Disney fights federal oversight

Posted Monday, June 20, 2005 9:39 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Four days before a preschooler died after passing out on a popular simulator ride Monday at Walt Disney World, the company's top theme-park executive and two lobbyists visited the Capitol Hill offices of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey. The three wanted to make the case that the kind of federal safety oversight the powerful Massachusetts Democrat is proposing for the theme-park industry is unnecessary because parks are safe and already regulated by most states.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, June 20, 2005 9:41 AM
Jeff's avatar Markey would probably make a better argument if he stopped with the save-the-children rhetoric, but he's yet to demonstrate how the feds would make anything safer. Not only is it bad for business to hurt people on rides, but the industry is so small that when a ride has a problem, everyone knows about it at every park. That's just the way it is. You don't need someone in Washington to facilitate that.
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Monday, June 20, 2005 10:54 AM
Hey why don;t we all band together and buy him off just like anyother Senator. Im sure if we were big oil or some other high powered lobby he would go for it.

Please people of MA why do you elect him???? WHY!!!!

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Monday, June 20, 2005 10:58 AM
I just posted this on another thread, but it fits here too. Actually, with the news cycle recently, it fits in a lot of places. Anyhow, I'd like to add this to the discussion for those who are interested...

Disclaimer:

Do not read this post if you have adverse reactions to more than a few lines of material. The following opinion piece is meant for those who are willing and able to participate in the discussion of the topic at hand. It is assumed that reasonable-minded people understand that there are no absolutes and that occasional summation and generalities may indeed be incorporated into the postings in order to allow for reasonable discussion. No all-encompassing prejudices are intended and/or assumed.

Do we have a problem that needs to be addressed?

This is the basic question for me. It is apparent (I believe) that there is not enough data available to determine if there is even a safety problem outside of a reasonable and acceptable range. I think we all know that accidents happen. The question that needs to be answered is if amusement ride accidents are happening at a statistically significant level above that which is to be expected.

I think we all agree that some centralized data collection agency is needed. I believe this should be the function of the insurance industry, but could be convinced to pass this on to a governmental agency in certain circumstances. In general, Markey is correct with addressing this issue, but I do not think his bill is the way to go about it. I just don’t automatically assume that government is the best answer in this case.

In regards to CPSC oversight being after the fact (barn door)…I question why they are needed at all until we know that amusement rides are not safe? I could argue that CPSC may have zero affect on the portable ride safety issue as there is no system set up to see if they are successful. If they (CPSC) are unable to provide objective data that justifies their duties and expenditures, then I’m of the belief that they are a burden on every taxpayer and society in general. Why continue to have them (CPSC) monitor any rides, let alone assign additional responsibilities to an agency that has yet to provide evidence they can indeed improve ride safety (this sentence assumes that there is even a safety problem that needs improving)? I may be able to argue that a better bill would be to get CPSC out of the ride regulation business all-together since they are addressing a problem that does not exist based upon available data.

The intervention into personal lives and private business by a government agency under the guise of “safety” is an unnecessary infringement in my opinion. If there is indeed statistical evidence that could justify needed governmental intervention, then I’m willing to change my mind. At the present time, Markey and his co-sponsors tell us there is a problem, but they have no objective data to prove it. Why should I, or anybody, believe him and his supporters if they have no evidence to back their complaints? Does anybody have evidence to show that CPSC oversight works in the amusement industry and that they are now needed in the “fixed” parks?

For extreme (though not really) example, is the CPSC needed to come in and investigate every “slip and fall” that may happen at any store? Should they come into everybody’s home whenever there is a “fall down the stair” accident? Should business and private citizens have to suffer/comply with lengthy investigation procedures from some governmental agency when we do not have the data to prove that there is even a problem? I called this an extreme example, but I’ve no evidence to prove or disprove that walking is not more dangerous than riding a coaster.

The rush to provide a government solution for a problem that may or may not exist bothers me. First, let us objectively determine if there is a problem. Then we can talk solutions. Given the sorry state of data collection on this issue, I’d say we are a good 10 years down the road until we can even determine if there is indeed a problem that needs fixing.

