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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: Schools of hope is just one more gimmick set up to fail in Florida


    Competing education plans are about to collide in Tallahassee.

    If you're inclined to skip over a bunch of the details, the basic difference is this:

    The Senate is looking for a solution to Florida's persistent education gap, and the House is looking for an excuse to create more charter schools.

    And hanging in the balance?

    Only tens of thousands of kids.

    This is how life works in Tallahassee, where ideology often comes before common sense. And in this case, the House's ideology is a long-standing mission to turn education over to private interests....

  2. Romano: Artiles' conduct is unbecoming of a senator and a gentleman


    Honor, they say, is the bedrock of their character. It is the quality, to quote the U.S. Marine Corps website, that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior.

    Clearly, Sen. Frank Artiles skipped that part of his military training.

    For I see no honor in how Artiles has behaved in recent days. Not in his insults directed toward a female senator, nor in his reluctance to apologize until it became clear that he had no other choice....

    Forced to show contrition by Florida Senate leaders, Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles stood on the chamber floor Wednesday morning and told his colleagues he was sorry for insulting them in private using curse words and a racial slur. [Associated Press (2016)]
  3. Romano: It's opening day, and the world is right again

    Human Interest

    This day is like no other, and has been for a century.

    Most holidays feel like a destination. A yearlong wait for a singular moment.

    Baseball's opening day is more like a departure. A bon voyage to the cold, and a fresh embrace of the new. The day, like the game itself, cannot be contained by a clock. Instead, opening day is the beginning of a six-month journey across the calendar and the country....

  4. Romano: Want a sure thing? Bet with someone else's money


    I need your help, dear readers.

    I've just watched a bunch of state legislators hear evidence, analysis and reasoned pleas from consumer groups, environmentalists, retailers, the state's public counsel and even the AARP. One after another, they said it was a bad idea to let Florida utility companies play poker with your money.

    To which the legislators replied:


    And so now I'm torn. What is the proper response to such contempt of common sense? Because I'm weary of shouting and feel guilty about laughing....

  5. 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....

  6. 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]
  7. 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]
  8. 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....

  9. 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.''...

  10. 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.
  11. 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....

  12. 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.
  13. 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....

  14. 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. This artist's rendering shows a street view of what the expanded and upgraded Al Lang Stadium could look like. 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]
  15. 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]