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Reedy Creek Firefighters call out Central Florida Tourism Oversight District for axing Disney Passes

Reedy Creek Firefighters have blasted the DeSantis appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District for taking away their Walt Disney World Annual Passes

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District wants to end Employee Benefits including Disney Passes

Earlier this week we reported the DeSantis appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors were wanting to strip District employees of their Walt Disney World Passes, a decision that affects all District employees, including current and retired Reedy Creek Firefighters and their families.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors made the announcement Monday that they were going to axe employee passes after they received a bill from Walt Disney World to cover the cost of the Disney Passes, an amount that adds up to $2.5 million annually.

The board in a press release referred to the employee benefits as handouts and a scheme by Disney to get more money.

District Administrator Glen Gilzean Jr. then revealed in an email to employees that the board had already stopped all employees passes for Disney already, without any notice or consultation, and that they would replace the passes with a one-time annual stipend of $1,000.

Gilzean Jr. also claimed that less than 50% of employees actually use their Disney Passes, but today Wednesday, Reedy Creek Firefighters have fought back against the board and their shocking move.

During a Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors meeting today, Wednesday, August 23, Reedy Creek firefighters turned at the meeting to express their disgust at the District’s decision to cancel the Walt Disney World Annual Pass program for District employees.

Firefighters described their anger at the move from their employers, with one calling the move a “low blow.” to the public servants who keep theme park guests safe.

Another called the removal of benefits “the first brick in the dismantling of the district”.

In response, Martin Garcia, Chairman of the Board, said the cancelation was made for three reasons. First, the policy only benefited Walt Disney World, two, it was inequitable to employees because larger families received more benefits, for expample, the benefit could be worth up to $3,000 for a large family, and only $1,000 for small families, and three, the policy may endorse something illegal, as it is a private company providing something free to public employees.

Garcia announced that employee paychecks will be increased by $1,425 annually, to make up for the loss of the Annual Pass benefit, and the Board will continue to evaluate the amount in the future.

The irony is the fact that the Reedy Creek Fire Department were outspoken supporters of Governor DeSantis taking over the former Reedy Creek Improvement District via the CFTOD Board from the get go, with DeSantis even announcing the takeover at a Reedy Creek Fire Station surround by employees of the Reedy Creek Fire Department.

What is the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District?

In May, 1967, the governor agreed to Disneys demands that the Reedy Creek Improvement District should be created. Reedy Creek covers over 10,000 hectares of land surrounding Walt Disney World.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District was a special district created by state law that allowed Disney governmental control over the land in and around the parks.

For more than half a century the district has enabled Disney to function like a county government, providing services such as firefighting, power, water and roads within Orange and Osceola counties. In turn Disney can issue bonds with tax advantages to pay for improvements.

Then in 2021, Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis signed in a Florida law that banned transgender girls and women from participating in middle, high school and college women's competitions. Then in 2022, he kicked it up a notch with his support of the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act – commonly known as the "Don't Say Gay" law.

The law came into practice in March 2022 and prohibited discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in school classes from kindergarten to year three.

It was widely criticised outside of Florida for being biased towards the LGBTQIA+ community with the White House officially calling it, "hateful legislation targeting vulnerable students". Since then it has been extended to include grades four to 12.

A day after the bill passed, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek condemned the legislation in a leaked memo to Disney leadership. Mr Chapek then went public with Disney's opposition to the bill and apologised for not speaking out sooner.

Mr DeSantis wasn't very happy with Disney for speaking up against him and he immediately retaliated by targeting Reedy Creek as a way to punish the House of Mouse.

In April 2022, Mr DeSantis signed a bill that stripped Disney of its 55-year-old self-governing status. But rather than dissolving Reedy Creek, Mr DeSantis instead seized it on behalf of Florida and appointed a board to control the district.

Mr DeSantis appointed five self picked board members to the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, saying that the group would not only supervise municipal services but act as a moral arbiter for a company that has "lost it's way".

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District officially gained control on February 27, 2023.

DeSantis Disney Feud

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