Linda Stewart slams Gov. DeSantis’ Disney board for slashing safety spending, ending DEI

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She said a police presence deterred the Pulse shooter.

Sen. Linda Stewart says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ war with Disney has now compromised the safety at Central Florida’s attractions.

“When government attempts a hostile takeover of a business to enforce a political agenda and puts a rogue oversight board in place like we’re seeing here with Disney, it not only jeopardizes public safety, but the job security of our police officers and the skilled workers that keep our community safe and thriving,” the Orlando Democrat said in a statement.

Stewart fought against DeSantis’ push to eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a self-governance structure in place since Walt Disney World opened in 1971. The Legislature passed that law after Disney promised to fight Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education law,” derided by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Now a new Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, made up entirely of members appointed by DeSantis, has voted to abolish diversity, equity and inclusion elements in any awarding of contracts.

“Our district will no longer participate in any attempt to divide us by race or advance the notion that we are not created equal,” said District Administrator Glenton Gilzean. “As the former head of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can say definitively that our community thrives only when we work together despite our differences.”

That decision came shortly after the board voted to cut property taxes 7% and to consider cutting public safety spending by $8 million and eliminating pay for extra Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

That decision is a dangerous one, the Senator said.

“We know the important role the presence of law enforcement plays at major tourist destinations,” Stewart said.

“For instance, federal prosecutors suspected that on the night of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the shooter decided against targeting the House of Blues in Disney Springs after surveying the location and seeing the large police presence. If major funding and policy changes like this continue to happen, we can only speculate as to what could happen next.”

In 2016, shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub, at the time the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Police killed Mateen at the scene after an hourslong standoff. At a trial for his wife, who was acquitted of any involvement in the crime, prosecutors showed security footage of Mateen at the House of Blues the same night of the shooting.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Cheesy Floridian

    August 6, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    So the Supreme Leader of Florida (Rhonda) and his extremely unbiased honest board (puppets) members decide to defund the police that are used to help keep Disney safe. And use the money to pay for their legal bills. Way to go Ron…. Way to go…..

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