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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: An education battle worth having in Florida


    Good morning, teachers.

    Got a little bad news. You flunked.

    And there will be no grading on the curve. No makeup work. No extra credit. The state Supreme Court did not even bother with constructive criticism; the justices simply tossed your work in the trash.

    To be fair, this isn't completely your fault. Your union bungled this one. The lawsuit challenging the state's de facto voucher program was a loser before the writ hit the fan....

    Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos talks to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., before testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Scott was to introduce her to the committee. [Associated Press]
  2. Review: Shhhhh, and get in your seat; Van Morrison is on stage

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — You are out of practice. I get that.

    It's been 20 years since Van Morrison has played around here, and you've gotten lazy. Almost as if you do not appreciate the eccentricities of a bona fide rock and roll curmudgeon.

    So, to refresh your memory:

    A Van Morrison concert starts on time. If the ticket says 8 p.m., you can expect Morrison on the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage at 8, not 8:01 nor 8:02. And for the couple who had the seats in front of me for Tuesday night's show? Sorry. Showing up at 8:45 p.m. doesn't mean you're fashionably late. It means you missed half the show....

    Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and six-time Grammy winner Van Morrison performs during the first of three concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Tuesday, 20 years since his record setting, 4 consecutive sellout performances. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  3. Romano: A final message that lived beyond a teenager's death

    Human Interest

    The adventurers always come back. Whether they're experts or not. Whether they understand the risks or not.

    Such is the lure of cave diving near Weeki Wachee. Ordinary-looking creeks and ponds descend to incredible depths, and can lead to crystal-clear water in ballroom-sized caverns.

    Some have referred to the waters as the Mount Everest of cave diving, and the challenges and rewards can seem that impressive. Consequently, so can the danger....

    Struggling for his life in a murky underwater passageway, 17-year-old scuba diver Jason Tuskes Knew he had only a short time left. He removed the oxygen tank from his back, unsheathed the diver's knife he kept at his shoulder, and scratched a message into the tank: "I love you Mom Dad Christian." [Times files]
  4. Romano: Standing in honor of the comrade they never knew


    With the sound of bagpipes playing in the distance, the job of an honor guard is about to begin.

    On a good day, the work is completely anonymous and largely thankless. The officers who have driven from St. Petersburg on Saturday to attend the funeral of Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton would soon be lost in a sea of dress uniforms and agency flags.

    And that's as it should be....

    Family members enter the First Baptist Church in Orlando for funeral services for Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton.
  5. Romano: Whoa, did Florida just take a turn toward sanity on education?


    The following is a brief, and rare, burst of exuberance. It is probably naive and, based on the history of political foolishness in this state, is almost certainly premature.

    Yet here it goes:


    Something happened in Tallahassee on Wednesday that was sensible, constructive and a little bit courageous. In other words, something completely out of the ordinary.

    A panel of school superintendents spoke their minds, in some cases forcefully, about Florida's glut of standardized tests. Even more remarkably, senators seemed to listen....

  6. Romano: The game is over, now let's get another

    Local Government

    A city has emerged in the parking lot of a football stadium.

    Restaurants and bars. A zip line and a concert stage. Merchandise booths and backyard barbecues. All populated by tens of thousands of Southern-accented college football fans from Alabama and Clemson gathered outside Raymond James Stadium on a Monday afternoon.

    Game time for a college football national championship is just hours away....

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson leaps over Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison toward the end zone late in the second half Monday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  7. Romano: Forty years later, the verdict is in on this rivalry


    By nature and by law, they are enemies. Sworn adversaries as long as one is not asking the other to please pass the ketchup.

    It's midday in a mid-county restaurant, and their minions are presumably fighting in courtrooms not far from where Public Defender Bob Dillinger and State Attorney Bernie McCabe are having lunch.

    The meal is an anniversary of sorts. They have arrived at my invitation to celebrate two decades of habeas-to-corpus combat in the Sixth Judicial Circuit that covers Pinellas and Pasco counties....

  8. Romano: Use that 5-cent raise to send a letter to Tallahassee about the minimum wage


    Live it up, Florida. Fortune's on the way.

    Yes, the state's minimum wage got a bump this week. There will be no more scrapping by for a measly $8.05 an hour. As of this moment, folks can count on $8.10 an hour.

