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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: Hay fever has got nothing on this annual plague


    Your eyes grow watery and swollen. Your throat feels raw, and your head begins to pound.

    It's that time of the year in Florida when the air grows thick and nearly unbearable.

    Yes, the state Legislature is in mid-session.

    And that means hypocrisy is in full bloom.

    My goodness, how these folks can foul the air with their relentless double-talk. They are always for smaller government right up until a campaign donation convinces them otherwise. Regulations are bad, unless they coincide with agendas. Legislators never pick winners and losers, but they will remember certain people fondly in appropriations committees....

  2. Romano: You can fret, you can rejoice or you can get used to baseball in St. Petersburg

    Local Government

    For 10 years, we have crept. You may even say plodded.

    The search for a new baseball stadium in Tampa Bay has been nothing if not deliberate and, on most days, stealthy. Speculation has run up the score on confirmation almost every step of the way.

    And then, suddenly, BOOM!

    The headline says the Rays' top five choices for stadium sites have all been eliminated. If this isn't game-changing, it's at least significant....

    Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg talks with reporters before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte on Thursday. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Romano: This is about deception, not the death penalty


    Feel free to check whichever box seems like the more plausible explanation for Aramis Ayala's stunning death penalty announcement:

    � After four years in law school, four years as a prosecutor, eight years as a public defender, nine years as an adjunct law professor and nine months as a state attorney candidate, she had an unforeseen epiphany last week regarding the merits of the death penalty....

    Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced on March 16 that her office would no longer pursue the death penalty as a sentence in any case brought before the 9th Judicial Circuit of Florida. [Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
  4. Romano: Cutting food stamps sounds good to the guys wearing Gucci


    This legislative crusade to take food stamps away from more than 200,000 Floridians seems to be motivated by two philosophical ideals:

    No. 1 — Limit spending.

    No. 2 — Nudge people toward self-sufficiency.

    Well, heck, who's going to argue with that? Lawmakers should always be careful when spending our tax dollars, and weaning people from government dependency is a no-brainer....

  5. Romano: The odd quality that separates Tampa Bay from most of America


    We are divided, you and me.

    For that matter, so are you and a neighbor. You and a co-worker. Maybe even you and a family member.

    We, as a community in Tampa Bay, are about as divided as it gets in America.

    And that's not a bad thing. You might even say it's worth celebrating.

    I started thinking about this when I saw a headline on analyst Nate Silver's website the other day. It declared, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared.''...

  6. Romano: Bilirakis sees only what he wants to on health care law


    Here's the problem with courage:

    It doesn't look good in small doses.

    You either have it all the time or you're faking it most of the time. And when your courage is dependent on convenience, people tend to notice.

    This is why Gus Bilirakis might want to brace himself for some sniping.

    The Republican congressman from North Pinellas got some well-deserved praise a few weeks ago when he stepped outside of Capitol Hill's safety zone and spent several uncomfortable weekends and nights listening to constituents talk about the country's health care laws....

    U.S. Rep. (R) Gus Bilirakis, left, along with U.S. Rep. (D) Kathy Castor talked to the audience about ongoing cancer research funding possibilities through a bi-partisan effort in Congress at the Moffitt Cancer Center's Stabile Research Building in Tampa in March 2016.
  7. Romano: Eliminating political interference would be a real teacher bonus


    Two years later, we're still talking about teacher bonuses. As if this is the magical elixir that will suddenly lead to better schools, well-rounded students and happier lives.

    If you had not yet heard, the folks in Tallahassee are rolling out improvements to their "Best & Brightest" bonus plan for teachers. And by improvements, I mean upgrading the plan from truly idiotic to largely ineffective....

  8. Romano: Live with danger, or let go of a child?

    Human Interest

    It is a question with only one acceptable answer:

    What do you do when your children are in peril?

    You protect them. Always. Without hesitation and without remorse. That's supposed to be the deal when you become a parent. You should be willing to trade your happiness and health, if it comes to that, in exchange for their safety.

    Now let me ask you this:

    What do you do when your children are in peril . . . from one of your other kids?...

