First Coast Connect With Melissa Ross

Weekdays 9 a.m. Rebroadcast 8 p.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.

  • Join The Conversation: (904) 549-2937 (Note: This line is only active during the program, 9 -10 a.m.) 
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First Coast Connect is sponsored in part by Baptist Health and North Florida TPO.

WJCT Sport Analyst Cole Pepper's sports wrap is sponsored by the Black Sheep Restaurant Group, which includes BellwetherRestaurant Orsay and Black Sheep.

The twice-a-month Going Green segment is sponsored in part by A1A Solar and the monthly First Coast Success segment is sponsored in part by Iberiabank.

The monthly First Coast Connect Book Club is sponsored in part by San Marco Books and More.

Working parents know the drill. Every spring it's a scramble to find quality, affordable summer camps for their kids. The best camps fill up quickly, cost a lot, and it can be a logistical nightmare to try to schedule your kids in several different camps that fit their interests over the long summer break.

Will Dickey / The Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville's inaugural One Spark Festival is set spark up downtown next week, and no one's happier about it than financial backer Peter Rummell.

The former CEO of the city's St. Joe Company says he's hopeful One Spark will become synonymous with the First Coast.

"You think of the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, or SXSW in Austin, Texas," says Rummell. "This event has that same potential."

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Decades before a certain span in Alaska won the dubious honor, a bridge project in Jacksonville was  tagged a "bridge to nowhere."

The Mathews Bridge, which opened to traffic in the spring of 1953, was initially derided by skeptics, who said no one would use it.

Before the bridge was built, the Arlington neighborhood was accessible to many only by ferry.

Jay Solomon's "With All Due Respect" commentaries can be heard occasionally on First Coast Connect.

One summer evening when I was less than 10, I was sitting under a very tall tree near my home. It was twilight. 

I happened to look up and there was an object in the sky: ball-shaped, rotating, shimmering, and heading right at me.  It seemed to be growing, moving faster; the shimmer becoming a pattern of light around and around.  It was scary.   

This year’s City of Jacksonville Veterans Summit will focus on the growing problem of veterans’ suicides.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study, an American veteran commits suicide once every 65 minutes in this country - about 22 per day.

Here on the First Coast, about 25% of the population is either active or retired military, so this is a serious public health and policy issue.

File photo

It could be the financial windfall that keeps the St. Johns River Ferry running.

State Senator Aaron Bean and State Representative Janet Adkins have requested up to $1.5 million be set aside in the state’s 2014 budget to keep the ferry afloat.

The funds would be used for repairs and maintenance while the boats are in dry dock.

Hens in Jax

Advocates of urban agriculture in Jacksonville are pressing the City Council not to chicken out (author's note: I had to do it) and to legalize domestic hens in residential areas.

A group called Hens in Jax is leading the charge.

Jeffery Spear/In Good Taste Press

This week marks the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon's arrival in Florida. On April 2nd, 1513, the land we know today was claimed as a Spanish territory - they named it La Florida, or "the land of flowers."

It's no coincidence, then, that author and food marketing expert Jeff Spear chose April 2nd to release his new book about the culinary history of northeast Florida, The First Coast Heritage Cookbook

April is the "awareness month" for a lot of things. Autism, jazz appreciation, even Confederate history (only in the Southern states, of course.)

But April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S., and since it's estimated 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, awareness is key.

We highlighted the topic on First Coast Connect by speaking with UNF criminology professor and author Dr. Jennifer Wesely. 

AroundMe / aroundmeapp.com

Are you doing some traveling this Spring? You may want to make sure you have your smart phone handy.

As Jax Computer Chic Elizabeth Pampalone told us in this week's Tech Tuesday segment on First Coast Connect, there are many new apps that can help to make your trip easier. If you're feeling adventurous, there are also some that help you explore new areas.

State lawmakers in Tallahassee are fast-tracking through the Legislature a proposal that would essentially eliminate permanent alimony in Florida, and also, presume most child custody arrangements begin with a 50-50 timesharing arrangement.

Senate Bill 718 does set guidelines for alimony based on the length of marriages. But permanent alimony would be virtually done away with, and instead would only last for a certain period of time, which would vary based on the circumstances of the divorce.

Norma Lopez Molina/Orlando Magazine

Well-known personal injury lawyer John Morgan, of the Lake Mary-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, has joined the campaign to legalize marijuana for medical use in the Sunshine State.

You opted for that little bag of Baked Lays at lunch instead of the full-fat version, and felt virtuous. It's the healthier choice, right?

Not necessarily.  Some foods may LOOK healthy, but understanding how food products are made and reading labels closely (one hint: the less ingredients, the better) is key to understanding what's truly good for you.

They were the notorious slave ships ferrying Africans from their homeland into bondage on U.S. shores.

The Middle Passage, or the route the slave ships took, brought more than 10 million people to America who would become slaves. Two million more died in the ocean crossing. 

The Middle Passage Project is now working to place historic markers around the Florida coast, at ports where the slave ships docked. Future sites of remembrance include Amelia Island and St. Augustine.

The Florida-Times Union

They're the pastors of a growing, biracial Jacksonville church. But Mike and Connie Smith are also garnering attention for a provocative study they recently published looking at the high rates of homicide in African-American communities.

It's a long, detailed piece - one the Florida Times-Union initially declined

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