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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: A small court case might be a big sign for medical marijuana


    Sometimes, change arrives dramatic and loud. And sometimes, it is as understated as two simple words.

    Not guilty.

    With that declaration, a Broward County jury may eventually have as much impact on Florida's medical marijuana debate as all of the advertising and shouting that preceded last fall's failed constitutional amendment.

    For what is believed to be the first time in state history, a jury has accepted a medical necessity defense in a marijuana trial. And so Jesse Teplicki, a 50-year-old marine mechanic who says he suffers from chronic anorexia, avoided a potential five-year prison term for having 46 cannabis plants growing in his home....

  2. Romano: In Medicaid battle of wills between state House, feds, the poor lose


    As lawmakers show up for a new Legislative session this morning in Tallahassee, let's review where we stand on the issue of Medicaid expansion:

    In the past week, the state's Senate majority leader and a spokesperson in the governor's office both sounded the alarm about a looming budget calamity.

    Safety net hospitals are growing increasingly nervous about the potential loss of $1 billion in federal funds, and nearly 1 million residents are still without health insurance....

  3. Romano: Crime statistics dispute need for guns on college campuses


    Beware of the sex offenders!

    The murderers, terrorists and crazies, too!

    The folks supporting legislation to allow guns on college campuses want everyone to know about all of the dangers potentially lurking behind every tree in the quad.

    One thing they don't want you to know?

    The truth.

    And the simple truth is your sons and daughters are much safer on college campuses than almost any other place in pretty much any given city....

  4. Romano: Smarter, not tougher, drug sentences


    THREE YEARS AGO, the governor made a mistake. A costly, shortsighted, foolish mistake.

    It was the summer of 2012, and states all around the nation were looking for ways to reform prison systems that were bleeding budgets and taxpayers dry.

    In a rare burst of wisdom and cooperation, the Florida Legislature came together to pass a bill that would cut prison costs and, hopefully, slow the perpetual cycle of drug-addicted convicts booking return trips to jail cells. More than 97 percent of your state representatives and senators voted in favor of this commonsense bill....

  5. Romano: Supreme Court says Enron law shouldn't catch Manatee County fisherman


    The captain is older now, and spends more time on land than a fisherman should.

    For John Yates, life has been irretrievably altered since that summer day in 2007 when a fish and wildlife officer boarded his boat in the Gulf of Mexico and accused the Manatee County man of catching undersized grouper.

    What happened next is still disputed, but no one denies the fallout has been both chilling and far-reaching. Prosecutors accused Yates of destroying evidence by tossing a few fish overboard, and charged him under a law designed to go after Wall Street frauds....

  6. Romano: Here's a novel idea — openness and transparency in Florida government


    In another era, this probably wouldn't qualify as news. In another state, it might go largely unnoticed.

    But here in Florida, amid the most secretive, duplicitous, unapproachable administration Tallahassee has seen in years, it's darn near heroic.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, turned heads last week when he suggested a new formula for determining which pet projects might end up in the state budget....

  7. Romano: Stadium teamwork is better in long run

    Local Government

    The conversation seemed to go on forever. They talked about everything and managed to say nothing.

    A St. Petersburg City Council workshop to discuss baseball stadium issues was minutes away from being a complete waste of time when a rare burst of common sense saved the day.

    Charlie Gerdes stepped up first, and Darden Rice followed minutes later. It wasn't that they offered foolproof, beginning-to-end solutions. Trust me, we're a long way from that....

  8. Romano: Students suffer when state refuses to budge on testing


    Fun fact about the new Florida Standards Assessments:

    This highly anticipated replacement for the FCAT has never been given in Florida, and yet the state's Department of Education already knows how many students will fail it.

    How does the state know?

    Because it has arbitrarily decided to flunk a certain percentage of students, based on the number of children who failed the FCAT last year....

    "It's a horrible way to identify a student as a potential candidate to be retained,'' said Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego.
  9. Romano: Rick Scott's handling of FDLE change puts new chief in bad spot


    The cop deserved better. He deserved hallelujahs and huzzahs.

    His career was distinguished, and his honor seemed impeccable. His latest promotion should have been greeted with widespread acclaim instead of questions and whispers.

    So, yes, new Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Rick Swearingen has every right to be angry.

    He just needs to understand where his anger should be directed....

  10. Romano: Medical pot groups' dilemma — get it done now or hold out for more?

    State Roundup

    When is the time right to lower your fists? Do you accept an opponent's hand when it is offered, or do you keep swinging until the fight is completed?

    Metaphorically speaking, this is medical marijuana's dilemma.

    Legislation has been proposed that could make marijuana available to tens of thousands of patients throughout Florida, but not as accessible as supporters had once envisioned....

  11. Romano: Real change for Florida's prisons require compassion


    Outrage has its limits. I get that.

    There are only so many times you can be shocked, and only so many tears you can shed over the world's injustices.

    So maybe you have glossed over the headlines of abuses, misdeeds, coverups and even deaths when it comes to the state's prison system.

    Maybe you have had your fill of jailhouse sob stories, and maybe you secretly believe we only reap what we sow....

  12. Romano: Chart future of St. Petersburg's Pier while remembering past lessons

    Local Government

    Nostalgia doesn't play fair. It softens and blurs. It lies and distorts.

    It can make an inverted building sitting atop an aged pier seem like a city's most loyal and trusted friend. And, naturally, the truth is much more complex than that.

    I suppose that's important to remember as St. Petersburg embarks on the next phase for choosing a new pier on the city's waterfront. The past can be a valuable guide of days yet to come....

    In 1977, the Marriott Corp. bailed out of the Pier before the end of its five-year lease. There have been several management teams since. 
  13. Romano: Impending freedom for priest in abuse scandal stuns victims


    After all these years, the lie had begun to seem real. Chris McCafferty had convinced himself the past had been put to rest, and distant memories could no longer touch him.

    This, of course, was never quite true. And all it took was a single phone call to plunge him back into a world of doubt, fear, shame and anger.

    The former Catholic priest who McCafferty said sexually abused him as a child in Pinellas Park is scheduled to be released from prison in nine days....

    Robert Schaeufele, on the witness stand in 2003, agreed to a plea arrangement on multiple counts of attempted capital sexual battery but will have only served about 12 years of the concurrent 30-year sentences he received in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
  14. Romano: Backyard gun ranges — a dumb idea brought to you by your Legislature

    Public Safety

    On one side of the fence there are tree houses. A sand box in the middle of the yard. Children laughing and running while friendly dogs bark and give chase.

    On the other side of the fence is a makeshift gun range. A wooden pallet backed by a small mound of sand and some other pallets.

    In between it all?


    Residents in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates were horrified to discover one of their neighbors was planning to use a relatively small wooden target for shooting practice in his back yard. Their horror only grew when they discovered it appeared to be legal....

    This Google satellite image shows 2350 Granada Circle W in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates neighborhood, where a man wants to set up a shooting range. [Google Maps]
  15. Romano: Lack of integrity hangs over FDLE mess


    Based on what we know, there seem to be two possible conclusions about Gerald Bailey's departure as head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


    1. Gov. Rick Scott and/or his staff got approval from a Cabinet member, or Cabinet staff, to force Bailey's resignation. If this was the case, it would appear to be a clear violation of the Sunshine Law that requires such matters to be discussed in a public forum....

    Questions persist on how FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey left office.