April 26, 2024 7:00am

Trump Trial/Vanderbilt University campus in West Palm Beach

Palm Beach Power Poll influencers weighed in this month on former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial and plans by Vanderbilt University to build a satellite campus in downtown West Palm Beach.

Photo of Joe Capozzi
By Joe Capozzi
Palm Beach, FL Correspondent
article image

Palm Beach Power Poll influencers weighed in this month on a national and local topic, both with Palm Beach-area connections: Former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial and plans by Vanderbilt University to build a satellite campus in downtown West Palm Beach.

Trump, who lives at Mar a Lago on Palm Beach, is on trial in Manhattan for falsifying business records related to his role in a hush-money payment to a porn star. He is the first former president to be criminally prosecuted.

What will be the outcome of the trial? Forty-one percent of respondents predict he will be convicted while 27 percent predict the trial will result in a hung jury. Eleven percent predict an acquittal and another 11 percent predict a mistrial.

His case prompted comments both pro and con from Palm Beach influencers, 34 percent of whom responded to our April poll.

“Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for all his misdeeds,’’ said Debi Murray, Chief Curator of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

“The U.S. public needs to see that public officials need to be held accountable and no one, not even elected officials, are above the law,’’ said James Sugarman, a personal life coach.

“Of course Trump will be convicted. That's why Kangaroo courts are convened,’’ said Sid Dinerstein, former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. “If a fair trial was important then a change of venue would have been sought.’’

Vanderbilt University wants to open a satellite campus on 7 acres of public land in downtown West Palm Beach, as first reported by Stet Palm Beach Media. The county owns 5 acres and the city 2 acres. The university is hoping the governments donate the land as part of a deal to build a business school and a college for computer science and artificial intelligence.

A majority of influencers participating in our April poll, 53 percent, think the city and county should donate the land while 43 percent are against a free handout of prime downtown real estate.

“Why are we giving away land to schools from out of the county?’’ asked Murray of the Historical Society. “Why can't we upgrade the universities already here to improve their technology and AI programs? There has got to be cheaper land in areas less congested than in downtown West Palm Beach.’’

If a deal is struck, planners should consider ways to minimize the traffic impacts of the new campus, some influencers said.

“While I don't believe WPB needs more traffic congestion, the presence of an additional, prestigious university will be good in many ways for the city and the county,’’ said Sugarman.

The Vanderbilt proposal offers planners a chance to incorporate “walkability” into the downtown campus setting, said Timothy F. Hullihan, president of TFH Architectural Services. “Concerns for a downtown university on a relatively small 7-acre site can be addressed by recognizing that one of the most valuable experiences in college is the exposure to a walkable lifestyle,’’ he said.

“Land will be more efficiently used, and traffic will be less of a concern if the satellite campus for Vanderbilt University is planned as a car-free walkable place where students and faculty can afford to live, work, study and play without using a car.’’

Of course, Vanderbilt isn’t the first major university to consider the land for a satellite campus. In 2021, the University of Florida wanted a similar deal to build a downtown campus on 12 acres, including five owned by a private developer. That deal fell through.

But 55 percent of Palm Beach influencers think the Vanderbilt proposal will become a reality while 36 percent think it will fail, like the UF idea.

“Palm Beach has a clear history of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,’’ said Dinerstein. “Scripps’ is Exhibit I. U of Florida is Exhibit 2. Max Planck is Exhibit 3. You get the idea.’’

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll