Big Companies Use Tiny Cities To Skirt Regulations And Rule With An Iron Fist
In the 1960s, a group of businessmen planned to develop some largely uninhabited islands in the Florida Keys. The plan was opposed by environmentalists, who didn't feel that a bunch of shitty chain hotels were going to add much to the natural beauty of the area, but they were tragically overruled by the newfound city of Islandia's 18 residents. That's not a typo. Thanks to a group slightly larger than the number of people who saw Glitter in theaters, they got free reign to deforest a 125-mile strip of Elliott Key.
Fortunately, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall had already fallen in love with the islands, and went over Islandia's head to have the area declared a federally protected national park. The remnants of the deforested strip, dubbed "Spite Highway," are currently a hiking trail. The city of Islandia hung on till 1989, when the state government shut it down on the grounds that the remaining five voters didn't live on the islands, and just held city council meetings in a Miami real estate office.
It could have been a lot worse. You can't talk about weird Floridian corporate urban development without bringing up Disney. When Walt was planning to launch Disney World in Florida, keen to avoid government oversight, he turned to Paul Heliwell. The former CIA agent advised him to incorporate two tiny cities, which he could then populate with a few dozen loyal employees, giving him complete control over the government of Disney World. Disney duly had the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista brought into existence, noting that there would be "be no landowners, and therefore no voter control."
The "cities" still exist today. They both consist of about 50 residents, all non-union Disney employees living in trailer parks. Disney owns all property and allows a select few employees to live there, provided that they meet once a year and vote to turn over all government functions to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, whose unelected board runs the area for Disney. Failing to vote for this would result in eviction, and therefore the loss of the right to vote. It would all be kind of hilarious in a worrying sort of way if it didn't cost the state and county $50 million a year in taxes.
Companies Can Turn A Town Into A Polluted Hellscape, Screw Their Neighbors, And Keep The Profits
Vernon, California was founded in 1905 by businessman John Leonis for the sole purpose of running the most morally reprehensible businesses possible. He originally used the city as a hub for gambling, and it was later transformed into a wasteland of factories and slaughterhouses. It became the place to be if you wanted to shit a bunch of toxic fumes into the air. When a company with a long history of pollution violations tried to build a hazardous waste incinerator in the LA area in the '80s, the first two cities they considered voted unanimously against the proposal, so they went to Vernon, which immediately accepted it without even asking for an environmental report. Why bother?
Laurie Avocado/FlickrIt’s but one more layer on a delicious smog cake.