State-controlled Disney World government board seeks to regain more control

REEDY CREEK 5 (Large) (1)
The old Reedy Creek board — with members previously picked by Disney — approved long-term land use deals with Disney in February that limited the incoming state-appointed board’s future control.

The latest saga in the Gov. Ron DeSantis-Disney fight will unfold next week as the state-run Disney World government board is scheduled to meet and consider several resolutions meant to regain more control of the land use on Disney’s massive resort property.

The old Reedy Creek board — with members previously picked by Disney — had approved long-term land use deals with Disney in February that limited the incoming state-appointed board’s future control.

DeSantis handpicked a new board to oversee Disney World’s infrastructure, a power granted thanks to a new law meant to punish the Walt Disney Company for speaking out against Florida’s parental rights in education legislation. The law also changed the name of the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Angry at Reedy Creek’s last-minute deal done in a public meeting, DeSantis vowed last week to fight back against Disney. He mentioned the possibility of toll roads, hotel taxes or doing development on Disney’s property in addition to new legislation to overturn the old Reedy Creek board’s vote.

“Ultimately we’re going to win on every single issue involving Disney, I can tell you that,” DeSantis said last week while speaking at Michigan’s conservative Hillsdale College.

DeSantis has also called for a state investigation into the situation.

The board members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District said last month they were bracing for a legal battle to overturn the previous agreements.

“It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the Governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern,” said board member Brian Aungst Jr. last month.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger criticized DeSantis for punishing a company for exercising its constitutional right to freedom of speech. Iger reminded Disney shareholders last week that Disney World is Florida’s biggest employer, biggest tourist attraction and the company plans to invest $17 billion in the next 10 years in Florida. To punish Disney is both “anti-business” and “anti-Florida,” Iger said.

Disney has also denied doing anything improper with the Reedy Creek board.

“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” the company said in a media statement last month.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s next meeting is scheduled for April 19.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


3 comments

  • Eduardo Burkhart

    April 11, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    Leave Disney alone and let Disney run own government because it is only one in the world famous name. It is democracy!!

  • Corruption in Florida

    April 11, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    More proof that Ron DeSantis is a fascist.

    He’s extremely dangerous. He’s bad for business and he’s bad for Florida .

    He will cost the tourism industry billions of dollars with his nonsense

    He’s like a child it doesn’t get his way so he throws a temper tantrum

  • Bert Stimson

    April 13, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Here’s the thing, Ron: Disney is still a step ahead of you – and they haven’t even sued yet for the clear 1st Amendment violations you continue to attempt. You just keep giving them evidence for whenever you make it necessary for them to involve the courts. And their high-powered corporate lawyers are going to be a lot better at law than your army of partisan yes-men. So good luck, little guy!

Comments are closed.


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