The new DeSantis-appointed board overseeing the Disney World government — the Reedy Creek Improvement District — is waging a war against Disney after Disney snuck through a 30-year development agreement, essentially neutering the governing powers of the newly established board.
According to reports, the Disney-controlled board passed what the AP describes as “restrictive covenants” prior to the DeSantis administration’s overhaul.
DeSantis formally signed legislation essentially ending Disney’s self-governing status at the end of February, nearly a year after signing the Parental Rights in Education bill into law. That law, specifically, kicked off a contentious battle with Disney, as the supposedly family-friendly organization embraced the false pro-groomer narrative of activists who touted fake news, deeming the law “Don’t Say Gay.”
Disney, in turn, went full groomer, vowing to fight the law, going as far as identifying the company goal as getting the law — protecting children and empowering parents — repealed or “struck down in the courts.”
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney said of the law in March 2022. The law, in part, bars classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade:
Statement from The Walt Disney Company on signing of Florida legislation: pic.twitter.com/UVI7Ko3aKS
— The Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) March 28, 2022
In turn, the Florida legislature passed legislation to end Disney’s self-governing status, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced new members of the control board: Tampa attorney Martin Garcia as chairman, Seminole County attorney Michael Sasso, Clearwater attorney Brian Aungst, The Gathering USA CEO Ron Peri, and Sarasota County School Board chairwoman and Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler.
However, the new board said it now has to deal with the actions of the previous board, which reportedly passed the agreement on February 8, 2023.
Per the AP:
The current supervisors of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District said at a meeting that their predecessors last month signed a development agreement with the company that gave Disney maximum developmental power over the theme park resort’s 27,000 acres in central Florida.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” Aungst, a member of the board, said. “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.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the agreement “allows Disney to build projects at the highest density and the right to sell or assign those development rights to other district landowners without the board having any say, according to the presentation by the district’s new special legal counsel.”
Similarly, Ziegler said on social media that the new board “won’t back down” against this “last minute sweetheart development agreement.”
“The arrogance of @disney continues… from ignoring parents and allowing radicals to sexualize our children, to now ignoring Florida taxpayers by sneaking in a last minute sweetheart development agreement, Disney has once again overplayed their hand in Florida,” she said.
“We won’t stand for this and we won’t back down. If unlawful actions were taken, this development agreement will be nullified,” she vowed:
The arrogance of @disney continues… from ignoring parents and allowing radicals to sexualize our children, to now ignoring Florida taxpayers by sneaking in a last minute sweetheart development agreement, Disney has once again overplayed their hand in Florida.
We won’t stand for…
— Bridget Ziegler (@BridgetAZiegler) March 30, 2023
DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin also had this to say on social media: “The media & left are desperate to defend @Disney‘s special interests bc they support their agenda. So they’re writing up the fight as if it’s over. A fight was always expected. Unlike others, @GovRonDeSantis took the fight on. And the new board has only just begun to fight”:
The media & left are desperate to defend @Disney‘s special interests bc they support their agenda.
So they’re writing up the fight as if it’s over.
A fight was always expected. Unlike others, @GovRonDeSantis took the fight on. And the new board has only just begun to fight 👇 https://t.co/mcYqEQI57D pic.twitter.com/44RccJ87Xe
— Bryan Griffin (@BryanDGriffin) March 30, 2023
Disney, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing, stating that “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.”
DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske, however, said in an emailed statement that an initial review of the board “suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.” As a result, the new board is seeking legal assistance.
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