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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: On this education bill, you decide who is evil


    The political ramifications are not lost on Kristine Benson.

    She understands the Legislature is basically playing a high-stakes game of ransom with funds for education. She's admittedly conflicted. She called the controversial bill HB 7069 a "slimy'' strategy.

    And yet, she is pulling for it to succeed.

    She has no other choice.

    As far as she is concerned, the future of her 6-year-old son Chase depends on it....

    Chase Benson, 6, was born with Down syndrome and autism. He attends a private school in Palm Harbor through a Gardiner Scholarship.
  2. Romano: Time is up chief, make a call on police body cameras


    Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.

    If we're being honest, it's way past time.

    Look, I know you've gotten rave reviews since assuming control of the St. Petersburg Police Department in 2014. Everybody, it seems, has good things to say about Tony Holloway.

    Residents seem generally happy, the rank-and-file are mostly content and the politicians are thrilled. Heaven knows it ain't easy to please everyone across the board like that....

    St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway
  3. Romano: The firefighter vs. City Hall, round 2

    Local Government

    A former attorney for the city of St. Petersburg once argued in court that just because a law was unfair it wasn't necessarily unconstitutional.

    This wasn't some theoretical exercise. It was the city's rationale for denying workers' compensation payments to a firefighter after he suffered a catastrophic back injury on the job.

    Back in 2013, the city argued that it should not matter that the firefighter was not medically cleared to work. Nor that he had bills to pay, had to raid his pension account and withdraw from the city's deferred retirement program. The law at the time gave the city the right to stop payments, and so it did....

  4. Romano: No offense Gov. Scott, but they're making you look like a wimp


    Dear Governor,

    Can't help noticing you've been a little peeved lately. Honestly, I can't blame you.

    You've been in office long enough to know you're not going to please everyone, and the critics will come at you from every direction. There should be no surprises or complaints there.

    Still, it's gotta sting to be knee-capped by your own cohorts.

    Worse yet, they did it in full view of the world. You argued, you threatened, you practically groveled in the public square, and Florida legislators still treated you like some empty-suited stooge....

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [AP, left; SCOTT KEELER | Times, right]
  5. Romano: The impact of a life never to be forgotten

    Human Interest

    Sometimes, when they didn't know she was there, Kay Dillinger would hear them talk.

    Their words were not unkind, nor were they incorrect. They just lacked the necessary perspective.

    They would be walking the halls of the PACE school for girls in Pinellas County, and some young lady leading the tour would stop to explain about the room known as Beth's Closet.

    "There was this lady,'' the tour guide would say, "and her daughter committed suicide . . .''...

    Beth Dillinger is pictured with her parents, Bob and Kay. The Beth Dillinger Foundation, created in 2007, provides support and education to youths in need.
  6. Romano: A tale of two competent mayors, and one conflicted electorate

    Local Government

    Well, okay, score the first point for the former mayor.

    And all Rick Baker had to do was show up at City Hall.

    Within an hour of the news breaking that Baker had, indeed, filed to run again for the mayor's office in St. Petersburg, he was being depicted as out-of-touch and divisive by Rick Kriseman's campaign manager. And, in case that description wasn't pointed enough, we were reminded that Baker worked to defeat the nation's first African-American president....

    Rick Baker has filed to run against Mayor Rick Kriseman.
  7. Romano: One vote could change the way voters look at Bilirakis


    Six months ago, he was more popular than Donald Trump.

    At least around here, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis was a brand name with an unquestioned track record in elections. Trump may have beaten Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 points in Florida's 12th Congressional District that spans from North Pinellas through Pasco, but Bilirakis won the seat by 37 points.

    Realistically, there is no reason to believe he won't again be an overwhelming favorite to win a seventh term when the next election rolls around in 2018....

    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 bipartisan effort in Congress in 2016.
  8. Romano: Imagine how much better life could be without a Legislature


    House Speaker Richard Corcoran began the 2017 Florida legislative session by questioning the wisdom and the need to continue funding the state's tourism agency.

    To hear Corcoran explain it, money was being wasted, accountability did not exist and the state would get along just fine without so many slackers at Visit Florida.

    What puzzles me is why Corcoran stopped there.

    If his goal was to root out the tone deaf and the useless in Tallahassee, the past few weeks have revealed an even more obvious target for elimination....

  9. Romano: Stars and gripes flying in this neighborhood flag dispute

    Human Interest

    Let's start with the irony, shall we?

    In his mind, Warren Erickson saw his collection of flags as an invitation to conversation and goodwill. Instead, a handful of neighbors are angry, his homeowners association is firing off new edicts and most of his flags have been permanently retired to a corner in his garage.

    "There's some friction around here, and I'm not sure why," Erickson said. "It's not like I'm flying the flag that ISIS flies."...

    Warren Erickson, 84, with his flags representing, clockwise from left, the German state of Bavaria, Germany, the United States, Sweden and Wyoming. He also has the flags of Finland, the Netherlands, Turkey and the U.S. Marine Corps.
  10. Romano: Scientology's problems on Clearwater land deal are of its own making

    Local Government

    I've been bothered by these questions all week:

    What if it had been the Roman Catholic diocese? What if it had been the Jewish Federations of North America?

    What if it had been any religious organization other than the Church of Scientology being snubbed by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in a land purchase deal?

    I can't say for certain, but I assume there would have been some consternation. A lot of hand-wringing. Maybe even some people in positions of prominence talking about religious discrimination....

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is asking the Pinellas County Commissionfor for $26 million in tourist tax dollars, but the Church of Scientology says the facility doesn’t deserve it. The church sent a complaint to local and state officials, alleging the aquarium has a number of financial problems and should be denied the money. Aquarium director David Yates says the church’s allegations are unfounded. The aquarium last week sold a prime piece of downtown land to the city, against the church’s wishes.
  11. Romano: Florida loves its booze, but not its medical marijuana


    Glad to see your dedication to the free market, Rep. Larry Ahern.

    You too, Reps. Wengay Newton, Chris Sprowls, Sean Shaw and James Grant.

    In fact, there were a dozen state representatives from the Tampa Bay area who decided Wednesday it would be good public policy to allow hard liquor to be sold next to the Pop-Tarts at your neighborhood Walmart or Target.

    So can I assume you will show the same free market fervor when it comes to implementing the medical marijuana amendment this week?...

  12. 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....

  13. 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)]
  14. 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....

  15. 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....