Make us your home page

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: The choice does not have to be poverty or gentrification

    Local Government

    The memories must be protected. The music and the lore, too.

    On the other hand, the rent is due and jobs are scarce.

    And that, in a nutshell, is the conundrum of the Manhattan Casino and the proposed Commerce Park project along 22nd Street S in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood.

    Is it gentrification to bring a Floribbean-style restaurant into a historic African-American nightclub as well as a high-end motorcycle shop across the street, or is it a way to create much-needed jobs in a neighborhood that has seen more plans than progress in recent decades?...

    The owner of Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food is refusing to give the city information on the restaurant's sales as required by his contract to occupy the city-owned Manhattan Casino. The information is needed to calculate whether the nonprofit Urban Development Solutions, headed by Larry Newsome, owes the city more than the $3,000 monthly base rent.
  2. Romano: One person, one vote is not really accurate when it comes to Florida


    Imagine this:

    Your mail-in ballot for the St. Petersburg mayoral election has just arrived. According to the fine print, if you live on the west side of the city, your ballot will count as one vote. Meanwhile, a ballot in St. Pete's northeast section counts for three votes.

    Crazy, right? You wouldn't put up with that.

    And yet, when it comes to the presidential election, we sort of do. All 12 million of us voters in Florida....

    Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections worker Andrea West adds mail ballots to an inserter Sept. 22 at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Service Center in Largo. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)
  3. Romano: A hurricane can take your power, but not your hope


    As too many people figured out last week, it can take a long time to restore power after a hurricane.

    It doesn't matter how often you call to complain, or how sad and droopy you try to appear as the power trucks drive past you on the street. Somewhere along the line you discover you are at the mercy of others. That goes for cable, Internet and gas, too. Not to mention trash collection or roof repair....

    The Wish Tree at the Salvador Dal? Museum was uprooted last Monday in winds produced by Hurricane Irma in St. Petersburg. An arborist says it can be replanted.
  4. Romano: When it comes to hurricanes, is Tampa Bay just lucky or is it overdue?

    Human Interest

    Twelve hours later, the sky was blue and the line to get into Waffle House stretched from the front entrance around two walls and past the loading door in the back of the building.

    This is how we cope with hurricanes in Tampa Bay. Every decade or so we get ourselves worked into a frenzy, and then we exhale with a plate of hash browns, preferably scattered, smothered and covered.

    "When Waffle House opens up, the world is right again," said Pete Burkes, who waited outside the Safety Harbor location for two hours to bring hot food to his disabled mother. "That's the truth."...

    Matthew Salustro, 15, left, Mason Salustro, 12, Darryl Salustro, 49, and Myles Salustro, 14, clean up the front yard of their South Tampa home on Monday, after Hurricane Irma hit the Tampa Bay Area. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  | Times]
  5. Romano: Hurricane or not, I put my faith in Tampa Bay

    Human Interest

    At least this time, we've had plenty of notice. That may not sound like much consolation when hunkered behind plywood and sandbags, but it is an improvement from the last major hurricane around here.

    Now, to be fair, technology wasn't quite the same in 1921. Spaghetti models and cones of uncertainty were still a few tweaks away. Even so, the St. Petersburg Times may have underplayed the coming storm in its Oct. 25 edition....

    Chick-fil-A employees Edward McCall, 27, left, and Kyle Kowal, 24, bolts aluminum shutters to the store windows.   A Chick-fil-A on Cove Bend Drive in Tampa will close this Saturday to next week Monday due to Hurricane Irma making its way to Florida on Friday, September 8, 2017.
  6. Romano: Believing in the American Dream means believing in the Dreamers


    Her little brother is a U.S. citizen, born and raised right outside of Plant City. One of her sisters might be safe too, by virtue of a marriage and the legal protections it could provide.

    All of which might soon make Nanci Palacios an outsider in her own family.

    And, if White House reports are accurate, in her country, too.

    Today is the deadline given by a handful of attorneys general, led by Ken Paxton of Texas, for the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Like marshals in some bad cowboy movie, they have demanded the so-called Dreamers be out of town by some future sundown....

    Nanci Palacios, 28, was 6 when she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico and fears being sent back. “All of my dreams, everything I’ve worked for, is up in the air,’’ she says.   
  7. Romano: At what price are you willing to risk your house?


    When the rains came to Baton Rouge, La., in the summer of 2016, they called it a 1-in-a-1,000 storm. Streets were flooded, houses were destroyed and the average insurance payout was $89,325.

    Except only about 15 percent of homeowners actually had flood insurance.

    The tales of misery from 2012's Hurricane Sandy stretched from the Carolinas to New York. More than a dozen states were affected, with property damage estimated at $50 billion....

    Flood water surrounds houses and apartment complexes in West Houston Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford
  8. Romano: St. Pete mayoral race now goes to overtime

    Local Government

    Well, that was fun. Let's do it again.

    So, does Nov. 7 work for you?

