Town of Palm Beach News

Winter White House To Become Weekend White House in Palm Beach

It seems that Donald Trump likes his Winter White House so much it’s bound to become his Weekend White House.

President Trump visited his Palm Beach estate for the second time in two weeks recently, and, of course, he does not come alone – media hordes along with secret service members come with him, and the whole event brings with it the inevitable traffic jams, business disruptions, raises security costs and draws a mass of protestors.

However, there might be a good side to all this, coming from national exposure that should bring more people to Palm Beach hotels.

In any case, one of the most famous Palm Beach part-time residents is certainly altering the life on the island – and its residents treasure their privacy and peace.

According to Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, getting used to President Trump’s visits is a matter of adaptation, and she is certain that the town will find a way to make it easy for the residents, while keeping President Trump safe and secure. To do that, the town relies on the Secret Service.

Trump’s occasional visits to Palm Beach have started back in 1985, when he purchased the 18-acre Mar-a-Lago estate. After being elected, he declared it his Winter White House. Mar-a-Lago was built in 1927 for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, and after Trump’s purchase, it was converted to a private club that also serves as Trump’s part-time residence. But his visits might be more frequent than people expected after he was elected President.

President Trump’s most recent guest at Mar-a-Lago was the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, who stayed there and had dinner with Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

This is hardly the first time that the town of Palm Beach was visited by a president – it used to be one of President John Kennedy’s favorite places – but times have changed, and presidential security is now more extensive than ever, as well as the media attention.

Winter White House To Become Weekend White House in Palm Beach

Southern Boulevard was shut down due to security concerns while the presidential motorcade traveled from Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago, and South Ocean Boulevard, between South County Road and Southern Boulevard, has been closed to drivers and pedestrians over the weekend, with the exception of residents living between South County Road and Woodbridge Road.

However, the town of Palm Beach has taken measures that aim at minimizing traffic jams when President Trump is visiting. All contractors, pool cleaners and landscaping crews are required to stop work and leave the island by 3 p.m. on Fridays, a measure that will be effective at least through May 1.

Also, all the town employees will switch to flex scheduling, timed so that they would not add to the rush hour. In addition, residents are encouraged to sign up for the town’s text and email traffic alerts which send out warnings about problematic areas when the president is in town, and the traffic lights will be adjusted so drivers going east and west are given preference.

Business owners, however, complain, as closing streets down for traffic hurts their businesses, and there is another pressing problem – temporary flight restrictions. Since this virtually shuts down most flights in the area, and flight training, sightseeing flights and airplane rentals are not allowed within 30 nautical miles of Mar-a-Lago, this causes a loss in sales for Palm Beach County airports and aviation-related business.

The county estimates that Trump’s initial visit cost the Palm Beach County airports around $250,000 in lost fuel sales. According to Geoff Painter, owner of a flight training school at Lantana airport, his company misses out on 20 to 25 flights per day during Trump’s visits. Many company owners that are in the same boat as him are considering cutting their losses and moving their companies in order to stay in the business.

There are financial losses when it comes to helping with security – namely $250,000 in overtime expenses during Trump’s Thanksgiving visit, and $14,500 in overtime by West Palm Beach police officers responding to thousands of protesters that marched through the town during Trump’s first presidential visit. More officers might be required in the case protests become a regular part of these visits, considering the fact that 40 of the town’s 70 police officers responded to the protest on February 4th, which takes away from other duties.

On the other hand, when it comes to hotel business, it might be a bit too early to tell for sure if President Trump’s visits affect occupancy and by how much. Of course, the media bring attention to the area, but reporters also need accommodations. So far hotel and restaurant owners have reported little change after Trump’s initial visits. Still, a tourism boost is expected due to the exposure brought by presidential visits, so Palm Beach may see a long-term economic benefit.

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Jess specializes in local news coverage. She is a hands on reporter attending every event and meeting she can in the community.

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