Melissa Ross

Talk Show Host/Producer

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting. 

In addition to hosting First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, she also co-hosts the weekly Florida Roundup, which airs Fridays on NPR stations across the state.

Her many accolades include a fellowship with the Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop, where she learned hands on about the science of climate change. 

As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the documentary category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital.

WJCT’s First Coast Connect With Melissa Ross has received multiple national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. for best call-in program.

Prior to joining WJCT, Melissa spent three years in the corporate communications field at Jacksonville’s Dalton Agency. During her stint at Dalton, she was cast in the HBO film "Recount" playing — what else? — a reporter!

Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Communications.

Ways to Connect

Frank Murry via St. Augustine Government

A St. Augustine nonprofit is educating the public on the city’s role in the civil rights movement during the 1960s.

The Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations, or ACCORD, has worked for years to preserve St. Augustine’s history surrounding civil rights.

News4Jax

Downtown Jacksonville’s Andrew Jackson statue was vandalized twice last week.

As First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross reports, the statue is the latest of several monuments across the South to be tagged with the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Someone tagged the base of the statue Sunday with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 D” before it was scrubbed off.

Earlier in the week someone also put a fake Native American head on the statue.

Jeb Bush officially launched his presidential campaign in Florida this week becoming the eleventh major candidate seeking the Republican nomination.

During an appearance on WJCT's “First Coast Connect,” Matt Corrigan, professor of politics at the University of North Florida, gave his thoughts on Bush’s candidacy.

Corrigan wrote about Bush in his book, “Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida.”

Corrigan says Bush’s campaign is going to be a fascinating test in two ways.

Excel23 / Wikimedia Commons

Jacksonville residents will have the opportunity to make their recommendations to the city Tuesday night concerning the redevelopment of a downtown icon.

The city’s Downtown Investment Authority is asking for ideas on the redesign of the Jacksonville Landing during a public forum.

The Downtown Investment Authority hired a team of urban design experts to share plans for the Landing’s redesign.

rutherford in sheriff uniform
City of Jacksonville

Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford has been a vocal critic of Mayor Alvin Brown and a supporter of his hand-picked successor Mike Williams in the Jacksonville mayor and sheriff's races.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

Public safety has emerged as a major issue in Jacksonville’s super close mayor’s race, with incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown defending his approach to this core function of government, while challenger Lenny Curry has hammered Brown’s administration on the issue of violent crime. A recent school bus shooting incident reinforced the narrative.

In particular, the Curry campaign has pounded the messaging that Brown “cut 147 police officers” from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

State Department

As the U.S. and Cuba edge closer to an agreement to restore full diplomatic ties, a retired State Department official who served as the senior diplomat in Cuba says Florida is well-positioned to take advantage of the historic changes.

Murphy Stidham / WJCT News

With one week to go till Election Day, endorsements are flying in the Jacksonville mayoral race between Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry.

Former Mayor John Delaney is throwing his support behind Curry.

Delaney, now president of UNF, says he’s stepping off the sidelines in the mayor’s race to endorse Curry over incumbent mayor Alvin Brown believing City Hall needs a fresh take.

In particular he cites the city’s finances as the reason for his endorsement of his fellow Republican.

Mark Foley / Florida House of Representatives

Lawmakers walked out of Tallahassee three days early — but now they’re coming back.

The state House and Senate will go into a special session on June 1 to try to pass a budget and come to terms on health care funding.

After abruptly adjourning three days early, the Florida House and Senate have tentatively agreed to a special session from June 1 to June 20 to hash out lingering budget issues.

The House and Senate were at odds over whether to expand Medicaid in the state to cover low-income patients.

STEM2 Forum

There’s a new initiative in Jacksonville focused on science, technology, engineering, math and medical programs.

The new STEM2 Hub, and an upcoming STEM2 Forum, are designed to help more students succeed.

Over the past decade, jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have grown at a rate three times faster than non-STEM jobs.

