Reedy Creek in southwest Orlando was a swamp back in
1967 when the Walt Disney company obtained the special purpose district through
state law. Now, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which hosts large parts of
the Disney World properties, is set to be taken away from the company. All
because of Disney’s opposition to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
Also Read | Florida Legislature votes to strip Disney self-government
The Florida legislature, on Thursday, assented to a bill that takes away Disney’s right to operate as an independent government around
its theme parks in Orlando. But taking away the special purpose district from
Disney has wider implications, including Florida taxpayers having to cough up
more in taxes to maintain the region’s infrastructure.
All about Reed Creek
Reedy Creek is run by the Walt Disney company as a
special purpose district since 1967. The company is in charge of water, roads,
transportation and even produces some of the region’s power. The company doesn’t
have to pay taxes for services that benefit the citizenry.
When Disney pitched a self-governed district to
Florida, Florida needed Disney more than the company needed it, according to
Richard Foglesong, author of “Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and
Orland,” who spoke to CNN.
Also Read | Florida Senate passes bill to end Disney self-government
Over the last six decades, Disney has built four theme
parks, two water parks, one sports complex, 175 miles of roadway, 67 miles of
waterway, and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.
According to the Reedy Creek website, “The cooperation
between Reedy Creek Improvement District and Walt Disney World Company is as
strong today as it was in 1967…The result is an example of how a working partnership
between business and government can be prosperous for both sides.”
Why is Disney set to lose Reedy Creek?
The churn began last month when Florida governor Ron
DeSantis publicly sparred with Walt Disney company over the media giant’s
opposition to the state’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill. The bill became
law last month and it prohibited schools from discussing gender identities and
sexual orientation “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally
The vagueness of the legal language adopted in the
legislation saw critics call it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and later act. The
law allows parents to sue school districts for violation.
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While the Disney CEO Bob Chapek was initially
reluctant to condemn the law, public opinion made the company put out a
statement which said: “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’
bill, should never have been signed into law.”
Disney said it was dedicated to “standing up for the
rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney company, as well as the LGBTQ+
community in Florida and across the country.”
Disney’s public opposition to the legislation was followed
by DeSantis’ asking lawmakers to challenge the Reedy Creek Improvement Act in
its special legislative session. Disney is yet to make a statement on the same.
How Disney may lose its district
Responding to Disney’s statement, Governor DeSantis
chided the company as “woke” adding that it had lost all moral authority to “tell
you what to do”. The bill, which received final passage from the state legislature
on Thursday, declares that any special district created before 1968 will be
dissolved on June 1, 2023. Florida has hundreds of special districts, but
nearly all except Disney’s were set up after 1968.
The exact impact of the bill is still unclear.
Republican sponsors say that the logistics of the dissolution will be worked
out through the next year.
What this means for Reedy Creek residents
Disney losing Reedy Creek will not only affect the
company but also the region. Eliminating Reed Creek would need the two counties
that contain Disney World to step in and provide municipal and other services,
according to James C. Clark, a University of Central Florida professor who spoke to New