Disney Quietly Fires Back at DeSantis’ Press Conference Claims, Takeover of the Reedy Creek Improvement District

Justin Topa

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis - Central Florida Tourism Oversight Committee - Reedy Creek Improvement District - Disney

Disney Quietly Fires Back at DeSantis’ Press Conference Claims, Takeover of the Reedy Creek Improvement District

Earlier today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference to once again discuss his grievances with Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company. While the company has yet to respond publicly, Disney has issued an email to media partners, quietly fact-checking the comments made at this afternoon’s press conference.

Taxes and Contributions to the State

Paws in the Park WDW VoluntEARS

At today’s press conference, Governor Ron DeSantis and those that joined him made multiple demands of Disney to pay their “fair share” of taxes. Disney has quietly reminded media outlets that they have, in fact, paid more than $1 billion in state and local taxes making the company the largest single taxpayer in central Florida.

Representatives of Walt Disney World were also quick to remind their media contacts that Disney is the largest single-site employer throughout the entire United States, employing more than 75,000 Cast Members. More than 200 ancillary businesses also operate throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, with a combined total of an additional 16,000 employees.

The company also calls attention to the hundreds of millions of dollars that they’ve contributed to community groups and nonprofits throughout the state of Florida and the 233,000 volunteer hours logged by Cast Members in 2022 alone throughout central Florida.

Land Appraisals

Governor DeSantis also made a claim that Disney appraises its own property to determine its value. The Governor had suggested that most people facing that scenario would significantly undervalue the property to improve their tax situation and indicated that his Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board would be looking into this.

Representatives from the Walt Disney Company have also indirectly responded to these comments, making it clear that Disney does not assess its own property. The company elaborated, stating that “all property in the district, including all Disney property is assessed annually by the Orange County tax assessor or the Osceola County tax assessor, as applicable.”

“The Orange County tax assessor assesses all property in Orange County including Disney, Sea World, and Universal,” Disney reps explained in their e-mail. “In other words, the same government official that assesses Universal and Sea World also assesses Walt Disney World.”

Safety Concerns and Inspections

Cinderella Castle

At the press conference earlier today, DeSantis claimed that Walt Disney World Resort is no longer “above the law,” and would be subject to state inspections of the Monorail and the attractions within the parks.

The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson stated: “This legislation will allow my department to conduct inspections when someone is seriously injured on an amusement ride. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often in Florida, but when it does we have the right to inspect and decide when it can safely reopen.”

While “all major theme parks” were mentioned during this discussion, they did not clarify if these measures would extend to other currently exempted properties, including Universal Orlando Resort or SeaWorld Orlando.

Disney’s response highlights a memorandum of understanding that was enacted decades ago to ensure transparency regarding on-site injuries and governmental reviews of safety procedures.

“In 2001, Walt Disney World, along with other industry leaders, was instrumental in helping lead efforts with the State of Florida to develop a Memorandum of Understanding,” the statement says. “[The memorandum requires] quarterly reporting of any serious guest injuries occurring on amusement rides and immediate reporting of those resulting in fatalities. The MOU also provides for biannual site visits, consultations, and reviews of the safety programs at Florida’s permanent amusement facilities.”

Affordable Housing

disney affordable housing

Among ideas proposed by DeSantis for unoccupied land within the district, including the development of a state park, competing theme park, or state prison, the Florida Governor had also made reference to the need for affordable housing options within the region. Representatives from Disney have agreed, sharing that the company has already contributed 80 acres of land for an affordable housing complex in Central Florida.

“Walt Disney World has played an active role in building a stronger community for more than 50 years, and we will continue to find and support creative solutions that make a meaningful impact,” Disney representatives shared.

The Walt Disney World Resort provided nearly 80 acres of land in Orange County to The Michaels Organization to build, own and operate an attainable housing development with 1,300 units, offering affordable options for qualifying applicants within certain income levels.  The land is located west of State Road 429, just a few miles away from the Magic Kingdom and near schools and shopping centers, including the Flamingo Crossings Town Center. Concept art was released last year.

Other News From Today’s DeSantis Press Conference

State House District 45 Representative Carolina Amesty also took to the podium to share her opinions and concerns. She greeted the audience with a proclamation to “let it be known, in this great nation, here, in the free state of Florida, it is ‘We the People,’ not ‘woke’ corporations.”

She went on to make the following comment regarding Disney’s leadership and recent business practices:

We all love Disney; however, you cannot indoctrinate our childrens [sic]. Instead, they have turned Disney into this corporate PR arm of a small group of extremists who want to indoctrinate our children with radical gender ideologies that have no basis in science, common sense, or basic human decency. They have pushed far-left narratives and lies about our great state and now they think that the rules don’t apply to them.

Carolina Amesty

In addition to Amesty, several other local figures spoke in support of DeSantis’ plans and potential resolutions during the press conference.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis - Central Florida Tourism Oversight Committee - Reedy Creek Improvement District - Disney

DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company have been embroiled in a public feud now for over a year. DeSantis started this lengthy fight against the Walt Disney World Resort after the company’s previous CEO, Bob Chapek, spoke out against Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Starting with the takeover and renaming of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board is now staffed with members handpicked by DeSantis and aims to control how Walt Disney World Resort functions, builds, and maintains its infrastructure. One of these members is Ron Peri, known for calling homosexuality evil and claiming it is caused by drinking contaminated tap water.

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