Momentum will continue over the next decade as STEM jobs will grow at a staggering rate of 17 percent.

www.wayman.org

A coalition of clergy groups in Jacksonville is sounding the alarm about violent crime on the city’s streets.

This as the city of Baltimore is cleaning up after riots that erupted after an African-American man died in police custody, his spine nearly severed.

Faith leaders worry the same type of unrest is just under the surface here in our area.

However Pastor Mark Griffin of the city’s A.M.E. Ministers Alliance says he disagrees with calls to institute a 9 p.m. curfew in Jacksonville’s high-crime neighborhoods.

  The founders of One Spark look to the next phase of the crowdfunding festival. The third annual crowdfunding festival is undergoing an independent audit to determine its impact. Co-Founder Elton Rivas joins us with more.

Then later, Going Green looks at sustainable fisheries.

Understanding the importance of fisheries conservation, responsible and sustainable commercial fishing practices, sourcing local seafood and traceability that ensures seafood either purchased by restaurateurs, or sold to consumers, is the real deal.

The Supreme Court assumes the bench today to hear historic oral arguments on same-sex marriage.

As this dramatic hearing plays out in Washington, the LGBT equality movement has come to Jacksonville in a big way, as activists push for a comprehensive human rights ordinance.

At the same time, that T in the LGBT acronym, transgender, is getting renewed awareness and understanding after Bruce Jenner’s landmark interview on his transition with ABC’s Diane Sawyer. 

This morning, we’re discussing it all as we welcome Dan Merkan, chair of the Jax Coalition for Equality.

The All-Nite Images / Flickr

Nationwide, Democrats have made raising the minimum wage a rallying cry.

Recently, the minimum wage debate has become an issue in the city's mayor's race.

Last week Mayor Alvin Brown joined a local restaurant owner to say he supports an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Brown said he'll work with state lawmakers to get an increase to the state's minimum wage which is $8.05 an hour.

Bills to raise the wage have gone nowhere in Tallahassee so far.

Flikr / Creative Commons

Democratic Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown joined the owner of an Avondale restaurant Friday to voice support for increasing the minimum wage.

Ian Chase owns Fox Restaurant. Chase and Brown told reporters they support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, saying it would lead to thousands of new jobs in Florida.

Agnes Lopez

He’s a playwright, poet and nationally renowned public radio host. And Jacksonville’s own Al Letson is also a Peabody Award winner.

Letson’s acclaimed program "State of the Re:Union" won a George Foster Peabody award for its 2014 season.

It is the highest accolade offered in the broadcasting business. Letson joins such luminaries as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Katie Couric and Julia Child at the very pinnacle of the industry.

Sadly, SOTRU is sunsetting due to challenges involved with fundraising.

Holger Motzkau / Wikimedia Commons

St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration this fall may include a visit from Felipe IV and Letizia, the King and Queen of Spain. Not only that, the organizers are seeking a papal designation for the event.

http://www.unf.edu/universitycenter/

Free speech is the linchpin of a free society and one of America’s most deeply held values. That's the premise behind a special event on the UNF campus.

The panel discussion will look at the origins and function of the First Amendment, guaranteeing Americans the right to free speech and free expression.

"These issues are timely," said David Schwam-Baird, professor of political science at UNF. Schwam-Baird and Earl Coggins, president of the First Coast Free Thought Society, appeared on First Coast Connect.

Mayor Alvin Brown / Facebook

A bipartisan gathering of female supporters endorsed incumbent Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown for re-election Thursday.

The group included former WNBA President and Generation W founder Donna Orender and Brown's former Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling.

Brown thanked the women for their support.

One Spark / Facebook

This week marks the third year in a row thousands of people are coming to downtown Jacksonville for the city’s One Spark festival.

The massive crowdfunding event is keeping the city in the spotlight beyond the First Coast.

Jacksonville’s third annual One Spark crowdfunding festival is more than just a hub for innovators seeking money for their projects.

