50 years since Disney World opened, It’s not such a “small world after all”.
surely, Wolt’s Central Florida Entertainment Empire Now we need to address the world’s biggest problems, such as gridlocked highways, housing shortages and natural resource stress.
The mystery is the 38-mile county land use along Interstate 4 that Disney used to build “the happiest place on earth”, including the world’s number one tourist, by government planners. That’s why we didn’t follow the Walt Disney Company’s initiative in the plan. destination, Walt Disney World..
Over the last half century, Orange County and Osceola County have grown from 370,000 to 1.8 million. It makes Disney a big mouse in the room, so to speak, when politicians discuss issues affecting workers, or when deciding who pays to respond to population growth.
Debris from the population explosion clogs I-4 with the chaotic spread of the city, but the Reedy Creek Improvement District is exempt from most state regulations, and the county doesn’t say. Created by Disney and lawmakers, Reedy Creek has its own police and fire departments that tax electricity and create codes.
According to Charles Lee of the Florida Audubon Association, the area is a good model for growth management and land use.
“If you can take a vision template of how they treated the land and insist that others do as good a job as Disney did within his boundaries, many can be found in Orange County and Osceola County. There would have been no confusion, “Lee said.
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“Supported the formation and molding of the state”
When Roy Disney embarked on his late brother Walt Disney World in 1967, it turned a sleepy agricultural nation of 6 million into an economic powerhouse with 21 million living and working in the world’s 15th largest economy today. It showed that it changed. Than the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, said: “Florida’s economic, political, and social environment today owes much to Walt Disney’s fateful decision to come to Central Florida.”
Jewett said there are some bad things, along with good things, when the economy is intertwined with theme parks. “Yes, we do a lot of work, but they don’t pay much. When it comes to housing costs.”
However, the vast number of jobs and tax revenues associated with Disney World have long cast a shadow over state government halls. NS 2019 study Disney turns out to dominate Central Florida’s tourism industry, according to Oxford Economics, And production:
- Central Florida’s annual economic benefit of $ 75.2 billion.
- 463,000 jobs.
- $ 5.8 billion in additional state tax revenue.
The sales tax levied on the 58 million Disney World tickets sold in 2018 was $ 409 million. That’s more than the state spends this year on school construction and maintenance, or the entire Elders budget.
The numbers give Disney such an impact that lawmakers don’t have to talk about taxes, wages, employment issues, or roads, schools, and clean water payment methods.
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According to former and current lawmakers, scholars, and other observers, if Disney has a flaw, it operates with an efficient focus on revenue, eliminating other issues and maximizing profit opportunities. is.
D-Orlando Rep. Anna Escamani said she saw Disney lobbyists sitting silently at a committee meeting and said other lobbyists were working to convince lawmakers how to vote.
“Disney does not support state plans ahead of local governments against legislation to protect workers from wage theft or ordinances to benefit communities,” she says. I did. “They play both sides, but their entire legislative agenda is very focused on their bottom line.”
Walt Disney Co. accepted an email asking for comment, but did not discuss its impact on the state capital.
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Lobbying in camouflage
Disney’s lobbyists involve lawmakers in conversations away from hearings, but Escamani said that related organizations such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Federation, and Florida’s related industries are in what Disney’s often unstated position is. He said he supported and publicly testified.
“That’s where they put their money and influence, and that’s exactly what the association does for them,” said Escamani, whose father and other relatives worked at Disney World.
A Disney lobbyist refused to talk about attribution in a discussion about the company’s lobbying. Others did not answer the phone.
Former state legislator Robert McKnight (Democratic Miami) was a business ally of Disney when he was in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate from 1974 to 1982, and when he was Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. I saw the lobby. He said business groups exist to “camouflage” the interest of key players in the matter.
“They have a lot of bills they work for,” McKnight said. “But they got the bills they had to pass-or squelch-and those bills were the ones big guys like Disney wanted.”
McKnight recalls hearing lawmakers discussing a groundbreaking proposal to seduce Disney to Florida in the mid-1960s. Only one member (State Congressman Marshall Harris, D-Miami) voted against the bill that gave Walt Disney more than 38 miles of unprecedented authority to build the Florida Empire. ..
