Regardless of point-of-view, the events surrounding Disney’s America theme-park provide compelling lessons to policy makers, business interests and citizen activist groups. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Disney’s America controversy through the lens of public policy process. I first analyze the core issues of the case. Second, I identify predominant actors and stakeholders. Third, I point out policy instruments and processes germane to the case. Finally, I discuss the outcome and lessons to be gleaned from the case.
Haymarket, a community with a population of 375, is located approximately 30 miles southwest of Washington D.C., in Prince William County, Virginia. It ...view middle of the document...
The Disney planners projected that 8 million people would visit the park per year. The Prince William site would benefit greatly from Washington, D.C. tourism, and was also ideal due to its size (it has the greatest area of the 30 alternative sites considered), accessibility to Dulles International Airport and I-66, and proximity to numerous historic tourist destinations.
Disney planned on having the project approved by county officials in July 1994. Construction was scheduled to begin in 1995, and the park would open in 1998.
Despite local and state-level government support, however, the park encountered unforeseen opposition to its development, eventually forcing Disney to halt its plans in Prince William Co. Core issues were environmental quality and historic preservation, although an overarching theme emerged from the debate as it rose to the Federal level: State’s rights versus Federal involvement (interestingly paralleling the divisive issue of the Civil War).
Having determined that the site met theme-park criteria, Disney conducted aggressive outreach to the local business community. The company maintained a close relationship with the Virginia Board of Trade in order to lobby the Virginia legislature.
According to Disney, local economic advantages included the creation of 12,000 new jobs during the construction and operating phases. Construction would employ architects, engineers, and laborers. Approximately 3,000 permanent jobs would be created for work in the park itself. Existing as well as new businesses would further provide job opportunity.
The project, involving the participation of historians, would be a significant educational contribution to the American public.
In response to environmentalists’ concerns, Disney called attention to the environmental compliance record of its operations in California, a state in which has some of the most stringent air quality standards in the nation.
State and Local Government
Virginia Governor George F. Allen (R) was an enthusiastic supporter of the Disney’s Prince William Co. project, hailing it as an important part of the state’s "economic renaissance." Benefits to the local community would include 19,000 new jobs and $47 million per year in new taxes, thus justifying the taxpayer burden of the project’s construction. The Governor also emphasized the need for road construction and improvement of existing highways.
Within the state legislature, support and opposition for the project was bipartisan. Debate among the House, Senate, and Governor largely focused on financial matters, including how budget resources were to be allocated for road construction.
The Governor developed an incentive package for the project and approved $160 million in bonds for road construction.
Those in opposition focused mainly on Disney’s choice of the Manassas site, and not the issue of whether the theme-park should come to...