It’s also a major branding opportunity for the city.

WJCT analyst John Burr says the festival founders need to capitalize on the event’s success and keep thinking big.

The Wave

Jacksonville University celebrates its "Charter Day" every April 16, the anniversary of its founding some 80 years ago.

This year, the school is looking outside its campus boundaries with a unique day of service for its surrounding community, Arlington.

President Tim Cost says the "Charter Day of Service" will focus on a range of community development initiatives across Arlington.

Patrick Donges / WJCT

He drew 17 percent of the vote in Jacksonville's First Election.

After coming in third, outgoing City Councilman Bill Bishop says he learned a lot — lessons he'll put to use in another campaign for mayor in 2019.

"There's a world of difference between running for City Council and running for mayor. And you don't really get that until you're in it," Bishop said during an appearance on 'First Coast Connect.' "We should have started much earlier in terms of building financial and infrastructure support. We won't make that mistake next time."

www.mikewilliamsforsheriff.com

Calling himself the most experienced candidate in the race, Republican Mike Williams says the JSO "needs to do more" to reach out to communities in Jacksonville who don't trust or cooperate with the police.

Ken Jefferson for Sheriff

Taking a veiled swipe at the current Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer leadership, Ken Jefferson says that if he's elected sheriff he won't "govern from behind the desk."

"I want to re-introduce the Police Department back to the community," said Jefferson, the Democratic candidate in the race to replace outgoing Sheriff John Rutherford.  

"What I'm finding out from my walks and talks all over the city is that people basically see 'drive-by cops.' There's no interaction."

www.weswhite.com

The man hoping to unseat Jacksonville-based State Attorney Angela Corey says he's doing it to restore public confidence in the leadership of Florida's Fourth Circuit.

"Prosecutors have to work in the court of public opinion as well as the courtroom," says challenger Wes White.

Cultural Fusion

Several Jacksonville organizations are celebrating the St. Johns River through art.

The "Year of the River" is an ongoing initiative, and many arts and culture groups — including WJCT — are taking part.

Cultural Fusion is celebrating the St. Johns River all throughout 2015 as the "cultural current of our city" with an entire year of programming by more than 50 cultural and environmental institutions.

In an interview on "First Coast Connect," Hope McMath, director of the Cummer Museum, discussed some of the museums contributions to the project.

FSCJ / Facebook

He was a college football star at the University of Nebraska.

Then Jason Peter went on to become an NFL first-round draft pick, playing defensive end for the Carolina Panthers for four seasons.

Peter was also an addict, though, and it all started with painkillers to treat injuries he suffered on the field.

"I remember the first time I was given some pills, maybe four or six of them," he said on First Coast Connect. "And I liked the way they made me feel."

Mayor Alvin Brown / Facebook

Facing strong challenges in the March 24 unitary election this week, incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown says he's confident— and that he's fulfilled the campaign promises from four years ago that made him a come-from-behind winner in Jacksonville's 2011 mayoral race.

"I made a promise that I would streamline government, that we would live within our means, put Jacksonville back to work, and close the education gap," said Brown, appearing on First Coast Connect.

"I think the key is keeping your promise."

Early voting is underway in Duval County for the Mar. 24 citywide unitary election, and although voters are concerned about issues affecting Jacksonville, many voters are still unfamiliar with the candidates running for office.

A new poll from UNF’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory shows that crime tops the list of concerns among likely voters in Duval County.

Following that voters care about education and the local economy.

The poll also shows strong voter support for expanding Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance.

The Children's Campaign

Some Jacksonville advocates want to help teens avoid a lifetime label. That’s why they’re supporting Florida legislation that would keep juvenile arrest records confidential.

Even if a teen is exonerated after an arrest, just being arrested can often label a kid as “trouble" for the rest of their lives.

Since many employment and college applications require disclosing an arrest, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for a juvenile with an arrest record to find and keep a job, enroll in college, obtain scholarships, enlist in the military, get housing and more.

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