Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis picked a fight with someone—or something—a little bigger than himself for a change, and he’s reached the “finding out” part of the process. After Disney objected to the “Don’t Say Gay” law DeSantis championed and signed, DeSantis moved to strip the company of its special tax status. Last month he appointed a new oversight board to handle relations with Disney. But it turns out that before DeSantis could finalize that, Disney quietly locked down everything it wanted.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s new board has just realized that before it was replaced, the old board signed a development agreement with Disney allowing the company to build on its land at the highest density and to sell or assign building rights to other landowners without having to ask the DeSantis board for permission. Additionally, the board doesn’t get to use the Disney name or any Disney characters, a provision to be applied in perpetuity, or, if rules against perpetuity prevent that, until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England living as of the date of this declaration.” Lilibet, Archie, George, Charlotte, Louis? Disney is rooting for your long lives.
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“I cannot tell you the level of my disappointment in Disney,” DeSantis board member Ron Peri said. “I thought so much better of them. This essentially makes Disney the government. This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I’m so disappointed that Disney didn’t just lie down and take it when DeSantis tried to strip its longstanding privileges in retaliation for the company daring to criticize his attacks on LGBTQ kids and families. It’s just awful! I, as a DeSantis stooge, don’t have the power I expected to have. Waaaaah!
They’ll just have to use all the time on their hands ensuring that the roads and basic infrastructure are in tip-top condition.
The DeSantis board voted to spend a bunch of money hiring lawyers to challenge the agreement, which the Disney-supporting previous board passed unanimously on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House handed DeSantis the reins.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” board member Brian Aungst Jr. 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.” Yep, that’s what it’s designed to do!
“An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,” a DeSantis spokesperson said in a statement. “We are pleased the new governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”
This is just a guess, but Disney probably had some very good lawyers drafting the document to prevent the inclusion of significant legal infirmities. That’s not to say they didn’t miss something, but this is not a case where DeSantis gets to act the bully by pushing around people with drastically fewer resources than are available to him.
“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,” the company said in a statement. Indeed, the agreements were filed with the Orange County Comptroller and put online in a timely fashion. It just took the DeSantis board some time to figure it out.
It’s rare you’ll find me rooting for a megacorporation with questionable labor practices, but when it’s Disney versus DeSantis? Not a difficult call. Speaking of which, union workers at Disney just voted to accept a contract that raises the starting wage at Disney to $18 an hour. Over the five-year contract, wages will rise between $5.50 and $8.60 an hour.
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