    Allison and Jeffrey Brown’s adopted nephew Nicholas was removed from their home last month after he threw a mirror at Allison and punched a wall.
  9. Romano: Lawmakers and utilities — once more into your wallets, dear friends


    Think about the worst movie to ever come out of Hollywood.

    A film that was a proven disaster, without any redeeming value.

    And now imagine this:

    They're making a sequel.

    Apparently, that type of backward thinking went into a pair of energy bills being considered in the Florida Senate and House. Piggybacking on the billions of dollars that Florida customers lost on nuclear power gambles, there is now a pathway for the same kind of ripoff for fracking....

  10. Romano: It ain't my money, but MLS costs sound awfully high

    Local Government

    Kudos to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and owner Bill Edwards.

    So far, they've been spot-on in their quest to bring a Major League Soccer expansion team to the area. They've been up front about their intentions. They haven't tried to circumvent St. Pete's waterfront regulations. They intend on paying for Al Lang Stadium renovations themselves. They've even agreed to foot the bill for the May referendum on a potential 25-year lease with the city....

    The St. Petersburg City Council approved a May 2 referendum that would allow voters to decide whether to let the Tampa Bay Rowdies expand historic Al Lang Stadium to 18,000 seats. An artist's rendering shows what the stadium could look like from the marina. The Rowdies' goal is to position the franchise to make the jump to Major League Soccer in the coming years. [Courtesy of Tampa Bay Rowdies]
  11. Romano: The kid who went to prison has come home as a man

    Human Interest

    Redemption may or may not begin in a Waffle House off Interstate 75. This is the place Tim Kane chose last week for his first non-prison meal in 25 years. For 90 minutes, he sits and savors a lunch of greasy delight. There is no one to tell him chow time has ended.

    Or maybe it begins in a stuffy chamber in Tallahassee. This is the place officials gathered last fall to hear the pleas of prisoners seeking parole. In an extraordinary decision, they ignored an investigator's recommendation of a 2027 parole date and instead ordered Kane be released as soon as possible....

    Timothy Kane is pictured at the Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell, in 2010. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]
  12. For a Better Florida: Romano says welcome back to the lamest show on earth


    In these, the final days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, it is helpful to point out that you need not wear a bright orange wig and a red nose to have the heart of a clown.

    You need only be elected to the Florida House of Representatives.

    Yes, in this case, it is the sideshow that never ends. How many clowns can you squeeze into a Volkswagen? Not as many as you can get to sponsor a gun bill in the Florida House....

    Except for the big floppy shoes and red noses there are many similarities between the world-famous Clown Alley of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Florida House.
  13. Romano: Will we consider it justice if Curtis Reeves walks?


    Most people seem to think "stand your ground'' is a pretty good law.

    Politicians swear that's true, and the polls typically back up the concept. We like how it makes us feel safer. We like the idea that it gives us an upper hand against the bad guys.

    We like it right up until the moment we see someone else using it.

    When prosecutors drop charges against two teenagers allegedly involved in a gunbattle that left eight people wounded during a holiday parade, then "stand your ground'' seems a little nutty....

    Curtis Reeves Jr. takes the stand to testify during his "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] 

  14. Romano: Hey voters, Tallahassee wants to stiff you again


    Remember that kid from the old neighborhood?

    The one who could never lose gracefully? When a game was over, he would always complain something wasn't fair, and if the rules weren't changed he was going home.

    You know what you call that kid today?

    A state legislator.

    Because it sure seems as if lawmakers have a wicked childish streak in them whenever they don't get their way....

  15. Romano: From the shadow of pill mills, a new drug crisis emerges in Tampa Bay

    Public Safety

    Their lives were surely greater than a medical examiner's final summation. You would think a world of hopes and memories were tucked safely away in every one of their hearts.

    And yet the stories told in investigative recaps sound like a bleak and repetitive nightmare:

    Found on the bathroom tile. Found in a friend's car. Found in a cheap hotel. A syringe nearby. Plastic baggies nearby. A straw nearby. Fifty-three years old. Thirty-four years old. Eighteen years old....

    Six years past the peak of the pill mill epidemic (this 2007 photo shows a victim of that crisis), Pinellas is going through another killer drug crisis.