    Let the spending begin!

    Hard as it is to believe, the Consumer Price Index used to calculate the state's minimum wage has barely budged in two years. If nothing else, the soaring cost of apartments and houses in Florida seems as if it should have given the minimum wage a significant goose....

    The Fight for $15 campaign rallied outside St. Petersburg City Hall in November to call for a minimum wage hike.
  9. Romano: Tampa Bay's practically plausible Year in Review, Part I

    Human Interest

    The somewhat true, slightly askew, Year in Review, Part 1:

    The final Piccadilly Cafeteria in Tampa Bay shuts its doors for good in January. The restaurant site was later declared a historic landmark when carbon dating revealed several of the sirloin steaks found in the buffet line dated back to 1964.

    SeaWorld announces the impending retirement of its killer whale shows. The state teachers union immediately suggests Shamu has a better pension plan and threatens to sue someone at some point....

    The Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune are displayed together during a press conference at which Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash announced the purchase of the Tribune. [Times]
  10. Romano: Feeling Scrooged this year? Time for some Christmas carols

    Human Interest

    (Sung to the tune of Here Comes Santa Claus)

    Here comes sewer waste

    Here comes sewer waste

    Right out of St. Pete drains

    So tired of Kriseman's hired spin team

    Yanking all our chains

    Hands are wringing, eyes are stinging

    Council's ready to fight...

    President-elect Donald Trump points to cheering supporters in front of a backdrop of Christmas trees at a rally in Orlando on Dec. 16. [Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
  11. Romano: Go ahead and put up your toll booth, but first pay back the $50 million

    Local Government

    A not-so-simple question:

    Is it ever okay to break a promise?

    I'll admit, it's a philosophical head-scratcher. And the answer would probably change depending on situations, circumstances and the parties involved. But here's one easy way of looking at it:

    If you must hire a team of lawyers first, then probably not.

    Unfortunately, that's the road they're heading down in Treasure Island. It seems city officials are considering reneging on a promise made to Bill Young, the late congressman, a decade ago....

    Drivers pass over the Treasure Island Causeway on a late afternoon in 2013. City officials say they can't afford the upkeep anymore and want to start charing a toll, except Treasure Island promised to never charge tolls to get the bridges built in the first place. [LARA CERRI  |   Times]
  12. Romano: Could Derby Lane be the winning ticket in Rays stadium search?


    When considering stadium sites in Tampa Bay for the Rays, there is one important factor that cannot be overlooked:

    The perfect site does not exist.

    Downtown Tampa would be ideal, but adequate land and financing will be hard to come by. Downtown St. Petersburg has room and funding mechanisms, but a rotten track record with attendance. Other locations have their upsides, but most of them have more downsides....

  13. Romano: Why, yes, I'd love to spend millions more on the pier

    Local Government

    Well, this is bad news. They've gone and raised the price of spectacular.

    Based on the latest construction catalog, a city should expect only a no-frills, starter pier for its initial $46 million investment. Throw in an additional $20 million and you can get a complementary package that links the pier to downtown and creates a super-nice waterfront district.

    But if you want truly spectacular?...

    This is a view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay looking west. The area where the St. Petersburg Pier used to be can be seen at the right, center. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  14. Romano: Parlez vous computer programming?


    Once upon a time, there was a mediocre student (me) who won a ridiculous award (Spanish Class Student of the Year) and was told he could be fluent in two languages (not a chance).

    The point is not that he was a moron (the jury is still out), but that he had neither the enthusiasm nor the aptitude (see above) to master a second language.

    All of which brings me to Senate Bill 104.

    Filed last week by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, the bill would add computer coding as another option for the current foreign language requirement in Florida high schools....

    Sen. Brandes
  15. If you see Pam Bondi, please ask her about Donald Trump


    Presumably, Pam Bondi is still alive. Happy is another matter.

    These cannot be good times for Florida’s attorney general, which might explain her reclusive approach to public service and her penchant to disappear at the first sign of trouble.

    Apparently, this is what happens when you endorse your own demise.

    It isn’t just that Bondi decided to support Donald Trump for president. It’s that she gleefully threw her future fortunes in with his....