Former US President Donald Trump won’t see his name on the airport in his home turf of Palm Beach County, Florida – and it also might be difficult to engrave it anywhere else in South Florida.
A majority of Palm Beach County commissioners told the South Florida Sun Sentinel this week that they won’t support renaming the local airport, Palm Beach International, after him.
The former president reportedly has talked of one day having an airport with his name on it. And having Palm Beach International renamed in Trump’s honour recently was floated by Christian Ziegler, the vice chairman of the Florida GOP, given that Trump has arrived at the airport many times during the visits to Mar-a-Lago, his club in Palm Beach.
County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said she won’t support the airport renaming. “When people hear (Palm Beach), they envision our beaches, our equestrian sports, and in some cases our agricultural contributions,” she said. “It is a lifestyle.” She’s one of five commissioners who say they don’t intend to rename the airport while the other two commissioners didn’t respond to the Sun Sentinel’s requests for comment.
Trump International is a name “better-suited for his golf courses, not our airport,” McKinlay said, adding that Ziegler, a Sarasota County commissioner, probably should “stick to renaming his own county facilities, not ours”.
The quick rejection of the airport idea could be a preview of the difficulty the former president would face in having his name attached to buildings, roads or schools across South Florida, many parts of which lean Democratic.
On Tuesday (local time), state Representative Anthony Sabatini suggested that US 27 – which runs from Miami toward north of Tallahassee across Florida – be named in honour of Trump. But so far, no other renamings have been proposed in South Florida, typical for any president who just left office.
There’s plenty of local precedent for past presidents to be honoured. Barack Obama has roads named after him in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. George H Bush has a road dedicated to him in Delray Beach. Ronald Reagan’s name is attached to Florida’s Turnpike and a high school in Miami-Dade.
Robert Watson, a presidential historian and professor at Lynn University, said those name changes didn’t generate much controversy, partially attributing it to cities usually waiting a few years after a president left office. “After years, the controversy subsides and the emotion and passions subside and it’s not a big deal.”
But with Trump’s volatile persona, combined with the country’s political discourse becoming increasingly more polarised and emotionally charged, the cooling-off period may not have much of an effect, he said.
“I imagine in a couple of years when there’s talk about renaming (things) for him – Trump could be the outlier, the anomaly,” Watson said. “He was so controversial. He generates such controversy that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to touch it.”