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: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    It's not that those other issues aren't important, but they aren't what's really dividing Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker. This election, wisely or not, is a referendum on whom you blame for past sewer problems and whom you trust to be in charge of future sewer fixes....

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  2. Romano: Sinkholes take Florida's quirks to a whole 'nother level

    Public Safety

    So all of this — the beaches, palm trees and fresh grouper sandwiches — comes with a few extenuating costs. To live in Florida is to accept a lifestyle of hazards, both peculiar and deadly. Lightning strikes and hurricanes, for example. Alligators and sharks, too. Floods, drug traffickers, spring break and scoundrels by the ballot-full.

    For the most part, you can at least see them coming. You accept, understand and, in a lot of ways, learn to appreciate their place in Florida life....

    Two days after a sinkhole opened in front of her Spring Hill home in 2014, Linda Fisher packs up to leave for good.
  3. Romano: Give the Uhurus credit for pointing out the problem, and blame them for failing to solve it

    Local Government

    If it is merely attention they are seeking, members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement have succeeded. People are buzzing about the outlandish rhetoric of candidates and disruptive behavior of followers.

    In a municipal election that could have drowned in the wonky discussion of sewer repairs, neighborhood debates have somehow turned into hot tickets and viral videos.

    But here's the unfortunate truth of the matter: ...

    A forum for six mayoral candidates and eight hopefuls for City Council was disrupted by jeers and chants largely orchestrated by the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement earlier this month at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  4. Romano: Tampa Bay could learn from Miami's stadium fiasco

    Local Government

    They should be counting their blessings, and financial windfalls, in Miami this weekend.

    Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park on Tuesday, a precious perk doled out in return for building the $639 million stadium and parking complex that opened in 2012.

    Instead, there's a good chance the cheering will be drowned out by grumbling.

    Already unhappy with the amount of public money spent on the stadium, plenty of people in South Florida are even angrier now that Marlins owner Jeff Loria is selling the team for as much as $1.2 billion....

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria talks with Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg before the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
  5. Times investigation: Henry Lyons diverted money from Tampa church that offered him redemption


    TAMPA — The church was in distress and likely heading to ruin.

    Loan defaults and foreclosure proceedings had the members of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in fear of losing their historic building on the edge of downtown Tampa. Elderly worshippers on fixed incomes were implored to donate more and more to save the church from potential calamity.

    Yet unbeknownst to New Salem leaders during this time, a fund designed for churchgoers in financial crisis was being used to quietly direct tens of thousands of dollars to Pastor Henry J. Lyons, as well as to non-profit organizations he created, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. ...

    Pastor Henry Lyons, 75, displays his collection of legal tender in a room of his New Tampa home. A Times investigation found Lyons orchestrating transactions that shifted money away from the church and into accounts under his control. [Times Photo | Corey G. Johnson]
  6. Romano: I think Uber is Latin for gouging (Or why I should apologize to cabs)

    Human Interest

    Let's talk about regulations.

    Specifically, let's talk about the battles we've seen locally, and nationally, that have pitted the taxi industry against rideshare companies such as Uber.

    So I was in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday night for a U2 concert at the stadium where the New England Patriots play.

    (First aside: Yes, I saw U2 at Raymond James Stadium two weeks ago. But my best friend and I have gotten together to see U2 play often over the past 35 years. I never claimed to be particularly bright.)...

    A woman walks past the Uber company logo in San Francisco, Calif., in this 2014 file photo. [AP photo]
  7. FBI to meet with church leaders about allegations against Henry Lyons


    TAMPA — An FBI agent was at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday to inquire about allegations made against former pastor Henry J. Lyons.

    Church elders voted to terminate Lyons last week, citing questions about potential financial improprieties.

    THE PROFILE: The making of Henry Lyons

    HENRY LYONS: How the downfall began....

    The Rev. Henry Lyons poses for a photo in his study in his Tampa home. [ANDRES LEIVA | Times]
  8. Romano: When it comes to gun control, listen to reality and not hysterics

    Public Safety

    Let's acknowledge the obvious:

    State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, sounded a little hysterical when he recently suggested we should all be carrying weapons when we venture from our homes.

    Unless I've missed something, we are a long way from being a war-torn country. For the great majority of Americans, I'll bet the only violence we ever see is on a television screen.

