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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: 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.
  2. 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

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)]
  6. Romano: The health care debate politicians in Washington never see

    Local Government

    Compared to Washington D.C., the health care debate looks a little different in Dade City. No cameras. No formalities. No parade of U.S. senators eager for airtime. It's just a waiting room full of patients at a community health center, and an AC unit straining to prove it's still alive.

    The more likely debate at Premier Community HealthCare is whether anyone on staff knows of a specialist who will take on a patient without insurance. Or whether they'll get the doors closed on time for a change. Or just how gruesome the fight for funds will get this year....

    Parents and their children wait for their turn to be seen by dentists during the second annual Children's Dental Day held at the Premier Community HealthCare dental facility in Dade City, Fla., on Friday, February 3, 2017. The clinic offered free dental care services to about 100 children, including x-rays, cleaning and fluoride treatments.
  7. 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....

    Former Mayor Rick Baker pointed out that Kriseman had previously placed the blame for the problems elsewhere.
  8. 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....

    Daniel Construction excavates the debris from the sinkhole at Linda Fisher’s home. She had insurance and sold the house.
  9. 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]
  10. 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
  11. 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]
  12. 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]
  13. 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]
  14. 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.
  15. 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....

    The Tampa home of the Rev. Henry Lyons. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]