Disney World Political Impact
Disney’s popularity allows the company to distribute tens of millions of dollars in election funding to local and state candidates per election cycle. Given the number of corporations that are part of the Disney family, the large number of political action committees and their reporting requirements, and the number of candidates, it is difficult to calculate accurate numbers.
Such investments have been successfully rewarded at least twice during the 2021 legislative session. When Congress cracked down on censorship by social media companies, Twitter banned former President Donald Trump. Exempted fix Services such as Disney + provided by the company that owns the theme park.
Disney also benefited from legislators’ decisions on how to spend the money earned by imposing sales tax on online purchases. State economics scholars estimate that measure (SB 50) Generates $ 1 billion each year. The funds will be used to replenish the unemployment trust fund, which has been depleted due to a pandemic furlough, and will avoid an increase in corporate unemployment insurance.
Employers with stable employment are eligible for discounted rates. Disney fired more than 32,000 workers during the crisis and saw a significant increase in insurance.
“Instead of spending that money on social welfare and increasing unemployment compensation, it’s used to cancel employer tax increases,” Escamani said of Disney’s impact on Florida’s taxation and spending methods. I mentioned in the discussion.
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Growth management model
Indeed, Congress has done what it can to help give Disney World the beginning of Florida.
In an unprecedented move, the Legislature created a Reedy Creek Improvement District from Orange and Osceola counties, exempting it from state land use and other laws and encouraging Walt Disney to invest in Florida.
Within the district’s 25,000 acres are theme parks, resorts, two cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, managed by a board of choice from Disney.Walt Disney wanted full control of the land after looking at the neighborhood around him California parks are over-commercial..
The two cities have a total population of about 80 and are all Disney employees. Districts provide government services such as police and fire protection, for example, in the absence of the transparency provided by open government legislation.
However, the area protects environmentally sensitive lands and continues to develop without miles of chaotic spread that turns the Orange and Oceana highways into slow-moving parking lots.
Charles Lee has been lobbying environmental legislators since 1972, a year after Disney World opened. From his Maitland office, he called Google Earth to point out how compact the development of the Leady Creek area was and compared the “clear difference” in land use under Disney’s control with the surrounding counties. And pointed out.
“It would be even better if we could use Disney’s maps to replicate to almost every region of Florida that was to be developed or was developed in the past,” Lee said.
Disney pioneered land use planning and growth management in Florida, setting up land that wasn’t developed from the beginning, he added. The idea of planning a natural system in a 38-mile area and limiting development to the least environmentally sensitive areas was unprecedented in Florida in the 1960s.
Elephant-sized mouse in the room
Today, almost everyone agrees that they are benefiting greatly from the grand experiment of giving businesses unprecedented authority over land use, building permits, and so on.
“I don’t know if I supported it at the time, but it’s certainly positive in terms of the profits Disney made for the state, especially the tax revenues from tourists,” the previous state said. rice field. Senator Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
He also lobbied from Disney, but didn’t remember the exact interaction. “It was a textbook. They would come and say,” This is our request. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. ” They didn’t waste their time. Very business-like, very efficient and in a good way. ”
It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to forget the details when talking about Disney. In 2013, former state legislator Eddie Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, can’t remember concerns about a bill requiring Orlando Sentinel to submit to independent mediation of labor disputes with firefighters in the Leady Creek area. Told.
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Chairman Gonzales said he did not plan a hearing bill because the Orange County delegation said it was against it. Before the legislative session began, the Orange County delegation unanimously resolved to support the bill.
Eskamani and McKnight talk about playing Disney on the committee as if they were the opposite coaches preparing to play the University of Alabama in a football game.
“Like any other company, they look at revenue and increase shareholder value,” said Jewett of UCF. “Capitalism doesn’t work unless companies are worried about earnings and trying to increase shareholder value. The score looks great.”
The initial stock price was $ 13.88 in 1956. Since Disney began construction in Florida in 1967, the share price has been split six-fold, 17-fold to one share purchased in 1956. Disney was currently trading for about $ 173 on Wednesday.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter: @CallTallahassee
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Disney World continues to be Florida’s largest political force 50 years later
Source link Disney World continues to be Florida’s largest political force 50 years later