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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.

Email: romano@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Romano_TBTimes

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  1. 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.
  2. Romano: Florida loves its booze, but not its medical marijuana

    Politics

    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?...

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

    K12

    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....

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

    Politics

    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)]
  5. 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....

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

    Energy

    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:

    "Pffft."

    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....

  7. Romano: Hay fever has got nothing on this annual plague

    Politics

    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....

  8. 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]
  9. Romano: This is about deception, not the death penalty

    Courts

    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]
  10. Romano: Cutting food stamps sounds good to the guys wearing Gucci

    Politics

    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....

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

    Politics

    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 fivethirtyeight.com the other day. It declared, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared.''...

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

    Politics

    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.
  13. Romano: Eliminating political interference would be a real teacher bonus

    Education

    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....

  14. 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.
  15. Romano: Lawmakers and utilities — once more into your wallets, dear friends

    Legislature

    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....