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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: 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]
  2. 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....

  3. 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 signals victory as he returns to the boat after swimming his second leg of the record-setting relay.
  4. Romano: A good, old-fashioned 'I'm sorry' would help in discussion of failing schools


    This is a column about two apologies, one deserved and one owed.

    It begins with a woman understandably upset about the spiraling test scores of students at five predominantly black elementary schools in St. Petersburg.

    She took her anger to the Pinellas County School Board meeting Tuesday afternoon, and punctuated her three-minute address by unfolding a Confederate battle flag.

    The insinuation was clear. Both the flag and her references to the days of Jim Crow laws were unmistakable suggestions that this School Board has been intentionally treating black children as second-class citizens....

    Sami Scott holds a Confederate flag Tuesday as she addresses the Pinellas County School Board. “This is the flag the Pinellas County School District is offering us for our black children,” she said.
  5. Romano: Jeb Bush wants parents to have choices — but not when it comes to testing


    For Jeb Bush, it has long been a reliable applause line.

    Details may change from audience to audience, but the typical Bush speech eventually winds around to the idea that parents deserve a voice in the education of children.

    It's a populist-sounding concept, but there comes a time when rhetoric must meet reality. And, based on a new poll, Bush is the one not listening to what parents want....

    Stacks of standardized tests, including the FCAT, are sent from Pearson's Cedar Rapids facility. These are waiting to be boxed and sent to the loading dock. [Photo Courtesy of Pearson Educational Measurement.]
  6. Romano: 2015 in the running for most pathetic year in Florida politics history


    It is the uncompromising devotion to folly that you have to applaud.

    In the face of judicial demands, public ridicule and private heartburn, legislators still managed to end a special session on redistricting Friday in complete disarray.

    More importantly, they kept alive the distinct possibility that we may soon be able to proclaim 2015 as the most pathetic year in the history of Florida politics....

  7. Romano: Blame the parents, or just help the children?


    I have been asked by some readers to grow up.

    Their emails tell me to stop being a knee-jerk liberal and to acknowledge what is really happening at a handful of elementary schools in St. Petersburg.

    If these schools are "failure factories," as a breathtaking Tampa Bay Times report suggested, then why don't I blame the parents responsible for the students who are struggling?

    So, to those readers, I apologize....

  8. Romano: After findings of 'Failure Factories,' time for action in Pinellas schools


    The numbers are stunning, the descriptions tragic.

    By the time you finish reading "Failure Factories," the gripping Tampa Bay Times report on the squandered education of black children in St. Petersburg, I wouldn't blame you if you were furious. Disgusted.

    Or simply heartbroken.

    For the image of a forced smile on the face of a sweet 6-year-old afraid to go to school should haunt us all....

  9. Romano: In Florida, cheaters (your legislators) still want to prosper


    Every once in a while, legislators get so wrapped up in their own hubris that they drop their guard and reveal just how little they actually care about you.

    Or, to put it another way, welcome to the great redistricting fiasco of 2015.

    It doesn't matter if you don't understand — or don't care — about the intricacies of redistricting. Those legislative and congressional maps are critically important, but they are also highly wonky and thus easily ignored....

  10. Romano: Small things make a big difference for kids who have no one

    Human Interest

    When it comes to solving society's problems, we are a nation of big thinkers.

    We like to talk loudly and plan extravagantly. We show up with grand ideas, and we walk away with bold proclamations.

    And most of the time, we forget that real change begins with small gestures.

    This brings us to a sliver of a room known as Beth's Corner. A windowless nook stocked with baby diapers and wipes. With clothes and shoes. With hope and second chances....

  11. Romano: Meet in the middle on regulations for Uber, taxis

    Working Life

    It's late at night, a crowd is pouring out of Madison Square Garden after a U2 concert, and the sidewalk is full of people furiously waving for cabs.

    A friend pulls out a cellphone, taps an Uber app, and we're back in Brooklyn, relatively cheaply, in 25 minutes.

    It was my first experience with Uber and, 10 hours later, I downloaded the app and was being driven to the airport.

    So, yeah, I'm a believer. Ride share companies such as Uber and Lyft have a great business model based on technology and free market concepts....

  12. Romano: Death of bat boy Kaiser Carlile weighs on Tarpon Springs umpire

    Human Interest

    The sun was brutal, and the equipment he was wearing made it worse. The pay was minimal, and largely eaten up by the 1,400-mile, nonstop drive he had just knocked out.

    To Mark Goldfeder, this was vacation. And the firefighter/paramedic from Tarpon Springs would have it no other way.

    For 15 years he has traveled each summer to Wichita, Kan., to be an umpire at the National Baseball Congress World Series for collegiate players. Just hours after arriving last weekend, he was behind the plate for a 1 p.m. game he wasn't originally scheduled to work....

    Chad Carlile cries for his son Kaiser as he holds his daughter Keirsie, 7, on his shoulders during a tribute last week.
  13. Romano: Rays have fans, they're just not at the ballpark

    Human Interest

    Eventually, this will again be a topic of conversation around here.

    The average attendance at Tropicana Field remains below 15,000, putting the Rays in danger of being Major League Baseball's lowest-drawing team since the 2006 Marlins.

    In many ways, it has become part of the franchise's identity. The Rays are known for pitching, a shrewd front office and a lack of fans in the seats....

  14. Romano: St. Petersburg's blue bin recycling debacle an exercise in being right

    Local Government

    Over here, city officials were expecting applause. Over there, residents were offering insults. In between lay a giant mess.

    (Albeit in bright blue, 95-gallon trash bins!)

    Yes, the recycling war in St. Petersburg continues. It has been a monthlong battle between city officials beaming about finally introducing the town to 21st century technology, and a handful of residents annoyed at the city's my-way-not-the-alleyway style of collection....

  15. Romano: Time for No Pol Left Behind reforms


    The folks involved with Jeb Bush's education foundations love grades.

    They love assigning and interpreting them. They love to praise and punish based on them. They love to preach that grades are intertwined with accountability and standards.

    All of which raises an interesting point today:

    Bush's foundations seem to have an achievement gap problem. You see, the Foundation for Florida's Future, a think tank created by Bush in 1995, recently released its 2015 grades for state legislators....