U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, held a discussion with mayors in her congressional district Wednesday, when they complained about a lack of mental health resources and sought her help in getting more federal funding.
Frankel started her day by ripping President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But that hot topic gave way to more municipal concerns when the congresswoman met with nine mayors in her district, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.
Frankel reminded those in attendance that a recent federal funding bill includes money for local governments that have incurred security and roadway management expenses during President Trump’s many trips to Palm Beach County.
“The burden is spread out among the taxpayers,” Frankel said before joking that the county could see fewer presidential trips now that the weather is warming.
“All I can say is thank goodness it’s summer,” she said.
Frankel told the mayors Delray Beach is working on an ordinance to regulate sober homes. The mayors said more beds need to be available for the mentally ill and told the congresswoman they’d like to get more federal funding to help with community renovation projects, tearing down abandoned buildings and youth programs that could steer young people away from drugs and make a dent in the opioid crisis.
With President Donald Trumplikely to return to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for a third consecutive weekend, a state legislator has asked Gov. Rick Scott, who calls himself a long time friend Trump to “intercede any way u can” with the president in hopes of getting the Secret Service to tweak flight restrictions local aviation firms say might be running them out of business.
The Lantana airport is effectively shut down by the Secret Service during Trump’s visits to Palm Beach.
“While the safety of our President is the first and foremost concern of all citizens, I am hopeful that you will recognize the value and importance of maintaining jobs and the economic engine that helps fuel Palm Beach County, which in turn helps our entire state,” Rep. Lori Berman,. D-Lake Worth, whose district includes the Lantana Airport, wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. Her office hand-delivered it to Gov. Scott’s office in Tallahassee.
“Without the consideration of a slightly loosened TFR, our community will continue to feel these adverse effects on our local economy,” Berman wrote. “The potential loss of quality jobs to our area is too great to ignore.”
“TFRs” are temporary flight restrictions.
The Palm Beach Post has asked Scott’s office at least twice in recent weeks if he’ll intervene with Trump, but the office has provided responses unrelated to the question.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner, a Democrat whose district includes the airport, wrote his own letter Wednesday to the Secret Service, listing some of the proposed tweaks, which include a “corridor” allowing planes to come and go to the west and southwest, a plan they believe would not threaten the president’s security.
“The security TFR procedure presently in place will most certainly close the closure of several small businesses” at the airport, Kerner wrote, “and affect the livelihood and lives of thousands of Americans.”
Berman and Kerner agreed to draft their letter during a meeting Monday at the airport, organized by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to talk to anxious businesses.
The businesses say Trump’s past two weekend stays have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and their customers, worried about continued visits, already have fled to other airports. One business, the maintenance firm Palm Beach Aircraft Services, says it could lose at least $2 million a year in gross revenue.
Jonathan Miller, part-owner of the “fixed base” operator at the airport, said Thursday businesses estimated $30,000 in losses the first two visits and project $45,000 in losses during the upcoming long Presidents Day weekend..
Presidential visits to Palm Beach County are not unusual, with former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all making multiple visits for fundraisers, golf outings and campaign appearances. But those visits did not involve extended, and frequent, stays, as is the case with Trump.
Businesses at the Lantana airport had a message for Lois Frankel to take to President Donald Trump: you’re putting us out of business.
At a meeting Monday at the airport, about two dozen people who own or operate businesses there told U.S. Rep. Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, that two straight weekend of stays by the president at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound have cost them thousands of dollars, and customers worried about continued visits already have fled to other airports.
And a collective groan went up when Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he’d heard — unconfirmed — what most have suspected for a while; that Trump will take advantage of the long President’s Day weekend and make it a third straight weekend.
The business people told Frankel, and she said so as well, that they understand the need to protect the president while he’s here. Pelly said he and the businesses, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, have suggested tweaks to the temporary flight restrictions which would let planes come and go to the west and southwest, letting them operate while keeping Trump safe. So far, the Secret Service hasn’t budged, saying it wanted to see how the first visit or two went before making any changes.
Frankel asked the businesses, as well as Pelly and Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner — whose district includes the airport — to assemble a package she could take to the Secret Service. She said she’ll also reach out to the White House to ask that it lobby the Secret Service to make accommodations for the airport, listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation.
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, whose legislative district includes the airport, said she’ll craft a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking if he also can call on Trump, a longtime friend, to lobby the Secret Service. The Palm Beach Post posed that question to Scott last week but he did not answer it.
Business have reported some $250,000 in losses — with several not yet reporting — just from the president’s first visit last weekend. With Trump set to return again today for a weekend that includes talks with the prime minister of Japan, some firms have said repeated Trump visits could run them out of business.
Airport officials have stressed it is the Secret Service, not Trump, which imposed the restrictions. They all acknowledged the need to protect the president and said they recognize the Secret Service can’t afford to be 95 percent right. But they’ve said publicly, and in correspondence with both the Secret Service and the White House, that they hope the agency will find ways to both protect Trump and avoid harming businesses. Officials also have called on Trump himself to lobby the Secret Service.
Also invited: private aircraft owner Kelly Gottlieb; Florida Aero Paint manager Chris Cura; Palm Beach Helicopters owner Dan Crowe; Palm Beach Flight Training owner Marian Smith; Skywords Advertising owner Jorge Gonzalez; a representative of Sarasota Avionics; private aircraft owner Phil Valente; and Palm Beach Aircraft Services owner Dave Johnson, who also chairs the airport’s advisory board and is local representative to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents small plane owners nationwide.
Frankel’s scheduled to talk to reporters following the meeting.