LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The newly appointed board members of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, soon to be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, mostly presented a business-as-usual face during their first-ever meeting Wednesday, while announcing big changes were coming.
>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<
Already, the feeling of change was present. The meeting was moved to a larger space to accommodate the mostly packed audience. Restrictions on journalists were eased. The district’s firefighters spoke of their longstanding underfunding woes, optimistic their needs would finally be fulfilled.
For the most part, though, board members did not specify what changes they would seek to implement, other than adding transparency and accountability to the relatively obscure functions of the taxing district.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to say that this isn’t a world-class resort,” Clearwater attorney Brian Aungst said. “I think what our job is, is to make sure that that this is all happening in the sunshine.”
READ: Reedy Creek’s new board of supervisors to meet for the first time Wednesday
There was not much action to be taken, though, as the members were nine days into their terms.
The meeting deviated from its unwritten “get to know you” script on two occasions, however, both of which raised flags over the appearance of the new direction of the district.
The first was a suggestion by Aungst to replace the district’s attorney with the law firm that helped write the Reedy Creek bill that resulted in his appointment.
READ: DeSantis signs law dissolving Reedy Creek, putting Disney’s improvement district under state control
When asked why he made the proposal, since it appeared to be a reward for the firm’s service, Aungst acknowledged that view but said his motivations were practical.
“That firm is board certified in local city and county government while the current firm is not,” he said. “Having them as special counsel, and having a general counsel to me doesn’t make any sense.”
The second was a request by Bridget Ziegler to impose a ban on mask and vaccine mandates within the district, re-hashing a political fight conservatives waged two years ago and seeming to throw some of the other board members off-guard.
READ: What will Disney’s new Reedy Creek district look like?
The request contrasted with other comments she made about moving the district into the future, and about practicing self-restraint as a government, which she defended when WFTV asked if her focus would be more on business or politics.
“Moving forward, onward and upward,” Ziegler said. “There will be other items we’ll be discussing to bring this district to the next level.”
The other members dodged her request by saying they needed to consult with attorneys on procedural matters.
READ: A look at the bill that could dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek
Both Zeigler and Aungst defended their appointments following the meeting, with Aungst saying he deserved to be on the board because of his experience in local government and development law. Zeigler pointed to her background in risk management consulting and her role on the Saratoga County School Board.
WFTV was not able to ask two of the other board members about their appointments before they left the room. The fifth, attorney Michael Sasso, was immersed in conversations with other attendees after the meeting and was also not able to be asked, though his background is in liability and construction law.
Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.
©2023 Cox Media Group