An analysis of the “economic-development marriage” between Walt Disney World and Orlando, Florida, from the 1960s to the present.
Foglesong (Politics/Rollins Coll.) argues that while initially the Disney-Orlando relationship was like the “high-school quarterback marrying the homecoming queen,” the couple is now 30 years into the marriage and ready for some serious counseling. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, central Florida was pro-growth with a government that recognized road-building as a necessity to meet growth goals. (Indeed, Orlando’s bisecting freeways were the very reason Walt Disney was so taken with the central Florida location.) The area sought manufacturing industries with their attendant higher wages, but businessmen were thrilled when approached by the company about a home for their second theme park. Eager to solidify the partnership, Orlando granted Disney private government status including tax and fee immunities. While the marriage has been good for both parties, Orlando is not an equal partner, having been locked into a low-wage tourist economy. (Over three-quarters of Disney employees need housing assistance, food stamps, or other social services that the county—not Disney—must provide.) The author includes many examples of Disney’s hubris, such as asking for (and receiving) a $53 million taxpayer subsidy for a freeway interchange not located in Orange County, and requesting private activity bond allocation to expand their sewage treatment plant (thereby capturing all the bond money available in central Florida at the expense of low-cost housing construction that would have benefitted Disney’s own employees). The author presents an abundantly documented case against Disney’s abuses; less well covered is Orlando’s culpability in the dysfunctional marriage. Fogelsong offers four policy agendas, although their adoption by Disney seems improbable at best, considering the company’s past track record in Orlando.
A good case study of centralized land-ownership and private government versus democracy and capitalism. (5 maps, 3 tables, 17 b&w photos)