On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s board for the new Central Florida Oversight Tourism District — formerly Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — met for the first time. DeSantis may have wanted to rid his state of a “corporate kingdom,” but a conservative kingdom at the Disney Resort has formed in its place.
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What has been a recurring thread through this entire ordeal is the Florida Governor’s right-wing ideals that Florida is the place “where woke goes to die.” DeSantis often referenced Disney’s California roots in his campaign against the House of Mouse, which began last year. The historic change to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has stood since 1967 (four years before the Walt Disney World Resort opened), came after Disney publicly condemned Florida Legislature’s decision to introduce HB 1557, the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, or as it became commonly known, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Last year, the relationship between The Walt Disney Company and the Florida government fractured after former CEO Bob Chapek condemned the decision to introduce HB 1557. The bill, which seeks to end conversations in the classroom regarding gender and sexual orientation, passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate before being signed into law by DeSantis in March 2022. The bill came into effect just four months later, in July.
Thus, as punishment for Disney’s apparent misdeeds, their defense and allyship of the LGBTQIAP+ community, DeSantis announced he would be revisiting old policies, including the potential restructuring of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. Fast-forward to 2023, and the RCID is now named the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, with the Disney Resort’s self-governing status revoked. While initial plans intended to destroy the RCID, a new bill — HB 9B — saw the district’s survival but with new people wielding power. For reference, HB 9B includes the following:
Reedy Creek Improvement District, Orange and Osceola Counties; Reenacting, amending & repealing chapter 67-764, Laws of Florida, relating to district; provides for continuation of authority for revenue collection & powers to meet outstanding obligations; renames district; provides boundaries; revises manner of selection of board of supervisors; provides term limits; revises board member compensation; revises powers of board; revises powers of district; provides for transition; provides for continued effect of stipulation between district & Orange County; provides exception to general law.
Disney World’s Reedy Creek ends — Magic Kingdom becomes the Conservative Kingdom
The first gathering of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District saw the board host community members and began addressing concerns regarding taxes and the lack of emergency services personnel, especially in the fire department.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that DeSantis named his new board, a board that cannot include any individual that has worked in the theme park industry for the last three years. The replacement of the sole Disney-run RCID came in the form of five conservative members, all of whom have donated funds to Ron DeSantis or other right-wing political agendas over the years. They are Martin Garcia, who serves as chair, Bridget Ziegler, Michael Sasso, Brian Aungst, Jr., and Ron Peri.
Peri runs The Gathering USA, a Christian ministry for men, and is a man who previously suggested that tap water could make people gay. Another member, Bridget Ziegler, co-founded the Moms for Liberty, a group that promotes “anti-woke” school policies and was a driving force behind the installation of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The first meeting saw chairman Martin Garcia address the elephant in the room, reminding those that attended the board meeting in a hotel outside of Disney World, that while the people did not elect them, they were put in their positions by the Governor the state elected. The board members then went on to discuss measures that may ignite major controversies in the future, “including prohibiting COVID-19 restrictions at Disney World and recommending the elimination of two cities that were created after the Florida Legislature in 1967 approved the theme park resort’s self-governance,” (via Yahoo News).
The rebranding of Reedy Creek with the CFTOD has been cemented with comments that the board will act as a moral arbiter for the Disney Park and, by extension the Mouse House itself. Just a day before the board meeting, spokesman for the Governor’s office Bryan Griffin said the new district board members will be examining how they can get it (Disney) “back on track.”
Widely considered to be a front-runner for the 2024 Presidential race, DeSantis’ culture war in Florida is likely going to be the backbone of his campaign — at the HB 9B signing, DeSantis said Disney was to blame for putting “a lot of sexuality into the programming for young kids.”
As the Governor openly wields political power to punish private businesses, it could be troubling to see how much the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District impacts the running of Walt Disney World Resort.
Related: Disney World Declared “Capitalist Dystopian Nightmare” as Guest Struggles to Save Vacation
After the meeting on Wednesday, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairperson Josh D’Amaro addressed the new district. Yahoo News writes:
“[D’Amaro] was hopeful the new board would continue to maintain “the highest standards” for the resort’s infrastructure, set by its predecessor, and support ongoing growth at the resort.”
How this will play out is anyone’s guess. Disney World still holds control over its content, but the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is a new barrier the business and CEO Bob Iger now face when it comes to developing and expanding its Resort. Even though the district was not dissolved, this end of an era and the beginning of a new one find Disney World changed forever.
How do you think the new board will begin to change Disney World? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!
Walt Disney World Resort boasts four theme parks: Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park. It also features two Disney water parks, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, and the retail and recreation area, Disney Springs. A valid ticket, as well as a Park Pass reservation, is needed to enter each Park and Park Hopper hours begin at 2 p.m. daily.