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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: The topsy-turvy tale of charter schools and whom they really serve


    Here is hell.

    Here is a hand basket.

    And here is your state Legislature continually packing Florida up like so many groceries ready for final delivery.

    Granted, today's outrage is more sneaky than blatant. It's more sleazy than audacious. Still, it gets high marks for being both shameless and, in the long-term, dangerous.

    The subject itself — money for school construction — sounds like a bit of a snooze. But the devil, and his Tallahassee minions, are in the details....

  2. Romano: Florida residents have always said no to gambling. So why are we expanding it?


    A boring confession:

    I don't feel all that passionate about gambling. Not enough to rail against it, not enough to rabidly support it.

    In that respect, the details of the governor's proposed compact with the Seminole Tribe don't have me on the edge of my seat. Nor do the myriad amendments and suggestions made in a state House committee meeting on Tuesday.

    But here's something I do feel strongly about:...

    Gov. Rick Scott, center, talks with James Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, at the tribe’s headquarters on Feb. 1 in Hollywood, Fla. [Associated Press] 
  3. Romano: Why Gov. Rick Scott never talks about Obamacare anymore


    Here's a recent headline: Florida to have highest population of Obamacare enrollees.

    Here's another headline from a day later: Unemployment rate at 8-year low in U.S.

    And now here's a question: Where's Gov. Chicken Little?

    You know the one I'm talking about. The one who promised us that Obamacare would be "the biggest job killer ever in the history of our country'' and would "result in rationing of health care'' and would "be devastating for our state.''...

  4. Romano: Cities' greed comes back to haunt them with red-light cameras under the gun

    Public Safety

    Once upon a time, they had virtue on their side.

    When politicians brought up red-light cameras, they might as well have been talking about good versus evil. You either believed in law enforcement, or you didn't. You were either for safety, or you weren't. The debate was that simple.

    Or so they said.

    The same arguments are being recycled today, but they no longer wield the same force. The impact has been dulled by insincere motives and inconvenient facts....

  5. Romano: The he-said, she-said dispute over a $1 million Florida lottery ticket


    Love, we are told, means never having to say you're sorry.

    But does it mean having to share your lottery winnings?

    That question, or a seriously twisted version of it, has been contemplated all week long in a Seminole County courtroom.

    It's a classic he-said, she-said dispute, except the $1 million payday lends more of a he's-lying, she's-lying edge to it.

    Here's where both sides are in agreement:...

  6. Romano: Why Florida believes everything is better in Texas


    The problem with Florida is not that its politicians are obsessed with whacked-out policies and brain-dead conspiracies. It's that they're obsessed with Texas politicians.

    It's a subtle distinction, I know. Texas has a swagger, a history, an ingrained culture that celebrates anti-intellectualism in an almost endearing manner. On Florida, all of that homespun charm comes off as wanna-be posturing....

  7. Romano: 10-20-Life is being reformed, but let's not forget those unjustly imprisoned by it


    In Tallahassee, there are handshakes and back slaps. Lawmakers seem poised to fix the horribly flawed 10-20-Life law, and so justice in Florida will finally be saner.

    Yet in the Polk Correctional Institute, life never changes. Not for a man given a 20-year sentence at age 23 for firing warning shots when a group of angry men surrounded his car outside of a bar.

    Nor is the world any different in the Blackwater River Correctional Facility. Not for an aging man given a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot into his living room wall to scare his daughter's abusive boyfriend....

  8. Romano: Disingenuous abortion bills pose threat to women's health


    When it came to outrage, the buffoonish abortion bill won easily.

    Legislation that would effectively ban abortions in Florida, passed by a state House committee this week, got the big headlines and incredulous gasps from national websites.

    Never mind that the bill is basically a joke since it has little chance of making it all the way through the Legislature, and even less chance of surviving a legal challenge....

  9. Romano: Here's why they don't make movies in Florida anymore

    Economic Development

    The movie critic was on a roll. He was talking stars, discussing scenery in Daytona Beach and praising Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa. And then, out of nowhere, came his withering critique:

    "This is a movie that really should have been (filmed) in Florida," state Sen. Jack Lat­vala, R-Palm Harbor, said during a Senate committee meeting Monday. "It talked about Florida, it represented that it was in Florida, and it was done in Georgia....

  10. Romano: Florida's driving rules aren't ready for changes coming to marijuana laws

    Public Safety

    Marijuana laws are changing all around us.

    From a noneuphoric strain that will soon be grown legally in Florida, to a bunch of communities rushing to decriminalize small amounts of pot, to a proposed constitutional amendment that would greatly expand medicinal marijuana around here.

    Like it or not, pot is about to become a larger part of society.

    And Florida ain't ready for it....

  11. Romano: Private schools get state taxes no questions asked. Public schools? Not so much


    God bless 'em, the parents came to fight.

    They came to fight the status quo. They came to fight for their children.

    They marched in Tallahassee on Tuesday carrying signs, wearing neon T-shirts and wielding passion for a tax credit program that helps fund private schools.

    They see these vouchers as a chance for a better education and, in many cases, a path for their children to rise out of a lower economic station in life....

  12. Romano: Sanctity of justice outweighs any single verdict


    This is not a column about innocence. Or guilt, for that matter.

    Even as the documentary Making a Murderer has inspired hundreds of thousands to sign petitions for the release of two convicted murderers in Wisconsin, that shouldn't be the story's legacy.

    Instead, the conversation should be about recognizing and weighing the flaws in our legal system. It should convince us that no single conviction is more important than the principle of fair trials....

  13. Romano: Troubling juvenile crime stats make Pinellas County an outlier


    Find the right street corner, and you can be serenaded by the soundtrack of youth. The school bells and cellphones. The teenage drama and prepubescent laughter.

    And, increasingly in Pinellas County, the sound of police sirens converging on a not-so-distant avenue.

    Youths are being arrested in Pinellas County at a disturbing, and somewhat inexplicable, rate. During the past five years, felony arrests for juveniles in Florida have dropped by 20 percent, yet in Pinellas they have risen by 18 percent....

    Students David Sever and Monica Hodge with Executive Director Mark Carroll (facing camera) in a classroom at the Tampa Marine Institute. The Institute is an alternative program for kids who had been in trouble with the law. Funding comes from the Department of Juvenile Justice and the county school district. However, funding was cut by 4 percent during the last state legislative session. [Times files]
  14. Romano: An attack is coming on your rights to public records


    We are facing a conundrum. A real head-scratcher of a choice.

    On the one hand, we can put our full faith and trust in government officials and employees. We can believe they will always tell us the truth and share whatever information we seek. We can count on them to be largely infallible and driven to serve the citizenry in all ways they possibly can.

    Or, we can reserve the right to sue them....

  15. Romano: Marlins provide valuable lesson for Rays

    Local Government

    First, a history lesson:

    It was May of 1993 when the subject of a new baseball stadium in South Florida was initially broached by the owner of the Marlins. It would take nearly 15 years and the team would be sold twice before financing and a site for a new stadium were secured.

    Next, an observation:

    The eventual location — on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl — seemed like a consolation prize after plans to build on the waterfront, in downtown Miami and adjacent to the team's original site all fell through. Subsequently, attendance at the new stadium has been underwhelming....

    The eventual location of the Marlins new stadium — on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl — seemed like a consolation prize after plans to build on the waterfront, in downtown Miami and adjacent to the team's original site all fell through. Subsequently, attendance at the new stadium, shown here during construction in 2012, has been underwhelming.