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John Romano, Times Columnist

John Romano

Records have been destroyed and witnesses have gone missing, but Tampa Bay Times metro columnist John Romano would have you believe he was a product of the Pinellas County school system and the University of South Florida. He worked at the Evening Independent and the Palm Beach Post before being hired in the Times' sports department in 1985. Showing a remarkable lack of staying power, he has worked on beats covering USF, the University of Florida, Orlando Magic, Buccaneers and Rays before succeeding Hubert Mizell as a columnist in 2001. He became the metro columnist in 2012.


Twitter: @Romano_TBTimes

  1. Romano: Grants to help St. Petersburg's poor needs to earn their trust

    Local Government

    The plan is too big to be reduced to a single word, but I will do it anyway.

    It's ambitious, hopeful and intricate. But none of those are the right word. It's well-meaning, massive and necessary. But that doesn't quite explain it, either.

    All the studies, debates and plans to transform St. Petersburg's most impoverished neighborhoods needed just one vital word to get off on the right foot:...

  2. Romano: State agency plays bully when it doesn't get its way in Florida


    Here's an interesting story about a government agency in action.

    And depending on your point of view, that action could be described as either playing hardball or crossing the line into deception and intimidation.

    To set the stage:

    The South Florida Water Management District has gotten into a handful of skirmishes this year with environmental types. The executive director called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a bunch of "tin-eared bureaucrats,'' and the agency described a Caloosahatchee River Watch group forum as "one-sided detractors in pursuit of an agenda without facts to support it'' even before the forum was held....

  3. Romano: While Democrats and Republicans dither, Zika creeps closer


    You've thrown the worst fear

    That can ever be hurled

    Fear to bring children

    Into this world

    Bob Dylan

    Congratulations, Democrats. You too, Republicans.

    Your partisan games have become so important to you that you've lost sight of your humanity.

    The Zika virus has been on America's radar for nearly a year, and 535 members of Congress have done nothing but dither and deny. No consensus, no funding, no compassion....

  4. Romano to Dwight Gooden: Sorry Doc, we can't help but worry about you

    Human Interest

    The words are angry, but the voice is not. Even on one of his worst days in one of his worst summers, Doc Gooden sounds forever friendly. Polite. Hopeful, if a little weary.

    The guy never changes, you think, and then wonder if that isn't part of the problem.

    It is the afternoon after rumors of Dwight Gooden's possible drug relapse seemed to have sparked a national suicide watch, and he is calling back now from his Jersey City apartment to assure you all is well....

     Dwight Gooden greets the New York Mets' David Wright before a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets on May 28, 2016, in New York. [Frank Franklin II | Associated Press]
  5. Romano: Either fix flood insurance problems or be prepared for disaster


    Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out.

    And then we'll be the sad losers watching helplessly as homes and dreams are consumed by floodwaters. Just like the unfortunate souls in Baton Rouge, La., last week, and just like folks in West Virginia and South Carolina in the months before that.

    It's going to happen here. Maybe in the next few months, maybe in the next few decades. Our proximity to water is too near, much of our terrain is too low and our run-ins with storms too frequent....

    Wade Gary exits his home after checking the damage in his studio apartment from floodwater on Tuesday in Abbeville, La.
  6. Romano: Stop attacking vouchers and go after politicians


    It's time for Florida teachers to give up their legal fight against school vouchers.

    Do it quietly. Do it reluctantly. If need be, do it with fists clenched.

    Just do it.

    An appeals court said Tuesday that there was no basis to hear a lawsuit brought by the state teachers union, just as a lower court had said previously. The union now has 30 days to ask the state Supreme Court to consider the case....

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, addresses a joint session of the Florida Legislature on Jan. 12, 2016 during his State of the State address. [SCOTT KEELER    |  TIMES]
  7. Romano: Guess what? We finally have an election that matters


    These are frisky days for voters in Florida.

    We have, for a change, something known as "choices.'' These would be actual situations involving multiple candidates running for the same legislative seat in the state Capitol.

    Apparently, this is commonplace in many states.

    Around here, it borders on folklore.

