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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.

Email: romano@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Romano_TBTimes

  1. Romano: Time to throw out Bush-era education reforms


    For the longest time, it seemed educational reformers could do no wrong. They had the theories, they had the platform and, most importantly, they had the power.

    So George W. Bush's Texas Miracle begat the nation's No Child Left Behind law, which was around the same time Jeb Bush's accountability crusade took hold in Florida.

    They were our models for education. They were going to revolutionize schools and rescue generations of students from despair....

  2. Romano: Tax collectors warn of online tag renewal company's extra fees

    Local Government

    She could live without the money. It wasn't that big of a deal.

    What made Lilyan Dayton angry was the cost to her pride.

    She had not been robbed, but she felt like she had been duped. And in some ways, that was far worse.

    The 86-year-old New Port Richey resident is one of a growing number of people who have paid nearly double the cost of their vehicle registration fees because they have unknowingly used a third-party vendor to order their tags online....

  3. Romano: State fails ill children, then fights a court order telling it to do better


    She had a house full of adopted children, and a heart full of hope.

    So in 2005, Rita Gorenflo was eager to join a lawsuit accusing Florida of failing to provide children on Medicaid with proper medical care.

    For nearly 10 years, the state denied, finagled and fought. Yet when the ruling finally came down last December, the judge was emphatic: Florida's neediest children were in danger, and the state was in violation of federal laws....

  4. Romano: Little Brother is now Port Richey police chief

    Human Interest

    He was undercover long before he put on a holster and a badge.

    A wayward kid in cheap, dime-store sneakers trying desperately to pass himself off as a typical middle-class student in a suburban New Jersey town near Princeton.

    He avoided cafeteria lines at school so his friends wouldn't notice the state-issued, free-lunch card that laid bare his family's financial struggles. He dug through Goodwill-style clothing bins in parking lots, looking for something that might fit, and praying to God that it wasn't a shirt classmates might recognize once belonged to them....

    Port Richey police Chief Rob Lovering, left, gets a surprise visit from Bill Patchett at the Art of Helping Children gala for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay recently. Patchett was Lovering’s Big Brother in New Jersey more than 30 years ago.
  5. Romano: Spring training plan puts more heat on Rays' decision

    Local Government

    Once, the argument was that we were running out of time on the Tropicana Field lease.

    Today, you can add we're running out of locations.

    And money, too.

    If it is the desire of the St. Petersburg City Council that the Tampa Bay Rays remain in this market — and specifically in Pinellas County — the window of opportunity is growing smaller and smaller.

    I don't say that to be an alarmist. There is little danger that the Rays are going anywhere in the next half-dozen years, and that probably includes across the bay....

  6. Romano: Scott wants credit for education budget boost but not the responsibility


    My property taxes are apparently going up, and for that I'm grateful.

    It means more money is going to be devoted to education throughout Florida, and I can think of few investments more worthwhile.

    Some of you might agree. You might think it's shameful that the latest Census figures put Florida 41st in the nation in per-pupil spending.

    Some of you might disagree. You might think the school system is already bloated and inefficient, and not worthy of additional money....

  7. Romano: Suspending driver's licenses over unpaid fees leads to unintended consequences


    Let's say you're a loan shark.

    You're tough, you're ruthless, but you're also shrewd. So, you never dole out any punishment that interferes with a borrower's ability to pay.

    Which leads me to this conclusion:

    Florida lawmakers would make lousy loan sharks.

    For the longest time, this state has waged an ill-advised war on low-income people facing traffic or court fines. What started as a threat has turned into a disaster....

  8. Romano: Let's negotiate with Grand Prix, not drive them out of town

    Local Government

    Let's begin with this premise:

    The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a great deal for the city.

    Not good. Not worthwhile.


    Combine the tourists and money the race brings in, add the exposure and prestige it provides, and then divide by the city's relatively meager cost, and you have a return on investment that's difficult to beat.

    So, no, it's not a good idea for any City Council member to act as if the city has outgrown the race. If IndyCar racing is desirable enough for Boston and Toronto, then it's probably got a smidge of value among the skyscraper(s?) of St. Pete....

  9. Romano: If Florida's education reforms are so good, why are our SAT scores so bad?


    It was called reform but, let's be honest, it resembled a threat.

    Back in his first term as governor, Jeb Bush made an overhaul of Florida's education system a priority. He designed a school grading system that wielded new consequences, theorizing that increased accountability would lead to greater results.

    After all, back in 2000, there was certainly room for improvement. Among the 10 most populous states that typically used the SAT as a benchmark for college readiness, Florida's average SAT score ranked sixth....

    After an overhaul to the education system, Florida testing still lags behind. [
Credit: Pasco County School District]
  10. Romano: Could someone just say 'I'm sorry' and be done with it?


    I'm in the market for an apology.

    Something short. Something sincere. Something that tells me the person isn't dancing past responsibility with a faux show of regret.

    Because, it seems to me, the heartfelt mea culpa is in danger of extinction. At least it seems that way for those in public life, where apologies are more often designed to benefit the sender rather than the receiver....

  11. Antics of legislators, educational leaders have done real damage


    No offense to the folks who recently completed a $600,000 review of Florida's standardized tests. I'm sure it was a comprehensive look at these critical assessments.

    But here's the problem:

    They were not asked to measure the one thing that has become central to the entire conversation.

    Namely, the lack of trust we have in our lawmakers and educational leaders.

    This is no small matter. That mistrust is deep and is deserved. And, accordingly, it colors every debate and decision involving the state's Department of Education....

  12. Romano: There's only one remedy for Kim Davis's religious conflict


    It is surely odd that presidential candidates today are arguing that religious beliefs should somehow supersede an elected official's constitutional oath.

    For 55 years ago this week, another presidential candidate had to swear the exact opposite to appease a group of skeptical Protestant ministers.

    In 1960, the nation was gripped by the idea that a Catholic president might willfully ignore U.S. laws and instead follow the Vatican's doctrines....

  13. Romano: Florida communities are rethinking marijuana arrests, and we should, too


    In normal circumstances, this would be handled at the state level.

    But since the Florida Legislature is ruled by self-serving, ideological blowhards, it is being left up to individual municipalities to have grown-up discussions about marijuana.

    And in recent months, two of the state's largest metropolitan areas have decided to all but decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses....

    Several municipalities in Florida have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, but are similar changes on the horizon in the bay area? [Associated Press]
  14. Romano: The real scoop on the dueling solar power amendments


    Soon, the debate over solar power will truly begin.

    One constitutional amendment is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court today, and a competing amendment is waiting in the wings.

    Should the amendments past muster legally, and if they both meet petition requirements, it will eventually be up to voters to decide on Florida's solar direction.

    And what are the voters' choices? Either move forward or stand still....

  15. Romano: Record-breaking swim just adds to the adventure for this retired judge

    Human Interest

    The concessions of age are many. For the judge, it meant trading one indulgence (liquor) for another (ice cream). It meant his new idea of late-night fun was standing on the balcony of his high rise condominium in downtown St. Petersburg, and watching revelers walk in and out of bars on Beach Drive below.

    Still, the intrusion of years could not fully dull the urge to achieve. To conquer. To take on a challenge for no other reason than to prove it could be done....

    Robert Beach swam on a six-man relay team to set a record.