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Podcast: Our Changing State

In this six-episode podcast, WUSF's Florida Matters explores how the state's population boom is affecting important issues in our lives. In "Our Changing State," we share personal stories from local residents and we invite experts in to answer questions you and your neighbors submitted through an online survey about topics ranging from transportation and the economy to politics and culture.

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Episode 1: How housing challenges are impacting local residents

Florida’s the fastest growing state in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with more than 22 million people now calling this state home. Since 2010, Florida has added an average of 287,000 new residents a year. That’s made finding housing a challenge.

Podcast: Housing
We hear from Tampa residents Charles George and Carolyn Lang about the difficulties they encountered while purchasing their home, and our panelists: Florida Atlantic University business professor, associate dean and real estate expert Ken H. Johnson, and Florida Housing Coalition CEO Ashon Nesbitt.

Episode 2: Conserving our natural environment despite growth, climate change

Wild lands and wildlife are a big part of what Floridians — both new arrivals and people who have been here for generations — love about the state. But all these people are squeezing in alongside the natural environment.

Podcast: Environment
We hear from a Pinellas County resident about his experience watching growth affect the places he's visited since childhood. Also, our panelists: wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr. and Pinellas County Government Sustainability and Resiliency Coordinator Hank Hodde.

Episode 3: Imagining a future for Florida's transportation needs

You can see the signs of our growing population just by taking a drive anywhere in Florida. Whether it’s a commute that takes twice as long as it did a few years ago, the frustrating search for parking, or the chaos around road expansions, the simple fact is more people means more cars on the road.

Podcast: Transportation
Tampa resident Sharon Tagle talks about how she gets around and how getting from place to place has changed. Our panelists: Carl Mikyaska, staff director of the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Ruth Steiner, professor of urban and regional planning and director of the Center for Health and the Built Environment at the University of Florida.

Episode 4: Understanding Florida's cultural history then and now

How do Floridians see ourselves, how does the rest of the world see us, and how is that changing? Community members say they like the state's diversity and the infusion of new cultures old and new, as well as how the natural environment is an integral part of our identity.

Podcast: Cultural History
We talk with a former resident of the historic Ybor City neighborhood about his childhood there, his move to rural Pasco County, and how both neighborhoods have changed. Our panelists: William Graveley, St. Petersburg resident, business owner and culinary arts teacher; Joanna Robotham, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art; and Sarah McNamara, an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University and author of "Ybor City, Crucible of the Latina South."

Episode 5: The economics of living in Florida now

Florida's economy has been labeled white hot, with a $1.4 trillion GDP and an unemployment rate of 2.6% — nearly a percentage point below the national rate. But some Floridians may be left behind with inflation outpacing the rest of the country. And that low unemployment means some businesses are finding it hard to staff up.

Podcast: Economics and Wages
We catch up with Bradenton restauranteur John Horne, who has owned restaurants in the Bradenton area. Our panelists: Michael Snipes, instructor in economics at the University of South Florida; and Steven Meier, CEO at CareerSource Pinellas.

Episode 6: Florida's shifting politics and the impact on its diverse residents

Florida has long been seen as a "purple" state — a place that can tip a presidential election for Democrats or Republicans. And as our population has grown, so has Florida’s political influence. The 2022 election appeared to seal Florida’s identity as a red state and a wave of polarizing policy choices have made this state something of a testing ground for an uncompromising brand of conservatism. But with a diverse and growing population, our state’s politics are more nuanced than election results might suggest.

Podcast: Politics and Diversity
We catch up with retired political science professor and political analyst at her family's 100-year-old home in Pasco County. Our panelists: Tara Newsom, a professor of social and behavioral sciences and director of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement at St. Petersburg College, and Eduardo Gamarra, a professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and director of the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University’s Green School of Public and International Affairs.