Post #268, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary
"They ain't seen nothing yet,"
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacking Walt Disney World, Orlando
Serving in public office is hard. Serving as the governor of a large state is very hard. I have mentioned many times how important it is for a candidate to seek and lay claim to a signature issue when campaigning. Most candidates make the mistake of fuzzy claims for their signature issues. For example, few would signal a specific economic development target to advance the state in jobs, payroll, and wholesome entertainment for the family. But in 1966, never before elected Republican Florida Governor Claude Kirk hinted that he would have a major economic development announcement for Florida if he was elected. Central Florida was already the location of several popular theme attractions like Silver Springs, Cypress Gardens, and the Bok Tower, so most assumed Kirk was talking about something similar.
Kirk won the election and his big announcement turned out to be Disney World coming to Orlando. It took the governor several years to lock down such a mega commitment. The public response to the announcement was beyond description--it was pure hysteria. Now some 57 years later, Disney World--the Park, the thousands of Disney employees, the contracting work, state revenues, and the growth of businesses and housing around the Park, have been far greater than ever imagined. It may be the greatest economic development engine with worldwide excitement, enjoyed by any state--ever.
Now shortly after his re-election, first-time Governor Ron DeSantis has made a series of shocking announcements about what he felt our state needed. He thought we needed to crack down on our high-achieving public school's books, curriculum, and management, even though we have local School Boards doing that every day. He announced dozens of additional new initiatives for our state (and the Trump far-right political base). They dealt with restricting freedoms of race, books, immigrants, diversity, and tolerance. DeSantis proposed to cancel public record sunshine laws, lawsuits, public school funding through private school vouchers, and even restrict Covid care (where Florida had more deaths and cases than any other state) for Floridians. The Republican lemmings in the Legislature blindly agreed with everything DeSantis proposed almost without hearings.
Florida was becoming known as the Salt Mine State as in Russia.
But the knockout punch from DeSantis came when he attacked our greatest corporate citizen, Disney World for expressing freedom of speech in support of diversity. Smiling, the Governor announced that he would breach the covenants Disney and Florida signed to bring Disney to Orlando 57 years before. Children around the world were terrified by the thought of their long-awaited Florida vacation might not happen after all. With this dirty trick of DeSantis, many were reminded of the recent other dirty trick he played on vulnerable immigrants being flown around Florida to Cape Cod.
The governor's big smile became a frown when Disney turned the tables on his inexperienced lawyers (not once but twice) in a transfer document, and today DeSantis is bursting with threats of what he is going to do to hurt our greatest employer in the state. No surprise, the state of North Carolina has made contact with Disney about the opportunities for Mickey and Donald in the Rocky Top state. It may be in jest or not.
It may have taken Governor Kirk years to get Disney. But it took DeSantis only 65 days to maybe lose them.