    Just consider the last time we had a chance to vote for state legislators. Of the 140 seats up for grabs in 2014, there were 124 incumbents in the field. And since incumbents win about 95 percent of state races, that meant your ballot could not have had less impact if you had used darts....

  8. Romano: The deadly lesson Americans refuse to learn about children in cars

    Public Safety

    By the time police arrived, the child was a pitiful mess. Her cheeks were flushed. Her sweaty hair was matted to her forehead, and her sobs were barely audible. The 3-year-old had been secured in a car seat, and locked inside an SUV in the parking lot of a Lake Wales Walmart for at least 20 minutes.

    The skies were overcast on Wednesday, but the heat index was in the mid 90s in the late afternoon. Sweating while standing outside, Sgt. Bruce Yoxall knew the girl's temperature had to be soaring inside....

  9. Romano: Once again, education officials fail a commonsense test in Florida


    The first days of school are usually hectic ones for families everywhere.

    Navigating the car circle. Packing a nutritious lunch. Filing an emergency injunction in circuit court. Where does anyone find the time?

    Although, come to think of it, that last one might be a uniquely Florida chore. Because, for the life of me, I can't think of another state that is quite so dedicated to driving a wedge between its parents and its schools....

  10. Romano: When $2.2 billion in revenue isn't enough for free parking while you gamble


    Some fights are just not worth the effort.

    And if this was a mere tug-of-war over $10 in your pocket, then I would suggest the aggravation was not commensurate with the potential victory.

    But what if this was about something larger?

    What if this was about being taken advantage of in your own hometown? Of the folks in Tallahassee selling you down the river? What if it was a simple question of fair play?...

    There’s been quite a bit of criticism of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s new plan to charge patrons $10 to park.
  11. Romano: The long parade of World War II veterans nears its end

    Human Interest

    The idea is to put a face on democracy. To attach a name to a life of honor.

    So the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office came up with a program to include short bios of local military veterans in voter registration forms given to high school seniors. Inspiration, you might call it. A dignified plea to link America's greatest freedom to her greatest sacrifices.

    Or, in the case of Larry Phelan, to tell the story of a generation receding from view....

    Larry Phelan, 96, was at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
  12. Romano: Is Florida dealing from the bottom of the deck on gambling?


    This is what you might call being legally flexible:

    The state has accused pari-mutuel facilities across Florida of operating illegal card games, while in a separate lawsuit denying the games exist.

    "The state," observed lawyer John Lockwood "has a very nuanced position."

    I'm not saying the state is unethical. I'm not even saying the state is wrong. I'm just pointing out that tap dancing seems to be a job requirement in Tallahassee....

  13. Romano: Turning a $16.5 million mistake into something worse

    Local Government

    Here's some exciting news:

    Pinellas County officials seem confident they can get a costly court decision reversed on appeal, and ultimately save taxpayers $16.5 million.

    And here's the downside:

    There's a chance those county officials are completely delusional, and will end up costing taxpayers even more money.

    For the record, I'm betting on delusional.

    This case involves a proposed apartment complex in Safety Harbor that some residents were unhappy about. The apartments were approved by city officials in 2013, but still needed the county to approve a zoning change from industrial use to residential....

  14. Romano: The neighborhood medical marijuana shop is about to become a (welcome) reality


    The parking lot was just paved, the walls are being painted, and soon the medical landscape in Tampa Bay will be forever remade.

    Tucked in an innocuous set of office buildings behind a car dealership on U.S. 19 in Clearwater, the second medical marijuana dispensary in Florida is expected to open in the next few weeks. A month later, the state's third store is scheduled to debut on N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa....

    Trulieve, the company behind Florida's first legal marijuana crops, makes capsules, droppers, syringes and vaporizer cartridges similar to an electronic cigarette. [Associated Press file]
  15. Romano: How to poison Florida's waters in a few easy steps


    To paraphrase an old Sam Cooke song:

    Don't know much about ecology. Don't know much biology.

    But I do know a stacked deck when I see one.

    And what happened this week at the Environmental Regulation Commission meeting looks to me like rigged government at its worst.

    If you were following the headlines, you know the commission approved new standards for the amount of dangerous chemicals allowed in Florida's waters....