John Davis

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPRââââ

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli adjourned the House on Tuesday, three days prior to the scheduled end of the legislative session May 1, over a budget impasse with the Senate.  At the heart of the stalemate is House members’ opposition to expanding Medicaid, which Senators had hoped would lead to an extension of a federal program providing billions of dollars in funds for Florida hospitals providing care for low-income patients.  That program is called the Low Income Pool or LIP.  We explore the impact on healthcare providers here in Southwest Florida, the impact on the broader economy and how hospitals plan to cope in the face of an uncertain financial future.

The Tamiami Trail refers to the southernmost 264 mile portion of U.S. Highway 41 stretching from Tampa to Miami.  Construction of the east-west portion of the road through the Everglades was considered a monumental feat of engineering.  On Saturday, April 25 the Museum of the Everglades recognizes the 87th anniversary of the opening of the Tamiami Trail with a series of events including a lecture by Melissa Timo with the Florida Public Archeology Network titled, “The Tamiami Trail and Other Projects of Profound and Unintended Consequence:  The Archaeology of How Humans Have Shaped the Southwest Florida Landscape.”  

The 2015 Southwest Florida Sustainability Summit takes place April 30th. The event brings together a broad spectrum of local experts for a series of panel discussions and workshops related to planning for a sustainable future for the region. This year’s theme is, “Quality of Life for Today & Tomorrow.” We’ll hear from event speakers and organizers with a focus on exploring the current status and future potential growth of Southwest Florida’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries. We’ll also look at local STEM education initiatives from elementary school through higher education for a look at how we’re preparing students to enter careers in STEM fields. We’ll also explore how STEM growth relates to the greater goals of sustainability and a strategic sustainability plan for Southwest Florida. 

A Florida Senate Committee is set to take up a bill today that would permit adoption agencies to turn away gay individuals or same-sex couples on the basis of a moral or religious belief. 

Life-long Floridian, historian, author and former state lawmaker, Vernon Peeples has died.  The fifth generation Floridian passed away Sunday at the age of 85.  Peeples served as a Democrat in the Florida House of Representatives representing portions of Charlotte, DeSoto, Lee and Hardee counties from 1982 through 1996. 

The Charlotte Sun reports that in the late 1980s, Peeples was on the ground floor of efforts to create Florida Gulf Coast University and spearheaded funding efforts to create a Charlotte County campus of Florida Southwestern State College.

For 13 years, Peeples provided a historical perspective on Florida through his commentary series, “Vernon’s Views” here on WGCU-FM.

In remembrance of Vernon Peeples, the attached audio includes one of his commentaries documenting a particularly memorable day in 1943, when Peeples, at the age of 13, was working as a page in the Florida House.

Following a March vote in the Florida House to strike down the state’s ban on gay adoption, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow adoption agencies in the state to turn away same-sex couples on moral or religious grounds.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, points to cities like Boston and San Francisco, where faith-based child-placement agencies like Catholic Charities no longer provide adoption services for fear of lawsuits for their stance on not adopting children to same-sex couples. Opponents of the bill liken it to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and say it would violate the state constitution.

April 16 will mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year. This day of remembrance, called Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on the Jewish calendar. Seasonal Sanibel Island resident and Holocaust survivor Steen Metz joins us to tell his story. Metz was just 8 years old when he was sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in what is now the Czech Republic. Of the 15,000 children who passed through the camp, Metz is one of only about 1,500 who survived. We’ll also find out about Holocaust Remembrance Day events taking place this year in Southwest Florida. 

Market Outlook 2015

Mar 31, 2015

Florida Gulf Coast University hosts the Market Outlook 2015 Conference April 3. The annual forum brings together economic experts, students and the local business community for a review and in depth analysis of the local, regional and national economies. The event also includes projections for what’s expected to be a rapidly changing economic scene in the coming year. This year’s speakers include Federal Reserve Bank Executive Vice President and Director of Research, David Altig along with Fannie Mae Chief Economist and Senior Vice President Douglas Duncan. We’ll explore the latest information and insights on the regional and national economies. 

Unemployment in Florida dropped slightly in February according to state data released Friday.  Southwest Florida experienced similar reductions in the jobless rate. 

The state’s unemployment rate in February dropped 0.1 percent to 5.6 percent.  That’s lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.8 percent and down nearly a full percentage point from February of 2014.

Gov. Rick Scott recently declared March as Bike Month in Florida, but when it comes to safety for bicyclists sharing our roadways, the Sunshine State is the deadliest in the nation. Southwest Florida in particular consistently ranks among the top ten most dangerous regions in the state for bicyclists. Following a recent special investigation by the News-Press, we’ll explore what’s behind the dangerous conditions Florida bicyclists face from driver aggression and a lack of safety education to ill-designed roadway infrastructure and a lack of effective legislation to protect cyclists. We’ll also discuss what’s being done to make Florida roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The Fort Myers Film Festival returns for its 5th year on March 25. It kicks off with a screening of the film, “Most Likely to Succeed,” which takes a critical look at the history of education in the U.S. and challenges conventional teaching methods with innovative new approaches to student learning. The festival will close with a screening of the documentary, “Hardy,” which tells the story of one woman’s struggle to make it in the male dominated field of professional boxing. We talked to the creators of both films to learn more about what to expect from this year’s event. 

