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First Coast Connect

11/2/2017: F.A.I.R.; St. Johns River Poll; High-Tech Lockers; Porchfest & Kerry Speckman

Bill Bortzfield

Thursday on First Coast Connect, we spoke with Ramon Day and Dr. Shyam Payani with Floridians Advocating for Insurance Reform, or FAIR. They want a Constitutional Amendment placed on the November 2020 ballot to implement a single-payer health system in Florida (01:08).       

We were told the results of a poll asking local residents their thoughts on the future of the St. Johns River with Dr. Quint White and Dr. Ray Oldakowski from Jacksonville University (29:22).

We heard about a move in the Duval County School District to get rid of traditional school lockers with district IT executive director Jim Culbert (36:56).  

Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council Executive Director Christina Parrish told us about this weekend’s Porchfest and Kerry Speckman previewed this month’s upcoming events (46:00).  

Floridians Advocating for Insurance Reform

Credit Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT
FAIR board chair Dr. Shyam Payani and CEO Ramon Day speak with Melissa Ross.

Floridians Advocating for Insurance Reform is a new group pushing for a single-payer system here in Florida. That goal may seem like a pipe dream in a state where the right-leaning state legislature and governor declined to even expand Medicaid coverage to low-income citizens. But the group says they have a plan and a target date for proposed legislation.

St. John River Poll

A new poll of people around the First Coast found only soft support for dredging the St. Johns River to accommodate bigger cargo ships coming through JAXPORT. Only 34 percent of residents polled said they support the dredging project. The news comes wrapped around a new city effort to create more awareness of issues affecting the river.

The survey is actually a comparison study between a survey of 171 residents in 2012 and 448 people in 2016. Both polls were conducted by phone and interviewers under the direction of Jacksonville University’s Social Science Research Center.

Fifty-one percent of respondents aware of the proposed dredging project were opposed, while 34 percent supported it. Only 25 percent of respondents in 2016 said they fished along the river, relatively unchanged from 2012.

The poll also found that the amount of respondents who believe the river is degraded and in need of a major cleanup went from 52 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016.

High-Tech Lockers

Students at Fletcher Middle School and Young Men’s and Young Women’s Academies don’t need traditional lockers anymore. So this year, the schools started getting rid of them. In their place, students use high-tech lockers designed to charge, upgrade and secure their laptops during off-hours  – a better fit for students who carry district-issued laptops instead of textbooks.

These high- tech lockers are another chapter in the tech evolution of Duval County Public Schools, which went from lagging to leading in IT under the dedicated direction of Culbert.

Porchfest and Kerry Speckman

Historic Springfield will be crammed with music fans and revelers this Saturday for Porchfest, the popular music festival featuring bands performing on the front porches of the neighborhood’s homes.

In total, 36 bands including Mama Blue, Universal Green, the Parker Urban Band, the Chris Thomas Band, Caint Never Could, Ellameno Beat, Broomestix and Kim Retequiz and the Black Cat Bones will perform on porches and in Klutho Park from noon until 9pm.

Kerry told us about several other events including the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair which runs through Nov. 12 at the Fairgrounds, the Festival d’vine, Friday at Treaty Oak Park, the NAS Jax Air Show this weekend and John Cleese appearing Saturday at the Florida Theatre with a viewing of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” followed by a question and answer period hosted by our own Melissa Ross.

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.