    Because, make no mistake, the mayoral runoff St. Petersburg staged on the last Tuesday of August has the potential to be exactly like the general election the city will have on the first Tuesday of November.

    To put it in football terms, we're going to overtime.

    Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker did not just finish in a virtual tie on Tuesday, they also smoked the rest of the field. And that suggests the exact same voters will soon be back to cast the exact same votes....

    Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, and former Mayor Rick Baker are known quantities with long records in public office. [Times]
  9. Romano: Everything you need to know about the Rays and Ybor City


    Finally, the perfect spot for a baseball stadium in Tampa Bay. It only took 35 years and a collective case of desperation to find.

    I jest, of course. The still-unannounced site on the edge of Ybor City isn't really the perfect spot for baseball. Unfortunately, the Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena, the convention center and every other waterfront business in downtown Tampa claimed most of the perfect spots a while back....

    Gary Russo smokes outside Tabanero Cigars on Seventh Avenue. [Andrew Innerarity | Washington Post]
  10. Romano: A cop dying on the street should not be so easily forgotten


    Remember this:

    The call that claimed the life of Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek was for a car stereo turned up too loud. For St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford, it was a prowler. And for Tampa cops Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, it was a car missing a stinking license plate.

    Just like the two police officers killed in Kissimmee a few days ago after an encounter with a former Marine on a neighborhood street, it does not take a bank robbery or drug deal to turn a day deadly for a law enforcement officer....

    Carmen Carrasquillo of Kissimmee pays her respects at a makeshift memorial at the Kissimmee Police Department on Saturday. A man has been arrested in the shooting death on Friday of two Kissimmee Police officers. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
  11. Romano: Fixing a flood before the rains ever come


    The federal government got into the disaster business when it created the National Flood Insurance Program. And for more than three decades, business was good.

    Rates were relatively low, claims were mostly reasonable, and hardly anyone paid attention to the warning signs ahead. One hurricane, one super storm and $25 billion of debt later, everything has changed.

    So, for the third time since 2012, Congress will consider major flood insurance legislation when returning to session in September. From a Florida perspective, the ideas range from good (cutting regulations to encourage private insurers) to excellent (capping rate hikes at 10 percent a year) to you-better-sit-down (eliminating the rate cap for repetitive loss homes)....

    Pat Evans’ flood-prone 1921 home in Shore Acres was raised through a FEMA program to avoid further damage. She plans to close in around the piers to create a garage space.
  12. Romano: The "morally irresponsible'' strategy to fight opioids in Florida

    Public Safety

    The girls knew the rules, and especially the consequences. Their father would never raise a hand to them, but he was an aficionado of understated punishments.

    Grab a pen and paper, he would tell his two daughters, and come sit at the kitchen table. Write down what you did wrong, and how you plan on correcting it. Sign it, date it and make sure you spelled everything correctly.

    Frank Vazquez fretted enough about Cylea and Leliana that he wouldn't let them spend the night with friends because of all of the things that might go on in other homes. And he was like a doorman at a fancy high-rise when it came to who got past the threshold to visit his girls....

    Frank Vazquez, who died of a fentanyl overdose a year ago this week, on the beach with his daughters Leliana (left) and Cylea. Courtesy of the Vazquez family

  13. Romano: Before the stolen car you will likely find stolen dreams


    Their lives ended in a stolen car in the middle of the night. Presumably, their childhood dreams ended long before then.

    If blame must be assigned in the tragedy of three teenagers dying on a Palm Harbor road, this is as good a place to start as any.

    Yes, you could talk about a juvenile justice system struggling to strike a balance between rescue and accountability. Yes, you could talk about the lack of personal or parental responsibility. Yes, you could talk about troubled schools, endless bureaucracy and any other societal ill you choose....

    Crime scene investigators examine the scene where three teens were killed and one was injured after the stolen SUV they were in violently wrecked west of U.S. 19 on Tampa Road early Sunday morning.
  14. Does mercy still exist in Florida?


    He was no one's idea of a dangerous criminal. Clyde Bunkley was a garden variety burglar, and not a very good one if you were looking for references.

    So it came as no surprise when he was caught breaking into a Western Sizzlin' restaurant in Sarasota in the pre-dawn hours one April night in 1986. It was only when the cops searched his pockets that Bunkley was elevated from nondescript thief to irredeemable felon....

    Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott are two of the four Cabinet members who also serve as the clemency board.
  15. Why a soccer stadium is the last thing the Tropicana Field site needs

    Local Government

    The land is enticing, no doubt about that.

    The 85-acre tract where Tropicana Field resides is so large and uniquely situated that it's almost impossible to screw up its redevelopment.

    Unless you're thinking about building a soccer stadium there.

    The idea came up this week when St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman mentioned on a radio show that Major League Soccer had some interest in that location as a possible stadium site....

    An aerial view of the 85-acre tract where Tropicana Field currently resides. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2013)]