New York City has about a thousand times as many residents as Bedminster, New Jersey. Palm Beach County has them both beat in the realm of baseball spring training facilities.
But at least a few things tie the three localities together: They are all home to President Donald Trump’s properties. They all have hosted Trump since the election. And for that courtesy, they are all owed money.
The White House does not seem to be enough for the president and his immediate family. After the inauguration, the first lady remained in NYC’s Trump Tower instead of moving to Washington. Since then, according to USA Today, the president has spent about one-quarter of his time traveling to or hanging out at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort and his “Winter White House.”
With the resort’s main season coming to an end and bipartisan grumbles about the president’s Florida excursions continuing, Trump appears to be considering his golf course at Bedminster as an alternate getaway, Politico reported Wednesday. He hosted a weekend of meetings at that club during the transition.
Trump receives Secret Service protection when he is at these homes away from home. But the trips also create new economic hardships for local governments that rack up large police overtime bills in support.
A busy time in a vacation destination
For new mayor of Palm Beach County Paulette Burdick, the visits have made for an interesting few months.
“I get the opportunity to talk to you,” she said kindly by phone — plus Japanese reporters, two French TV stations and the BBC, to name a few. But most of the visits were hectic, with her time spent in the county’s emergency operations center. Burdick compared it to the experience of prepping for hurricane season.
“We don’t get a lot of warning” that the president is coming, she says. “A couple of days before.”
The motorcade draws guests to admire Palm Beach’s beauties, but also brings concrete costs: an unanticipated $4 million since Election Day, or $60,000 a day largely to cover overtime for Burdick’s sheriff’s department, a sum currently being paid out of the county’s reserves.
Meanwhile, NYC has been spared the traffic nightmare of frequent presidential visits (there have been none since the inauguration), but the city is still on the hook for a growing security bill. The NYPD is responsible for the exterior of Trump Tower and nearby traffic operations and officials say the location of the building in the heart of Manhattan, plus the potential for it to be targeted as a terrorist site, make protection particularly expensive even when Trump isn’t in residence.
In a February letter to the region’s congressional delegation, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the cost of pre-inauguration protection ran more than $25 million. Since Trump moved to the White House, officers have been and continue to be pulled off regular beats. Daily costs have dropped but are still hefty with no end in site. They average between $127,000 and $146,000 a day, enough to pay the annual salaries for some four city EMTs each day.
None of that money has been paid back — not to New York or Palm Beach County or Bedminster, out $3,682.82 from costs related to Trump’s visit during the transition. That might be a small sum, but Bedminster’s a “pretty small town,” Mayor Steven Parker writes in an email, and no federal provisions have been made for future visits to any of the above three places.
The federal government has been slow to act
So far, Congress has made $7 million available solely for overtime costs, and any place the president spent some time from the election to the inauguration is open to apply for reimbursement. But the Department of Justice, which will administer that fund, has not yet made it clear how municipalities should apply for it, and did not return requests for comment.
Negotiations are underway for more funding to make it into the omnibus budget package at the end of the month, says Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for Rep. Nita Lowey, the Westchester Democrat who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Small- and big-town mayors alike will cross their fingers for that date, hoping to weather the strange circumstances of this traveling, restless president.
It was a different situation under Obama. Continual funding wasn’t necessary because the president’s family lived in the White House. And government wasn’t run through Mar-a-Lago.
Mayor Burdick says Trump has followed his “historical pattern” of visitation at the resort, coming many weekends from Thanksgiving to April or May. If he leaves when the links close for the season, that takes a “line item” off county budgets. But for his next hosts, the problem doesn’t end.
“I think we all should be asking the federal government to pitch in, help us out,” she says.