West Palm Beach to Trump: Pay Up or Stay Home

Greg Lovett

Sunny skies. Sandy beaches. West Palm Beach, Florida sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? It seems that paradise has been interrupted since President Trump took office, according to Palm Beach residents. Since Inauguration day, Trump has spent several weekends visiting his estate, Mar-a-Lago. And the residents are up in arms about it.
Local law enforcement is demanding that the White House reimburse them for the costs they incurred providing protection and other services when Trump visits what Floridians are calling his “Winter White House.”
West Palm mayor Jeri Muoio and West Palm’s US House Rep Lois Frankel are both calling for reimbursement to the county and the city. Interestingly, both women are Democrats, and Frankel was mayor before holding her current office; Muoio succeeded her as mayor.
Both women state that the police and fire units are working overtime each week not only to prepare for Trump’s visit but to protect everyone while he is in Florida. Figures estimate that the services are at 120 percent capacity, meaning the city has had to incur costs of overtime pay and new hires to close roads, restrict airspace, and deal with protesters. The city and county are apparently overwhelmed, stating they are just a a small resort town used to quieter residents. Apparently, Trump wants to have more meetings at Mar-a-Lago; it’s how he’s used to doing business—wine and dine business associates at your nice property, then negotiate. In early April, Trump plans to have a Chinese delegation visit, and the county says they need funds to defend against possible terrorist attacks and cyber attacks.
The local officials have been sending letters to the White House since January—letters that have thus far gone unanswered. They estimate the county could spend nearly $6 million for a whole year of Trump visits, and report that the fire department has already spent an additional $1.7 million, and the police say they’ve spent $60,000 providing officers for Trump rallies and protests. The Chinese visit is estimated to have a nearly $300,000 price tag.
They have also cited examples of lost business to area residents, such as the 200 flights that are grounded at the local airport each day Trump is in Florida; the rule is a Secret Service airspace restriction. The letter also cites losses to other local businesses like flight schools and advertisers and asks Trump to “lead by example” by creating jobs, not destroying them.
County commissioner Dave Kerner has gone so far as to have his attorney’s office look at ways to force Trump to privately reimburse the county. “We’re very honored to have the president here, but his travel here is such high frequency he’s not visiting Palm Beach County – he’s governing from it,” Kerner said in a Money magazine interview.
The Florida Democrats are telling Trump to reimburse or consider alternative travel, such as Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.
Without even factoring in Trump, the city has a $40 million deficit. They also have a pretty serious heroin epidemic going on, so it seems that officials there need the money for other things.