Florida Matters

Florida Matters tackles tough issues, highlights little-known stories from our part of the world, and provides a greater perspective of what it means to live in the Sunshine State. Join us each week as we journey across the state to explore the issues important to Floridians and cover the challenges facing our community and our state.

Associated Press

The upcoming elections are widely viewed as pivotal for the direction of this state, and the country. People are concerned about issues like gun control,  education, or paying for their health care.

On today's show, we're shedding some light on the way that some of these concerns are playing out in Florida.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

One of the most hotly contested races for Congress in the Tampa Bay area pits two well-known candidates: Former Gov. Charlie Crist and the incumbent, Congressman David Jolly. The two debated recently at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg.

In this excerpt from this week's Florida Matters, they were asked by an audience member what they would do to achieve meaningful campaign finance reform. First, we'll hear from the Democratic challenger, Crist.

Marc Haze / WUSF

It might be that big beautiful mural you pass on the way to work. Or the bike rack that looks like a sculpture.  Public art is all around us in Tampa Bay.

When you walk around your community, are you getting a sense of vibrancy and creativity? If so, that may be because you're experiencing "public art."

Daylina Miller/WUSF

This Florida Matters segment originally aired on June 28, 2016.

A massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon in spring has been linked to fertilizer use, and with growing concerns about pesticides and where food comes from, more people are growing their own produce right in their own yard. 

US State Department

Assistant Secretary of State and Department Spokesman John Kirby grew up in St. Petersburg, and graduated from St. Petersburg Catholic High School and the University of South Florida.

He's been an instructor at the Naval Academy, principal spokesman for the U.S. Navy, Pentagon press secretary, and he retired from the Navy last year with the rank of Rear Admiral.

US State Department

Assistant Secretary of State John Kirby is the voice of the State Department, giving the official line on issues ranging from the Iran nuclear deal to climate change. Kirby visited his hometown of St. Petersburg recently, where he sat down with WUSF's Robin Sussingham for a Florida Matters interview. In this preview, recorded at the USF St. Pete campus,  Kirby talked about the new ties between the U.S. and Cuba:

Cathy Carter / WUSF

Long before Florida was known for Mickey Mouse and Disney World, it was a vacation destination defined by its beaches and other attractions that drew on the state's natural beauty. Spots like Silver Springs and Cypress Gardens -- and a variety of places that put the word "gator" in their names.

On this Florida Matters, we take you on a ride through the Tampa Bay area's  weird and wonderful roadside attractions, with stops in the past and present.

Health News Florida, WLRN and WUSF have launched PriceCheck, a reporting project aimed at bringing clarity to the cost of health care in Florida. On today's Florida Matters, we'll get an update on what the PriceCheck team has learned since its launch, with Health News Florida editor Julio Ochoa, PriceCheck founder Jeanne Pinder, and WLRN reporter Sammy Mack.

Scott Audette / Visit Florida

When people in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, it sent ripples surging across the pond. With about 1.7 million British visitors per year, and hundreds of thousands of British homeowners here, they've had an oversized impact on tourism, real estate and investment. How will the British decision to leave the EU affect Florida's economy?

Scott Audette / Visit Florida

British tourists love to visit Florida!   With about 1.7 million British visitors per year, they’ve had an oversized impact on tourism, real estate and investment. On Florida Matters, we'll discuss how  the British decision to leave the European Union could affect our economy. In this preview of the show, WUSF's Robin Sussingham spoke to Dr. Jerry Parrish, chief economist with the Florida Chamber Foundation, about how tourism could be affected by Brexit.

www.ed.gov / U.S. Department of Education

Schools in Florida have a lot to deal with. A massive new federal education law looms on the horizon. Parents are suing over standardized testing  and the NAACP is suing over vouchers for private school. To help us sort out the issues, we speak to two reporters who are close observers of education in our state.

Oh, Florida! On the one hand, a white sands, warm winter paradise. On the other hand -- alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes...you get the idea! Author Craig Pittman explores the irony of the Sunshine State in his new book: "Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country."

The Zika virus, which has been linked to the birth defect, microcephaly, is now in Florida. That development has taken concern over the mosquito-borne disease to a new level.

Laura Reiley / Tampa Bay Times

"Locally-grown," "farm-to-table," and "pasture-raised" are the new buzzwords in the food culture, and restaurants are rushing to meet the demand. But one reporter says that at many Tampa Bay area restaurants we're being -- as she writes -- "fed fiction." When she investigated, she found that even farmer's markets are mainly absent of local farmers. Florida Matters' Robin Sussingham sat down with food critic Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times to talk about her recent exposé, "Farm to Fable."

Daylina Miller / WUSF

WUSF News has embarked on a new storytelling mission called "Telling Tampa Bay Stories," where our journalists will be visiting some of the region’s lesser-known spots to record interviews with members of those communities.

A state that has places like Little Havana, Key West,  Disney World and the “Redneck Riviera" is just begging to be written about in fiction. We're talking about the way Florida has been depicted in recent years. What can fiction capture that other types of writing and reporting can not?

A state that has places like Little Havana, Key West, Disney World and the "Redneck Riviera" is just begging to be written about in fiction. Several recent award-winning novels have been set in Florida, and that's the topic of an upcoming Florida Matters on WUSF 89.7.

In this preview,  Florida Matters' Robin Sussingham sat down with Dr. Julie Armstrong, an English professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and Colette Bancroft, the book editor at the Tampa Bay Times, to talk about the novel "Fates and Furies," by Lauren Groff.

Michael McArthur

The statistics are familiar; most startups don't make it. But job growth and innovation are the life blood of a thriving community. On Florida Matters, we discuss how to grow -- and keep -- successful entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay.

The Merriam-Webster definition of an entrepreneur is "a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money." They also must be willing to work hard and crazy hours and give up the security of working for someone else. But the rewards can be substantial.

Todd Bates

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, July 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 17 at 7:30 a.m.), we are talking about entrepreneurs here in the Tampa Bay area.

The show includes a conversation WUSF’s Lisa Peakes had with Tonya Donati, the creator of the Mother Kombucha Warehouse in St. Petersburg. 

Courtesy of Lisa Sibley Photography

When Beth Buchanan brought her 3rd grade class to the Giraffe Ranch, she knew it meant her students from Monarch Learning Academy in Winter Park would see animals in a completely different way.

“I think it’s a great environment for the kids to learn about animals in a more natural environment than a zoo”’ she said. “The kids loved actually getting to interact with them, and the feedings.”