Diaspora News

Exposed: New Audit Reveals Disney Had Insane Levels of Control Over Central Florida

A damning new report has surfaced highlighting the extent of Disney’s activities after it inked a deal with Florida’s government that gave the company near complete governing authority over its district. The report is a result of an audit conducted by the Central Tourism Oversight District for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office....For More CONTINUE THE FULL READING▶▶

The report details how Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr. signed the Reedy Creek Improvement Act in 1967, which created the special district that Disney has enjoyed since then. It enabled The Walt Disney Company to develop its second location in Orlando, Florida, obtaining 39 square miles in Orange and Osceola Counties. It had almost total governing authority over the district, which enabled it to create and manage its essential services. However, the corporation also used its newfound power to engage in some questionable activities.

Over the years, Reedy Creek essentially became a tool for Disney to expand its influence and control far beyond the intended purpose of the agreement. It essentially operated as an “experimental absolute monarchy,” or a private corporate kingdom within the United States.

“Disney clinched near-total governing authority over the special district. That authority was so unchecked that Disney attained the power to, among other exceptional privileges, create and direct not just its own fire and police departments but also, if it chose, construct a nuclear power plant.”

Over the years, it became evident that Reedy Creek was essentially a tool for Disney to expand its influence and control far beyond the original vision of a collaborative partnership between a private company and the State of Florida. Disney’s special district lacked individual residents and functioned as an “experimental absolute monarchy,” a private corporate kingdom within the United States.

“What is now evident is that Disney not just controlled the Reedy Creek Improvement District but did so by effectively purchasing loyalty… Not surprisingly then, the District’s employees believed that it was their job to prioritize the interests of Disney.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature abolished the Reedy Creek Improvement District earlier this year and replaced it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The move came after the company vociferously opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act, championed by DeSantis as a way to prevent teachers from instructing young children on gender identity and sexuality.

The audit found that Disney had complete dominance over the RCID. The Board of Supervisors was an extension of Disney’s corporate will. Board votes were allocated based on land ownership, which allowed Disney, as the primary landowner, to control Board elections, which ensured that the Board’s decisions always aligned with the company’s.

Even further, Disney used employee benefits as tools of influence. Members of the Board, along with RCID employees, received substantial benefits that were usually reserved for Disney’s own employees. These included annual passes, discounts on Disney products and services, and access to exclusive events.

Journalist Tyler O’Neil gave more details on the perks employees received.

While Disney would probably argue that these perks were an effort to be generous, they also served another purpose: To build loyalty among those who benefitted from them while blurring the lines between public services and corporate interests. The report alleges that this led to a culture in which RCID’s operations were mostly geared toward ensuring that Disney benefited.

The audit found that Disney’s stewardship of the RCID was marked by a significant lack of development in public services and amenities. Even though its workforce continued to grow and more visitors were visiting the park, the company never invested in essential infrastructure such as workforce housing, schools, or public transportation.

“Under Disney’s control, the RCID built no workforce housing or schools and did not develop any public services directed at anyone but Disney tourists. The RCID never made Disney pay impact fees as all other developers in Orange and Osceola Counties must pay.”

Disney was allowed to get away with refusing to give financial contributions that are typically expected from developers. For example, the company did not pay transportation impact fees, which are essential for funding infrastructure development and maintenance.

If Orange County’s transportation impact fees were applied to Disney’s more than 36,000 hotel rooms, amusement parks, and millions of square feet of office, commercial, and retail space in the District, Disney would have owed hundreds of millions of dollars in never-assessed transportation impact fees that could have funded roadway projects to improve and expand I-4 and intersecting county roads, for example, alleviating traffic concerns and improving commute conditions.”

Another issue was Disney’s questionable spending practices. The RCID, under the company’s sway, engaged in lavish spending on various events and benefits that were disproportionate to its public service mandate. It spent substantial sums of money on expensive parties, retirement celebrations, and expensive gifts. The expenditures, while benefitting the company’s employees and associates, did not exactly align with public interest or the efficient use of taxpayer funds.

The report noted that the district “spent thousands of dollars annually on years-of-service gifts and celebrations—including by paying for RCID employees to attend private celebrations hosted by Disney at its theme parks and otherwise reserved for Disney cast members.”

Investigators found significant issues in how the RCID managed contracts and procurement processes, with contracts being awarded without competitive bidding. Bill Jennings, one of the contributors to the report, found “numerous flaws in contract sourcing, procurement, administration, and payment, including unclear approval processes or documentation, lack of a vendor management system, and procurements without competition or mechanisms to determine whether the goods or services provided are of the highest quality available and competitively priced.”

Under the new system, Disney will no longer have total control over the district, nor will it be able to get away with much of the corrupt activity outlined in the report. The company remains a controversial political actor due to the nature of its programming and its decision to step into Florida’s politics. It has become one of the most prominent aspects of the culture war.

However, the revelations coming from this report also highlight the complexities of allowing certain corporations free reign over their surroundings while prohibiting other companies from doing the same. The question is: Will Disney ever reverse course and get back to its roots, or will it continue being used to promote political messages to its audience?

About the author

Baba Voss

A Prolific Writer, Vast In Series of Publications Basically on Politics, Entertainment, Sport, Life Style, Fashion, Business, Technology, Health, History etc.

Leave a Comment