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. Listen to the show on WUSF 89.7 Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. 

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Sign saying end of the Suncoast Parkway
Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media

Planning is continuing on building three new toll roads, which would become the biggest road construction project in Florida since the Interstate Highway system was built.

Thomas Iacobucci/WUSF Public Media

WUSF wants to hear from you.

Florida Matters host Steve Newborn will be speaking with Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley and Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, about mail-in voting and other issues ahead of the Aug. 18 Florida primary elections.

What questions do you have about mail-in voting, or the primary in general amid the coronavirus pandemic? Fill out the form below, and let us know if you would like to participate in the show.

Vote sign
Mary Shedden / WUSF Public Media

We're getting ready to have our first big election in Florida since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state in March.

How will that affect the number of people who go to the polls? And will there be a "Blue Wave" in store for Democrats?

Jennifer Kious and Michael Grego photos
Zoom; Pinellas School Board

To open or not to open? That’s the big question as the new school year comes around –right in the midst of a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Florida.

man walking outside
University of South Florida

On July 1, Steven Currall marked his first anniversary as president of the University of South Florida.

While he faced "expected" concerns like the consolidation of the accreditation of the three USF campuses under one umbrella, he also had to deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic and racial equity concerns of faculty, staff, and students.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis slashed a billion dollars from the state budget. And as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, future cuts are likely. 

That's the focus of this week's Florida Matters. 

Victoria Mejia

On Florida Matters this week, we're taking a look at life behind the front lines - the front lines of the war on the coronavirus.

Many first responders - doctors, nurses and people just willing to lend a hand - have forsaken the relative comfort of their own hometowns and ventured into the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

people posing for a photo on a couch in a business
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

This week on Florida Matters, we hear why Black Americans get arrested at a rate higher than other groups.

It's a very complex issue, and there there are many reasons - some believe they're overpoliced or targeted by police for no reason. One professor says it's the result of centuries of discrimination that are built into our culture.

Marriott Hotel in downtown Tampa

Hotels in the Tampa Bay area had their second-best month ever in February.

But, what a difference a month makes.


Many studies are showing the coronavirus has sickened and killed black Americans at a disproportionately high rate. One study found that the 22 percent of U.S. counties that are majority black account for nearly half of coronavirus cases - and almost 60 percent of deaths from Covid-19.

Protesters at Cyrus Green Park in Tampa
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

Brian Butler is a former Army officer, president and CEO of his own Tampa company, and African American.

That last definition has defined much of his life - including being stopped several times for no reason other than his color. In the wake of protests and riots after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Butler was moved to write an opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida Matters talks to Butler about whether he's grown accustomed to being profiled and whether he harbors any bitterness because of it.

Sara Nelms playing guitar

The toll the coronavirus is taking on all of us can be measured in different ways. Jobs that are lost. The money troubles that come with it. The isolation.

WUSF Public Media wanted to go beyond the headlines and hear from you. Or at least those who filled out a survey form we sent out a while back to see how you're doing in these unique times.

So on this edition of Florida Matters, we're going to hear from several of those people - in their own words, via "audio postcards."

Photo showing Hurricanes Katia, Irma, and Jose

While most of us are still sheltering in place, trying to ride out the storm of coronavirus, well -- guess what -- a real storm may be just around the corner.

Jennifer Rominieki
Courtesy Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Not only small businesses and restaurants have been hurt by the pandemic. Many nonprofits are having an existential crisis, as donors hold on to their wallets and government help begins drying up.

One of the nonprofits affected is Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.  Florida Matters' Steve Newborn talks with president and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki about how the community is coming to the aid of nonprofits like hers.

Empty chairs at Tampa International Airport
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

When almost everybody is staying at home, that obviously doesn't bode well for the state's tourism industry. And for all those tourists flying into some of the nation's biggest tourist destinations -- well, they're not. Some estimates have airport traffic down to a trickle. The not-so-friendly skies has had a ripple effect on businesses that rely on airports for their livelihoods. Other restrictions are being slowly lifted, so we'll start to get a feel for how businesses are going to recover.

As we transition back to normal, Florida Matters looked for some analysis on the unique challenges Tampa Bay businesses, non-profits and the economy will be facing as we transition from stay-at-home orders to heading back to work again.

So we got some insight with Balaji Padmanabhan, the Anderson Professor of Global Management, the Director of the Center for Analytics & Creativity and a professor in the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business.

Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

When almost everybody is staying at home, that obviously doesn't bode well for the state's tourism industry. And for all those tourists flying into some of the nation's biggest tourist destinations -- well, they're not. Some estimates have airport traffic down to a trickle. The not-so-friendly skies has had a ripple effect on businesses that rely on airports for their livelihoods. Other restrictions are being slowly lifted, so we'll start to get a feel for how businesses are going to recover.

Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped several task forces to look at how and when we should be going back to business as normal.  One of the business leaders who was part of the Re-Open Florida Task Force is Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano.

Clara Reynolds in front of the crisis center

We're all living in a whole new world out there - the world of COVID-19, coronavirus or social distancing. Whatever you call it, it's a world of isolation.

The changes in our daily routines and the resulting isolation can affect people's mental health in a lot of ways. Whether you're home alone, with a sick family member or with kids out of school - isolation can increase stress and anxiety.

So just what is happening out there? And is there anything we can do about our mental health? On this week's Florida Matters, we get a little insight from Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Firefighting boats attempt to put out the blaze at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig
U.S. Coast Guard

April 20 marks 10 years since the BP oil spill began off the Louisiana coast when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. Over the next six months, more than 200 million gallons of crude spilled into the Gulf.

It's considered to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

The image shows David Brancaccio on the left and host Bradley George on the right talking on stage during a live interview at the Palladium in downtown St. Peterburg.
WUSF Public Media

Just days before officials began shutting down large gatherings to slow the spread of COVID 19, David Brancaccio, host of the Marketplace Morning Report, visited downtown St. Petersburg for a live event.

He joined Florida Matters Host Bradley George at the Palladium as part of the Aresty Speaker Series, and touched on a wide variety of topics from the effect coronavirus was having on the global economy, as well as Brancaccio's ongoing Econ Extra Credit project, in which he is reading a chapter a week from an open source economics textbook.

Alsace Walentine, owner of Tombolo Books, stands outside of her store next to a sign that says "Curbside pickup here!"
Mary Shedden / WUSF Public Media

The coronavirus pandemic is not only taking its toll of the nation’s healthcare system, but also its businesses. This week, Florida Matters takes a look at small businesses, which are particularly hard hit.

Host Bradley George spoke with Alsace Walentine, co-owner of Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg and Eileen Rodriguez of the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida.

Florida Matters Wants To Hear Your Coronavirus Stories

Mar 21, 2020
Empty Business
U.S. Air Force

The threat of coronavirus has turned every aspect of life upside down. WUSF’s Florida Matters wants to hear from you.

Do you own a small business, or work for one in the retail or restaurant sector? How has your work life changed? 

The image shows plastic mail trays with a green "Ballots Only" tag hanging from the side.
Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media

Floridians are heading to the polls on Tuesday where voters will decide which Democratic candidate they want to face president Donald Trump in November. 

WUSF is bringing you live coverage of Florida's primaries throughout the night and we're inviting you to join the conversation.

Floridians are going to the polls on March 17 for the state’s presidential primary. This election cycle, WUSF is focusing on the issues rather than the political horse race.

To do that, WUSF has teamed up with reporters at NPR member station WMFE in Orlando for I-4 Votes, a collaboration covering the election issues that matter to those living along the I-4 corridor.

Hulk Hogan on stage
Mark Schreiner / WUSF Public Media

Professional wrestling, or as it’s called in some circles, “sports entertainment,” has a long history in Florida and in Tampa.

Henry Plant

Historian Canter Brown takes a look at the man who literally put Tampa on the map. He has written a new book, Henry Bradley Plant: Gilded Age Dreams for Florida and the New South." 

Despite not being officially allowed to live in Florida until 1763, Jewish people escaping expulsion and exclusion were among the earliest settlers of the state.

A new comprehensive history – "Jews of Florida: Centuries of Stories" – takes a look at that historic individuals who include politicians, business leaders, artists and Nobel Prize winners.

PIttman holds book
Cameron Pittman

Florida's state animal has never had it very good. The Florida Panther was shot at, run off its hunting grounds and hemmed in by roads and development. It got so bad that by the early 1990s, only a handful remained. The tale of how the panther was led back on the road to recovery has several twists and turns, including a "happy ending" that has taken 20 years to materialize.

The story is told by environmental reporter Craig Pittman in his new book, "Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle To Save The Florida Panther." He talks about the book with WUSF's Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham.

Our nation's democratic elections are being threatened like never before. Florida Matters this week takes a look at how our ballots are being protected - both nationally and around the state. WUSF's Robin Sussingham talks with Brian Corley, supervisor of elections with Pasco County, and Miles Parks, a reporter with National Public Radio in Washington, D.C.

As the Florida Legislature opens its 2020 session, Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed House and Senate members Tuesday during his State of the State address.

He discussed some of the “bold” steps the state took in 2019 around such areas as education, the environment, health care and public safety, and stressed that “we have much more to do.”