By Brenda Flanagan
“It was very impressive. It was just knock-your-socks-off impressive,” said Bedminster Township Mayor Steven Parker.
Parker says watching the president fly into Bedminster last night, then head off to his private golf club in a swirl of Secret Service kind of takes your breath away.
“And the president — no matter who the president is — that’s the United States going through Bedminster,” he said.
The president tweeted today, “Rather than causing a big disruption in N.Y.C., I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, N.J. this weekend. Also saves country money!” Well, relatively speaking.
Local police took up their posts outside the Trump International Golf Club for a three-day stint that could cost rural Bedminster $42,000 for extra security. That’s about $300,000 total over seven summer visits. But the budget resolution just passed by Congress contains a measure allowing towns that host Trump to apply for reimbursement from a special, $41 million pot of money. Palm Beach will want a cut — just two of Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago estate cost taxpayers there $1.2 million. That’s according to the group Judicial Watch. And New York City estimates security around Trump Tower runs $150,000 a day even when the president’s not there. Parker credits Congressman Leonard Lance.
“With New York and Florida involved with it, the Bedminster portion would be a small fraction. But it’s all about reimbursement,” Parker said. “We’ve gone back to December, asking for these funds to be available and it looks like Congressman Lance came through for Bedminster.”
Parker had no comment on a proposal from Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli to tax Trump’s golf club for the money to cover Bedminster’s ongoing security costs. Area residents think it’s kind of cool to have a president for a neighbor.
“He comes here quite a bit and I know he’s got the golf course over there. And I guess it’s good for the community here,” said Bedminster homeowner David Wellema.
Not everyone agrees — especially local airports.
“His presence here is imposing a fairly severe burden on a lot of people and a lot of small businesses,” said Frank Steinberg, president of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition.
Steinberg explains the Secret Service orders restrictions on air space whenever Trump’s in town: an absolute no fly zone in a 10-mile ring around the golf club, which grounds two small airports and a restricted fly zone for 30 miles, which impacts 15 small, family-owned airfields. If the president visits eight weekends this summer, that’s the high season for flying.
“That’s when the bulk of the flight training gets conducted, that’s when the bulk of the personal use of aircraft takes place,” Steinberg said. “If he’s here regularly, it’s going to have a severe economic impact.”
He says Trump’s not unwelcome but should consider visiting less often. And not everyone welcomes the president here. Several protest groups greeted him with signs yesterday. He never saw them. He probably didn’t see the billboard truck hired by UltraViolet that drove around town today. A Branchburg protester — who landscapes with anti-Trump posters — will turn out tomorrow.
“Any opportunity to get as close to him as possible to express that objection I think is an advantage to us,” said protest organizer Jim Girvan. “We’re going to rally at the library with the other people where police have set up a location to meet.”
Protesters plan a People’s Motorcade tomorrow. It’ll start here and then drive past the golf club entrance, horns blaring. Protesters hope the president will hear their discontent.