John Davis

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

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. 

  Artist Peter Max comes to Naples this month for a retrospective exhibition of some of his most revered paintings spanning four decades from his iconic pop art designs to his design of the cruise ship Breakaway. Max’s work is said to have done to the visual art world what the Beatles did for music.

Florida is the largest citrus producer in the U.S. and the second largest producer of orange juice in the world. The industry has a $9 billion a year economic impact on the state accounting for about 76,000 jobs. Not long ago, citrus groves covered about 800,000 acres of land in Florida. Today, that’s down to just over 400,000 acres due in large part to the devastating impacts of citrus diseases like greening. The disease, which originated in Southern China, was first discovered in South Florida in 2005 and has since become endemic throughout the state’s citrus producing regions.

This week, just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its citrus harvest estimate for the current season, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman announced he’s calling on lawmakers to increase funding to fight greening and secure the industry’s future. Meanwhile the Fort Myers-based Alico, Inc. announced last month it’s buying three citrus operations in central Florida for $363 million dollars making the company the largest citrus producer in the U.S. We’ll explore the status of Florida’s current citrus crop, the value of the state’s citrus industry and ongoing efforts to develop new strategies to combat greening. 

It’s been five years since a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean island nation of Haiti in the town of Leogane just west of Port au Prince. 230 thousand lives were lost in the quake and another 1.5 million more people were driven from their homes. The Haitian government estimates some 30,000 commercial buildings and 250,000 residences were destroyed or severely damaged by the earthquake.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, money for relief and recovery efforts poured in from around the world. According to the United Nations, more than $13 billion has been earmarked for recovery efforts through 2020. However, much recovery work remains as 85,000 Haitians are still living in displacement camps and many of those who’ve gotten out of the camps still struggle to find permanent housing. We’ll explore relief and recovery efforts then and now with the Naples-based non-profit Hope for Haiti, and we’ll hear from members of Southwest Florida’s Haitian community. 

This week marks the 30th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Key Largo. The four-day event brings together environmental advocates, scientists, elected officials and a broad spectrum of other stakeholders for a closer look at the health of Florida’s River of Grass, and restoration efforts and opportunities for the future. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades” and will focus on the need to store and redirect excess water away from coastal estuaries and toward Everglades National Park.

Other topics will include issues related to nutrient pollution, energy production and sea level rise. This year’s conference comes on the heels of a 10 year plan to clean up Lake Okeechobee announced in December by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as a the adoption of Amendment One by Florida voters in November which establishes a dedicated source of state funding for land and water conservation efforts. We’ll hear from conference organizers and speakers for a look at the current health of the Everglades and what restoration efforts are needed going into 2015. 

This week, Florida became the 36th state in the U.S. to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Clerk of Court offices in all of Florida’s 67 counties began offering marriage licenses to gay couples on Jan. 6, following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that found that the state’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process requirements. The challenge came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of eight same-sex couples and a Fort Myers widow and another lawsuit filed on behalf of two couples by attorneys in Jacksonville. A temporary stay on that ruling expired Jan. 5, opening the door to legalized same-sex marriage.

Initially, clerk of court offices faced confusion over the scope of the federal court ruling until Jan. 1, when Judge Hinkle issued an order clarifying that his ruling was intended to apply to the entire state.

As gay couples have now begun lining up at clerk of court offices around the state to apply for marriage licenses, supporters are celebrating the move as a step toward equality for members of Florida’s LGBT community. Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage say the ruling contradicts the will of Florida voters who approved a state constitutional amendment in 2008 defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Opponents vow to continue their fight until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on gay marriage. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an appeal in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, although no date has yet been set for a hearing. We explore the legal and political history of how same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the potential impacts of same-sex marriage in Florida, and what’s next in the legal battle.

The term ‘elder abuse’ typically brings to mind victimization by family members or abuse and neglect on the part of nursing home staff.  However, a new first of its kind study from Cornell University finds elder-to-elder mistreatment is a growing and significant problem in long term care facilities throughout the U.S. 

The Lee County Homeless Coalition will observe Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day this Sunday evening with its annual candlelight vigil recognizing those who lost their lives in 2014 while living on the streets or in shelters in Lee County.