What does a Donald Trump presidency mean for Hillsborough County? Depends who you ask
TAMPA — President-elect Donald Trump will be a boon to Hillsborough County when he takes office in January.
Hillsborough County’s elected leaders have mixed opinions on what a Trump presidency will mean for the greater Tampa area — a part of Florida he frequented during the campaign — particularly as it relates to the millions of dollars the federal government doles out to the county each year.
Hillsborough received about $125 million in federal grants in 2016 for everything from early childcare programs to fixing roads. Whether that continues under a President Trump remains to be seen.
Commissioner Les Miller, a Democrat and chairman of the commission, isn’t so sure it will.
For one, it’s not just Trump taking over, he said. A new and emboldened Republican Congress will be ushered in as well.
“When you’re talking about a conservative Congress with a conservative president, and that’s the only indication we have now as to how he’ll lead, I think the belt is going to be tightened,” Miller said. “Do we see a downturn? Maybe. I’m not that optimistic at all.”
Past presidents have entered office with an agenda to spark new jobs and fix ailing infrastructure, and that can mean an injection of money in public works projects for local governments early in a new administration.
Commissioner Victor Crist, a Republican and the commission’s vice chairman, believes Trump will make a large investment in Tampa and other major cities.
What does he base that on? Trump’s own experience as a builder and a Manhattanite who sees the value in world class cities. For example, Trump often spoke on the campaign trail of improving U.S. airports, which he compared to those in third world countries.
“I believe him when he says urban corridors are going to be priorities,” said Crist, who wrote in Jeb Bush on his ballot over voting for Trump. “I think Trump will embrace transportation and maybe even bring mass transportation in our urban corridors.”
If that comes to fruition, it would be welcomed by many in a fast-growing region that has struggled to come up with the money needed to expand bus service, build new rail and ferry lines and address daily gridlock.
Crist also said Trump, who has spoken of beefing up the U.S. Military, will be good for MacDill Air Force Base, and will improve commerce in ways that will revitalize the Port Tampa Bay.
But Trump also vowed to tear up trade agreements he deemed unfavorable to the United States and to institute new tariffs on foreign goods. He also promised to reverse the diplomacy and travel with Cuba renewed by President Barack Obama.
Both those decisions could have an outsized effect on Tampa, Miller said. The city is a prime candidate to land a Cuban consulate and Tampa International Airport will soon start flights to the island.
“What we’ve been doing with Cuba, will we still be able to do that? What we’ve been doing with our port in the Caribbeans, will we still be able to do that?” Miller said.
In reality, it’s impossible to know how Trump will lead. Will he be the pragmatic business man he portrayed himself as while a real estate mogul and reality TV star, or the bombastic conservative who ran for office?
Crist believes he’s closer to the former.
“I don't think he’s a partisan and I don't think he’ll get caught up in partisan politics,” Crist said. “While he’s clearly rough around the edges and apolitical, he has been known to hire the best people at what they do in order to capitalize their talents.”
Miller doesn’t know what to think.
“If I had that answer, I’d be a millionaire myself,“ Miller said. “It was hard to determine where he was during the campaign because he was everywhere. No one knows how he’s going to govern.”