President Trump Will Have An Even Bigger Impact On Palm Beach, Fla.

Dec 22, 2016
Originally published on December 22, 2016 7:56 am
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Days after he was elected president, attorneys for Donald Trump had some good news for officials in Florida's Palm Beach County. Trump had decided to drop a $100 million lawsuit against the county for allowing airline flights over his ocean front Mar-a-Lago estate. That was just the latest in a long series of court battles Trump has waged against local governments in Palm Beach. NPR's Greg Allen reports that, as president, Trump will have an even bigger effect on the exclusive community he calls his second home.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Last month after the presidential election, Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams had a recommendation for the county mayor. She should write a letter congratulating the winner, Palm Beach resident Donald Trump. Here's Abrams, a Republican.

STEVEN ABRAMS: As one reporter said, the county mayor, after I mentioned it, looked like she had bitten into a lemon.

ALLEN: Congratulating the new president on his victory, especially one who's a resident and a taxpayer, should be pro forma for local politicians, a routine matter done out of politeness. The letter was written, but the relationship between Trump and Palm Beach County has been anything but routine or polite. Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino has chronicled Trump's tumultuous relationship with local officials since the wealthy businessman bought Marjorie Merriweather Post's historic Palm Beach estate more than 30 years ago.

FRANK CERABINO: He started out as sort of an abrasive outsider who came in and was dismayed that things weren't up to snuff by his standards. For example, he bought a house that was in the flight path of the airport. So his solution was change the flight path or, better yet, just move the airport.

ALLEN: Trump filed four different lawsuits related to the airport over the last 20 years. Litigation, the county says, has cost local taxpayers more than $600,000. Now that he's president-elect, the FAA is diverting flights away from Mar-a-Lago when Trump is there. Commissioner Steven Abrams says all's well that ends well.

ABRAMS: As a prominent person in the community, there were both upsides and downsides.

ALLEN: The community where Trump lives, Palm Beach, is an insular place - literally. It's a barrier island. Every visitor's vehicle is scrutinized by surveillance cameras on bridges from the mainland. From this spot just over the bridge, visitors get a good look at Trump's 17-acre estate, Mar-a-Lago.

CERABINO: They really don't like anything that comes from over the bridge.

ALLEN: Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino says now that he's president, Trump is likely to have an even greater impact on the community that's his part-time home.

CERABINO: And if it means sightseers, if it means media, if it means people just stopping to take a picture or driving along A1A asking people where's Trump's house, that won't go over well.

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: In Palm Beach, the lunch counter at Green's Pharmacy is an institution, one that attracts locals like Lou Ann Swan. She's happy about Trump's win but concedes it will have an impact on the island.

LOU ANN SWAN: Traffic - lots more people as tourists coming to see the Mar-a-Lago, White House of the South.

ALLEN: It will be good for local businesses, Swan says, and worth the inconvenience. Bill Diamond is an old friend and supporter of Trump in Palm Beach but was still detoured over Thanksgiving when the Secret Service closed the island's main thoroughfare near Mar-a-Lago.

BILL DIAMOND: The Secret Service stopped all traffic that wasn't going to Mar-a-Lago, and we went - just took the bridge and went to West Palm Beach and crossed at the next bridge that we could. So, you know, that's what you sort of have to expect.

ALLEN: Some recall when another president, John F. Kennedy, vacationed in Palm Beach. Trump may disrupt traffic, but it's unlikely he'll be holding games of touch football on the beach. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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