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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: 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....

  2. 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.
  3. Romano: So I guess Twitter is Florida's new field of honor


    Just so you know, this little skirmish between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is not unprecedented.

    In fact, men of a certain conceit have been taking shots at each other for years in Florida. Sometimes, literally.

    Leigh Read, who was rumored to be the next leader of Florida's territorial legislature in 1839, got in the crosshairs of Augustus Alston because Read didn't think government money should bail out private business interests. And, no, I couldn't possibly make this up....

    This little skirmish between Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, and Gov. Rick Scott is not unprecedented, John Romano writes. In fact, men of a certain conceit have been taking shots at each other for years in Florida. Sometimes, literally. [Times files]
  4. Romano: Bet you'd like to ride me out on a rail — except we don't have any

    Local Government

    Did you catch the special report on public transit in the Tampa Bay Times this weekend?

    Fascinating stuff, right? It took a boring topic and brought it to life with numbers, research and anecdotes. If you missed it, I highly recommend you look it up.

    In the meantime, I'll sum it up for you in three words:

    Dang, we're abnormal.

    Not just a little different, or slightly out of step. When it comes to mass transit, the Tampa Bay area is flirting with an off-the-charts approach compared to the rest of the country....

    5. Bus riders come and go recently at the Brandon Town Center Mall, a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority transfer stop location.
  5. Romano: Doesn't medical marijuana deserve a free market too?


    Around here, free market is the answer.

    And it doesn't even require an actual question.

    Education gap? Let the business community fix it. Health insurance? Keep the government out of it. Minimum wage? Leave it up to the job creators.

    Yes, free market competition will always be the solution in Tallahassee.

    Except when it comes to medical marijuana.

    Apparently, that's an industry in serious need of a government-sponsored cartel....

    Trulieve manager Brian Powers, left, helps customer Ricky Parks  at the medical cannabis dispensary on Dale Mabry in January. Parks was diagnosed with lung cancer more than three years ago and said this is the only thing that helps him. Trulieve has three dispensaries open in Florida and plans to open 4 more in the state by the end of the year.
  6. Romano: Ignoring the death panels, and listening to legitimate concerns


    Sometimes, we get lost in the drama. Sidetracked by fools, or distracted by invective.

    And so the new narrative is not about health insurance and not about Medicaid, but instead how the angry middle class is forcing Republican politicians into hiding.

    A congressman in California had to be rescued from a town hall meeting by a wall of cops. A congressman in New York canceled a similar event....

    Tom Timcik, center, claps during U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ town hall meeting at the West Pasco Government Center on Feb. 11.
  7. Romano: How Florida's third-largest political party just ceased to exist


    "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to." Lesley Gore

    The party's over. No, really.

    The third-largest political party in Florida ceased to exist this week. It was wiped out not by infighting or ideology but by a technicality that may or may not exist.

    If that sounds odd, that's par for the course: The Independent Party of Florida has always been slightly off kilter. Not in its views — which are quite moderate — but in its influence....

    The Independent Part of Florida boasted more than 250,000 voters, which made it 10 times larger than the Libertarian Party and almost 50 times larger than the Green Party. And yet it rarely fielded candidates, much less winners. [DIRK SHAFF | Times] 

  8. Romano: Three easy steps to invite an investigation: 1. dare 2. deny 3. defy

    Local Government

    A week ago, I said the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board could not be trusted because it had zero oversight. Obviously, I regret the error.

    It's now clear the board cannot be trusted because it's too stupid.

    Seriously, have you ever seen an agency self-destruct so quickly and completely? Three months ago, few people knew or cared that these folks even existed.

    And now the executive director has resigned under fire, the board has angered and embarrassed its most powerful advocate in the Legislature, it has goaded the State Attorney into convening a grand jury to investigate possible malfeasance and now even disinterested observers are wondering about the boss' fat paycheck on his way out the door....

    Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Friday his office will launch an investigation into the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board. That was prompted by the governing board's failure Thursday to approve a new interim director to take over the agency. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  9. Romano: Even when you have flood insurance, sometimes you will still lose


    You do everything the right way. You buy flood insurance, even though you have no lender demanding it. You surround your doors with sandbags for the approaching storm. You evacuate just as local officials ask, even though you are hesitant to abandon the house you bought less than a year ago.

    And where does it all get you?

    Sleeping on a mattress on a hard floor for the past five months while you worry about the black mold creeping up your walls....

     Picture shows the water level of flooding at Bill and Jill Coyle's Crystal River home from Hurricane Hermine in September. Their home was declared "substantially damaged" by FEMA standards, which essentially means the house will have to be rebuilt at a higher elevation. [Photo courtesy of Coyle family]
  10. Romano: State hears heartbreaking stories on medical marijuana, but will it listen?


    They arrived early. They arrived prepared. Mostly, they arrived angry.

    The parking lot at the Department of Health on the University of South Florida campus was so jammed with cars parked in the grass and on curbs that officials begged drivers to look for spaces a couple of blocks away.

    This is the way the state's Office of Compassionate Use forum on medical marijuana began Wednesday — with hundreds of people unhappy about regulations being proposed for the rollout of Amendment 2, passed overwhelmingly by Florida voters in November....

  11. Romano: Explain to me again why this powerful board shouldn't answer to someone?

    Local Government

    We can't trust educators.

    At least not in the minds of state lawmakers, who have done a fair job of mutilating our public school curriculum in the name of accountability.

    We can't trust our local elected officials, either.

    Lawmakers don't want cities passing gun ordinances, so they've made local officials subject to fines and removal from office. In the name of accountability, naturally....

  12. Romano: A young life is destroyed, and the bill remains unpaid


    A car with three young friends is headed home after a birthday party. Tests say the driver is not drunk.

    A Pasco County sheriff's deputy is speeding through a red light. Evidence suggests his siren is not on.

    Twelve years ago, their cars collided violently in the dead of the night. Airlifted to a hospital with a devastating brain injury, Jennifer Wohlgemuth did not lose her life in that fateful moment....

    Jennifer Wohlgemuth, left, is happy and outgoing, but at 33 has the judgment of a 10-year-old and needs 24-hour supervision.
  13. Romano: Oh goodie, the silly season is about to begin in Tallahassee


    The assault on your sanity has already begun.

    On the day the governor released his budget wish list, the House speaker announced he was going after Tallahassee's cockroaches and the Senate president had to remind everyone of a constitutional amendment that lawmakers have ignored for two years.

    This is typical of the days and weeks before Florida's legislative session. There's posturing and there's positioning. There are sound bites and suckups. Mostly, there's a lot of partisan politicking that leaves very little room for big-picture conversations....

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks about his budget proposals during a pre-legislative news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Tallahassee. [Associated Press]
  14. Romano: At USF, a protest that was more about joy than anger


    As these things sometimes do, the revolution got off to a slow start. Too much chanting and sign-waving and not enough coup and d'etat.

    The students hurried by, the cops looked bored and a homeless guy got prime real estate next to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust on the MLK Plaza. This University of South Florida student protest of the Trump administration's immigration ban was starting to have a complaint-by-numbers feel to it....

    University of South Florida student Asiya Ahmed, from left, is joined by fellow students Murzia Siddiqui, Aya Samhouri and Reema Bassoumi at Monday’s protest. [JOHN ROMANO  |  Times]
  15. Romano: Tallahassee is late, and lame, on medical marijuana


    Voters gave them a solution.

    Others states have given them a road map to follow.

    And still there are people in Tallahassee who seem hell-bent on fouling up Florida's medical marijuana program with unnecessary and unwieldy regulations.

    It doesn't have to be this way, and it shouldn't be this way. More than half the nation is moving forward with medical marijuana, and more than 70 percent of Florida voters agreed it was the smart and compassionate thing to do by passing Amendment 2 last fall....