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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: 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....

  2. 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....

  3. 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....

  4. 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....

  5. 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.
  6. 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....

  7. 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....

  8. 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....

  9. 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. 
  10. 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....

    Sex offender Robert Schaeufele exits prison in nine days.
  11. 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....

    Children look over a chain link fence at a shooting range set up in the yard at 2350 Granada Circle W in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates neighborhood. [Judy Ellis]
  12. 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.
  13. Romano: Excuses are running low for Florida lawmakers who won't expand Medicaid


    So another holdout has fallen. Another state has seen the light.

    Indiana's plan to use Medicaid expansion funds was approved by the federal government on Tuesday, bringing the total number of participating states to 28.

    According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, seven more states are working on expansion plans, leaving Florida among a dwindling minority of health care agnostics.

    And it's certainly an interesting crowd to be lumped in....

  14. Romano: Don't dicker on new police headquarters

    Local Government

    Be prudent.

    (But also realistic.)

    Be thorough.

    (But don't nitpick.)

    Be responsible.

    (But, for heaven's sake, have the courage, wisdom and foresight to actually make a decision of consequence on the city's future.)

    Yes, it's time once again for the City Council to address a new police headquarters in St. Petersburg. The debate is not in the necessity, but in the details....

  15. Romano: Will Florida again prevent health insurance regulators from saving you money?


    Two years ago, your state Legislature passed a law that was either remarkably foolish or remarkably cynical. Either way, it had the potential to cost you dearly.

    Lawmakers decided at the time to handcuff the state insurance commissioner when it came to regulating health insurance rates. In essence, they told him not to do his job.

    Their excuse was that the Affordable Care Act was just being implemented, and it would be better for the federal government to regulate insurance prices....