    So to react to the senseless shooting of a congressman and others on a baseball field in northern Virginia with a holsters-for-homeowners campaign seems, if you'll pardon the phrase, like overkill....

    Violent crimes in America has been dipping. The number of murders has gone down in both Hillsborough and Pinellas, from 72 in 1996 to 63 in 2016, and from 43 in 1996 to 39 in 2016.
  9. The Rev. Henry Lyons forced out as pastor of Tampa church amid accusations of theft, misconduct


    TAMPA — The second coming of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons was not as celebrated or lucrative as his previous life.

    The one-time leader of the largest black Baptist organization in America — toppled by infidelities and imprisoned on fraud charges — has kept a relatively low profile while running a century-old church in Hillsborough County the last dozen years.

    Lyons no longer has the ear of the President of the United States, and his empire does not include the same luxuries as during his heyday in St. Petersburg in the 1990s....

    Willie Lyons, left, poses for a photograph with her husband, the Rev. Henry Lyons, in their Tampa home on Friday. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  10. Romano: Rays owner says Tampa Bay can usher in a new world of driverless technology

    Economic Development

    The time has come to embrace our weakness, Tampa Bay.

    When it comes to the future of mass transit, we seem to have ignored, argued and delayed ourselves right into a potentially enviable situation. In other words, our aversion to trains may actually pay off.

    The world is about to change when it comes to how people travel from Point A to Point B. And one of the area's most high-profile business owners thinks this market is uniquely positioned to take advantage of what could be a transformative — and wildly lucrative — industry....

    “If you’re talking about spending tens of millions on mass transit, I think you’re better off taking a big swing at this technology,” says Stu Sternberg, principal owner of the Rays.
  11. Romano: Less school money from the people who brought you more school tests


    The premise is simple:

    The state is in charge of funding for education in Florida, and so local school boards should shut up and do what they are told when it comes to policies.

    There's just one problem with that:

    Some local districts have been providing a greater percentage of education funding than the state, which means Tallahassee is offering less and interfering more.

    In what universe does that make sense?...

    High Point Elementary fourth-grade teacher Kristin Bierman works with a guided reading group.
  12. Romano: Ignoring drug crisis has a cost beyond life and death

    Public Safety

    The doors open early, well before the sun is in play.

    Like coffee shop baristas awaiting the rush hour crunch, the medical professionals at Operation PAR facilities begin preparations for the methadone cocktails they'll soon be dispensing.

    They'll serve business professionals on the way to work; students on the way to class; expectant mothers on the way to appointments; transients on the way to nowhere....

    The New York Times reported this week that preliminary figures indicate overdose deaths in the U.S. grew by 19 percent last year, the largest single increase since records have been kept. [Cheryl Senter/The New York Times]
  13. Romano: A ruse by any other name still stinks


    The governor was angry. Very, very angry.

    We know this because he traveled the state explaining it to anyone who would listen. It was his own version of a pique behind the curtains tour.

    In Naples, he said legislators failed residents by coming up with a last-minute budget nobody had seen. In Lake Mary, he said lawmakers passed a budget in the dark. In Pensacola, he said he was shocked that the Legislature was operating in secrecy....

    Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, reveal their budget agreement Friday at Miami International Airport.
  14. Romano: Criticize Trump or be loyal to GOP? David Jolly says answer is easy


    They call, they email, they pursue.

    The guy they're looking for has been busy planting palm trees at his new home in Belleair Bluffs, but the TV news producers have another project in mind. They're curious if he'll shovel dirt on Donald Trump.

    So, he feels obliged to explain to them that he's not anti-Trump. He sincerely wants the man to succeed, if only for the future of the nation....

    David Jolly, pictured during a CNN appearance in February, has been sought out by Larry King, MSNBC, CNN and others hoping to get him to talk about Donald Trump. [CNN]
  15. Romano: Florida loves its troopers, right up until payday


    Holy smoke, did you see the starting salary figures for Florida Highway Patrol officers outlined in a recent Tampa Bay Times story?

    I was stunned that state troopers in Florida begin their careers making $33,977 a year. That seems like an absurdly low figure for a job of significance and responsibility.

    Reporter Jeremy Wallace astutely pointed out that Florida's starting wage is quite a bit lower than some neighboring Southern states not exactly known for their high cost of living....

    Florida Highway Patrol troopers secure the scene after a fatal accident in Orange County earlier this year. [Red Huber | Orlando Sentinel via AP]