Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Mar-a-Lago visits a blessing and a curse


WASHINGTON — After pardoning a turkey, President Donald Trump got down to his real Thanksgiving tradition: a visit to Mar-a-Lago.

On Wednesday afternoon, the president and first lady Melania Trump departed for Palm Beach, marking the return of regular visits to Mar-a-Lago.

The trips, which will likely last through the spring, are seen as a blessing and a curse for the area as security tightens, roads are closed and protests are staged.

Trump’s visits have stirred a number of questions about the security of Mar-a-Lago (recall the infamous scene of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussing North Korea’s missile test) and access club members have to him.

But it is Trump’s domain, and his return fulfills a dream of a "Winter White House."

Here are some observations from third-generation Palm Beacher Alexander Ives, former president of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

•?"Being a small town, the talk is mostly about utility work for undergrounding power lines and redoing water and sewage lines not being conveniently coordinated well with POTUS visit. A lot of normal people visit town for the holiday season as well, so traffic is difficult."

•?"People are curious to mildly excited to see if Trump will use a helicopter to travel from the airport to his new helipad at Mar-a-Lago. Many hope it will alleviate traffic issues, though streets still have to be closed for security. There is a concern about just how loud that chopper will be."

•?"Stories that Palm Beach resident and Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have inflated his wealth or misled (about his business investments) are creating interesting chatter. People really like Wilbur here so I think they question the reports, but it’s certainly more the talk than anything Trump."

•?"The sexual assault and harassment scandals nationally are beginning to be a worry here. A prominent estate attorney and a restaurateur are said to be people who may fall from accusations soon."

•?"Finally, I don’t hear much about the Russian yacht docked nearby, but I do hear a joke that you seem to suddenly hear Russian spoken a bit more by ‘tourists.’?"

Bittel retains post

Ousted Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel plans to give up his post as Miami-Dade County’s state committeeman — but not until after his successor as chair is elected.

Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, told the Miami Herald that Bittel will remain committeeman until a day after the scheduled Dec. 9 election in Orlando to pick the new chief.

As Miami-Dade committeeman, Bittel holds power over 62 votes in the next chairman election, according to party rules. That gives him the single largest share of the vote in the state.

Cuba’s announcement made it seem like Bittel was staying on to wield his outside influence on picking his successor.

However, Cuba later clarified that Bittel plans to give Cuba his proxy to cast the votes on Miami-Dade Democrats’ behalf.

Bittel was forced to step down over accusations from several women that he leered at them and treated them unprofessionally in the workplace.

Terrie Rizzo of the Palm Beach Democratic Party said in a Facebook post that she would seek Bittel’s seat. Activist Alan Clendenin of Hillsborough County has said he’ll run, and other state Democrats are considering candidacies as well.

Contenders have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 to declare their candidacies and be listed on the party ballot.

Graham draws line

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham drew a line in the sand on Medicaid expansion Monday.

Graham said she would veto Republican legislative priorities if lawmakers refused to work with her to expand the health care program, which provides health insurance to low-income Americans, through the Affordable Care Act.

"I’ve lived in Tallahassee most of my life, and I don’t mind the summer heat," Graham said in a release. "It won’t bother me one bit if the Legislature is forced to stay here all summer to ensure Floridians have access to affordable health care."

Florida opted not to expand Medicaid after the Supreme Court found in 2012 that the federal government could not force states to do so.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently found that 702,000 Floridians would be newly eligible for Medicaid if the state opted to expand the program.

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Kirby Wilson and Patricia Mazzei contributed to this week’s Buzz.

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