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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: C'mon Rick Baker, tell us how you really feel about Trump

    Local Government

    A brief timeline of presidential politics in St. Petersburg:

    In 2007, Mayor Rick Baker was named co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Florida. Later, in 2008, he made appearances on behalf of the McCain-Palin ticket.

    In 2011, Baker was one of four state chairmen for Herman Cain's presidential campaign in Florida. When that fizzled, in 2012, Baker was named a senior adviser on urban policy for the Romney campaign....

    Rick Baker, center,  waves to drivers while holding a sign that reads "Thank You" along with his family and supporters.
  2. Romano: Love to hear your Nazi speech, but I'm washing my hair

    Human Interest

    A year ago, he was racism's favorite twerp.

    Just another silly troll with a smattering of online followers.

    He published obscure Internet magazines and was a one-man boardroom for the white-identity think tank known as the National Policy Institute.

    And then came Richard Spencer's big career break:

    He was discovered by liberals.

    Oh, they howled. They dithered and they stewed. They showed up in Charlottesville, Va., and turned what should have been a creepy spectacle into Spencer's Nazi-festooned coming-out party....

    Richard Spencer, center in sunglasses, and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police after hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" clashed with anti-fascist protesters and police in August in Charlottesville, Va. [Getty Images]
  3. How fast is too fast to raise the minimum wage? St. Pete might be about to find out

    Local Government

    Say this about St. Petersburg's City Council members:

    Their hearts are in the right place.

    It's their math that's askew.

    The council's budget, finance and taxation committee voted unanimously last week to move forward with a mandatory minimum wage increase for contractors doing business with the city.

    Now, in principle, this is a fine idea. Florida's minimum wage of $8.10 an hour ranks in the bottom half of the nation, and the current cost-of-living accelerator is comically inadequate....

  4. John Romano: Here's to the politicians who only defend certain parts of their beloved Constitution


    Sometimes, the truth is in the silence.

    You can learn more by what a person does not say than when they are shouting from a mountaintop. Or so it seems when it comes to Florida politicians.

    Take, for instance, the question of the U.S. Constitution. Pretty important document, right? Candidates and office-holders fall all over themselves when it comes to quoting, praising and honoring the words of the Founding Fathers....

  5. Romano: Can City Hall really change the world?

    Local Government

    Good day to you, Justice Ginsburg.

    You too, Chief Justice Roberts.

    And particularly you, Justice Kennedy.

    I realize getting an audience with the U.S. Supreme Court is rare, but I thought you should know the St. Petersburg City Council has put in a request for some indefinite date in the future.

    Basically, the council has circumvented one of your landmark decisions. Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, to be exact. The council recently passed a campaign finance ordinance that stifles some of the unintended consequences of your 2010 decision in Citizens United....

    City Council vice chair Amy Foster is seen Saturday January 2, 2016 at City Hall in Downtown St. Petersburg.
  6. Romano: Drunk, fat and shrewd is one way to win the Governor's Mansion in Florida


    One of the more intriguing potential candidates for governor has an unapologetic love affair with booze.

    He's filthy rich, and not ashamed to remind you of that. On his best days he can be a charming SOB, and on his worst he can be an annoying one. He would be reckless as a candidate, and unpredictable as a governor.

    So how, you ask, can Democrats possibly support John Morgan?

    If they're smart, with open arms....

    Personal injury lawyer John Morgan speaks to guests of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club luncheon at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, April 21, 2017. Times (2017)
  7. Romano: Sure, let's trust a board with no professionalism, transparency or ethics

    Local Government

    So, if you've been following the bureaucratic carnage:

    The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board operated as a rogue operation, homeowners were given lip service and their complaints were ignored, and the paper trail was so fouled up that it's impossible to track down a truckload of missing money.

    And yet some members of the county's legislative delegation think you should still trust the board to operate independently....

  8. 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.
  9. 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)
  10. 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.
  11. 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]
  12. 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.
  13. 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.   
  14. 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
  15. 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]