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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: So I guess Twitter is Florida's new field of honor

    Politics

    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]
  2. 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.
  3. Romano: Doesn't medical marijuana deserve a free market too?

    Politics

    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.
  4. Romano: Ignoring the death panels, and listening to legitimate concerns

    Politics

    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.
  5. Romano: How Florida's third-largest political party just ceased to exist

    Politics

    "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] 

  6. 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]
  7. Romano: Even when you have flood insurance, sometimes you will still lose

    News

    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]
  8. Romano: State hears heartbreaking stories on medical marijuana, but will it listen?

    Medicine

    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....

  9. 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....

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

    Courts

    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....

    Traci Wohlgemuth, left, has taken care of daughter Jennifer, 33, since she suffered a brain injury when her car was hit by a Pasco County sheriff’s car in 2005. She was awarded millions by the court but has received nothing.
  11. Romano: Oh goodie, the silly season is about to begin in Tallahassee

    Politics

    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]
  12. Romano: At USF, a protest that was more about joy than anger

    Politics

    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....

    Asiya Ahmed, from left, is joined by Murzia Siddiqui and Aya Samhouri as the USF students raise their hands in solidarity to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration ban of seven Muslim-majority countries.
  13. Romano: Tallahassee is late, and lame, on medical marijuana

    Politics

    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....

  14. Romano: Checking in with the attorney general for another good laugh

    Politics

    This is exactly what we needed.

    In the final hours of an interminable election, we were due for a little comic relief. A chuckle amid the rancor. A giggle to relieve the tension.

    Yes, we absolutely needed Pam Bondi to show up.

    Florida's attorney general is the whim beneath our wings. She talks; we laugh. Everybody wins.

    In case you missed it, Bondi was on Fox News on Sunday to discuss FBI director James Comey's announcement that there was nothing in the renewed Hillary Clinton email inquiry that would warrant charges....

    Pam Bondi
  15. Romano: Hillsborough County is the nation's no-partisan zone

    Politics

    Turns out, Main Street USA is not just a marketing ploy at Disney parks.

    It exists a few blocks from the neighborhood where they've rolled Cuban cigars for more than a century. It's near a bay, close to strawberry fields and down the road from a collection of strip clubs.

    It looks diverse, it sounds moderate and it feels increasingly relevant.

    So where is Main Street USA?

    Apparently, somewhere in Tampa....