Florida Times-Union columnist; and A.G. Gancarski, Florida Politics writer.

They join us to examine the latest updates from Orlando in the aftermath of the mass shooting Sunday at the Pulse gay nightclub.

LGBT Latino Community

More than 90 percent of the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando were Latino.

Florida has the third-largest Hispanic population in the country, so the attack has sent ripples throughout Latino communities all around the state.

According to a 2013 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 1.4 million Latinos in the United States identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Many of those residents face those challenges up in a culture rooted in machismo, religion and rigid gender norms. As adults, LGBT Latinos can sometimes feel isolated from their families, and from the larger LGBT community as well.

We examine the impact the tragedy is having on the LGBT Latino community with Cindy Watson, executive director of JASMYN, Manny Andrade, Latino outreach coordinator with the Northeast Florida AIDS Network, and Mario DeCuto, who serves on the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

Tommy Hazouri

Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri says he will introduce new legislation to update the city's human rights ordinance to provide legal protection for LGBT residents.

Hazouri withdrew a similar bill earlier this year because there were not enough votes on the Council to pass the measure.

Now though, as the world mourns the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Hazouri says the HRO has fresh urgency in Jacksonville.

Tommy Hazouri joins us to discuss the issue.

National Parks

In 2011, Florida Times-Union columnist Mark Woods won the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship, a $75,000 award given each year to one American writer.

Woods won the prize with his unique proposal to spend one year in the national parks, which celebrate their centennial this year.

Throughout 2012, he visited one park a month, starting with a sunrise in Acadia National Park in Maine, and ending with a sunset in Haleakala National Park in Hawaii.

Woods shares his experiences in his new book, "Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks."

The book not only explores the parks, but also family, the legacies we inherit, and the ones we leave behind.

Mark Woods joins us to discuss the book and the future of the National Park Service.

Orlando Shooting

Investigators continue their efforts to piece together what led to a shooting rampage Sunday at an Orlando gay nightclub.

The mass shooting is the worst in modern American history, with at least 50 people killed and at least 53 injured.

Twenty-nine-year-old Omar Mateen was killed by police at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning after opening fire on clubgoers inside

WMFE reporter Brendan Byrne joins us with the latest from Orlando.

We then hear local reaction from Jimmy Midyette, attorney and member of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, Dr. Parvez Ahmed, UNF professor and member of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, and Eric Friday, attorney and 2nd Amendment advocate.

Media Roundtable

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

Topics include the Florida Ethics Commission into Public Defender Matt Shirk, the state attorney's race, and more.

Allie George

Vernell Bing, Jr. Shooting

The police shooting death of Vernell Bing Jr. continues to provoke outrage across many neighborhoods in Jacksonville.

The incident has sparked longstanding tensions, at a time when Sheriff Mike Williams says he wants to focus his agency on improving relations in the neighborhoods most angry with his police force.

The 22-year-old Bing, who was unarmed, died on May 22 after crashing a stolen Chevrolet Camaro head-on into a braking patrol car at 53 miles an hour, ending a high-speed chase at a Springfield street corner.

The officer involved, Tyler Landreville, fired five times at Bing after he refused to comply with Landreville’s commands.

Protests and pressure have been constant since Bing’s death, with local organizations calling for an independent review of the incident and a Justice Department investigation.

Ben Frazier is with the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the groups calling for more transparency in the case.

He joins us with his thoughts.

Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Florida is seen as the state most vulnerable to flooding from the impacts of sea level rise attributed to climate change.

Since 2004, retired UNF professor Allen Tilley has run a listserve that curates reports about climate change and the impacts of rising oceans.

And he says, particularly here in North Florida, government leaders aren’t doing enough long-term planning to prepare.

Allen Tilley joins us with his thoughts.