A bill to criminalize the use of single-sex public facilities like restrooms and fitting rooms by people of the opposite biological sex passed its first subcommittee Wednesday.

State lawmakers will convene in the Florida Capitol March 3 to kick off the 2015 legislative session. In addition to passing a roughly $77 billion budget, legislators are expected to tackle a slew of other issues. Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal anticipates a nearly $1 billion surplus and includes a record setting increase in per-student spending in public education and $673 million in tax cuts.

A South Florida lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to use single-sex public facilities like restrooms or fitting rooms by people of the opposite biological sex. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Artilles, R-Miami, is in response to a transgender-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance passed in Miami-Dade late last year. Rep. Artilles says the measure would close a loop-hole in such ordinances that could allow sexual predators to enter a bathroom or locker room under the cover of law. Opponents say the bill unfairly targets the transgender community and is essentially a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Growers in Florida spent the morning assessing crop losses from last night’s freezing weather.  Overall the damage was minimal and not widespread.

An arctic cold front is expected to bring freezing temperatures to much of Florida overnight Thursday.  Vegetable and citrus growers in the state are working to protect their crops against damage. 

February 20 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Myers in the American Civil War. Fort Myers served as a base for Union forces who were raiding cattle and other supplies headed to Confederate troops fighting further North.

Florida ranks 49th in the nation in per capita funding for mental health services. According to U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services surveys taken between 2011 and 2012, nearly 17% of people in the state experience the presence of a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in a given year.

A growing number of media organizations is joining a lawsuit filed last week against Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet over alleged violations of Florida’s Sunshine laws. Ten additional news outlets including the Fort Myers News-Press, the Miami Herald and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting have added their names to the list of plaintiffs as have Scripps Media and Gannett Co. The case centers on the recent resignation of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Although Cabinet members Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater say they were told Bailey resigned voluntarily, Bailey says he was forced to resign last December by a former attorney of Gov. Scott. Bailey also says he resisted unethical requests from the Governor’s office and re-election campaign staff including an order to falsely name the Orange County Clerk of Courts as a target in a criminal investigation. Gov. Scott denies the accusations. Despite calls from numerous sources for an independent investigation, no such action has been taken. We’ll take a closer look at the case.


Art therapy pioneer, Judy Rubin, Ph.D., will host a screening of her film, “Lessons From Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” at BIG ARTS on Sanibel Island Feb. 7 at 7:00 p.m..  The film explores the educational and psychological lessons employed by Fred Rogers and his iconic children’s program which ran on public television from 1966 through its final season which began airing in 2001.  Rubin worked with Rogers, appearing as ‘The Art Lady’ in the early years of the show.  Rubin spoke with WGCU’s John Davis about the film, beginning with a look at how they began working together.

ArtFest Fort Myers returns this weekend for its 15th year. The art festival runs Feb. 5-8, and includes a special exhibit of works from some of the original Florida Highwaymen.

Naloxone is a prescription medication used to rapidly counter the effects of opioids from powerful prescription pain-killers like morphine and OxyContin to street drugs like Heroin. While the drug’s effects are unpleasant, if administered quickly, it can revive people who’ve overdosed on opiate medications and save their lives. Florida lawmakers will consider a bill in the upcoming session to expand availability of naloxone by allowing physicians to prescribe the drug to friends or loved ones of those taking powerful prescription opioids so it could be quickly administered in the case of an overdose. Supporters of the measure point to the more than 2,000 accidental prescription overdose deaths in 2013. Opponents point to potential legal liability issues and argue the bill could encourage prescription drug abuse. 

State lawmakers want greater scrutiny on the Florida Public Service Commission and its relationship with the utility companies it regulates. 

Dearest Pauline

Jan 27, 2015

The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida hosts a world premiere exhibit documenting the work of medical units charged with helping victims following their liberation from Nazi control. The exhibit, “Dearest Pauline – A World War II Healer Writes Home,” includes letters, photographs and other artifacts sent from then U.S. Army physician Price Duff to his wife Pauline in Tennessee documenting his time in the U.S. Army’s European Civil Affairs Division. The exhibit opens Feb. 1 and runs through May 3 which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of survivors from the camps Dr. Duff worked in. 

Eminent Domain

Jan 20, 2015

  The government’s taking of private property for public use, or eminent domain, is a long-standing practice in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London in 2005 expanded the use of eminent domain allowing governments to take private property for private benefit and not just for public use. The motivation for behind broader eminent domain powers is that it can result in economic redevelopment, reduced unemployment and increased government revenues.

That idea has gone largely unchallenged, but a pair of Florida Gulf Coast University Economics professors recently published results of a study showing that this expanded eminent domain doesn’t result in those economic benefits and, in fact, may have the opposite effect. We’ll take a closer look at the study’s findings and the history of eminent domain in the U.S.