You guys who are on the fence or are leaning toward endorsing some sort of government oversight explain to me where my thinking may be flawed. Am I missing something? Do you know that there is a problem that needs a solution (besides the obvious need for a centralized data collection source which I think everybody agrees about)? Why do you believe government intervention is needed and what data are you using to form your opinion? By agreeing to or endorsing CPSC (government) intervention, I have to assume that you have concluded there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Where are you getting the information that has led you to believe there is a statistically significant problem with respect to accidents in the amusement industry? Help me see where you are coming from…

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Monday, June 20, 2005 11:12 AM
eightdotthree's avatar Dude, do you ever write anything short and to the point?

I don't see a problem with the federal government stepping in with a set of guidelines of how states should regulate the industry but don't see the need for an entire agency dedicated to it. Like Jeff said, Markey has yet to say how the federalizing the industry will make it safer.

Riding a roller coaster is still safer than driving to the park, I think that says a lot.

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Monday, June 20, 2005 11:19 AM
As I understand it Markey's legislation would make the CPSC apply to fixed amusement rides, and create a federal registry for amusement ride accidents. As such these don't seem too threatening. In the current environment most of the more serious accidents and all of the fatalities are going to be well known. The CPSC could investigate accidents and recommend or possible require corrective action, but wouldn't be involved until there was an accident. This is the current situation for portable rides.

My concerns:

1) This could be expanded to prescriptive Federal design standards for rides. IE. The Federal government designing the safety features for rides.

2) The database might be as poorly managed as the CPSC's previous reports on amusement ride accidents which involved poor statistical treatments and inaccurate reporting. The CPSC has reported construction accidents building rides and accidents that didn't involve amusement rides as ride accidents in its previous reports.

3) If we feel that we need Federal oversight for something that results in rougly 2 fatalites per year, how many other thousands of things should be regulated that results in far greater numbers of fatalities?

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Monday, June 20, 2005 1:15 PM
The lobbyists have it all wrong

First send Mickey in with a suitcase of Disney Dollars, then Grumpy and Donald to 'soften' him up, then Beauty and Snow White to talk real nice-like to him...

Good character, bad character. That's what I always say.

-CO

*** This post was edited by CoastaPlaya 6/20/2005 1:16:17 PM ***

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Monday, June 20, 2005 2:25 PM
I gotta say this, It's about time the Amusement industry stands up to this attention grabbing whore.

It's in the Amuesments best interest to keep things safe.

Sure, maybe more inspections (In some states) might prevent the occational misshap but the witch hunt on a industry far safer than walking down the sidewalk has got to end.

Chuck

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Monday, June 20, 2005 2:53 PM
Wouldn't it make more sense for the parks to preempt Markey by creating there own central reporting service, thereby taking the wind out of his arguement? It wouldn't be terribly costly, and it would bolster the image of the parks as well for their "responsibility".
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Monday, June 20, 2005 5:22 PM
Jim:

Your #3 is my primary concern...if this is regulated I can't think of anything that could not be regulated...

V2:

There would be an apparent conflict of interest. I believe the same to be true of the government, but I'm just offering the argument against your take (I do not necessarily agree) which I think the (IAPPA??) parks sort of do already...

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Monday, June 20, 2005 5:31 PM

I don't see a problem with the federal government stepping in with a set of guidelines of how states should regulate the industry

Would you have a problem with the federal government stepping in with a set of guidelines about how states should regulate walking? Based upon available data we do not know which (roller coaster riding or walking) causes more injuries and/or deaths. Markey's efforts may save more lives if he concentrated on walking/bike riding/etc. Where would you draw the line on government intervention?

This is not meant to belittle, but I'm just picking your brain and trying to make the point that government intervention has to be limited for some issues (I think?). We need a sense of perspective of how big this issue is. I don't think anybody has an answer to the perspective question. Until there is an answer, I’m not sure spending public dollars and inflating government bureaucracy is worth it.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 8:46 AM
Government intervention needs to be limited on more than just some issues. The states should be able have more control over what happens within their boundaries. I can understand the feds having control over rides in travelling carnivals because they would fall under the interstate commerce clause. However, Cedar Point isn't going to pack up and move to Kentucky for a weekend. There is no need for it to be controlled in any way shape or form by the federal government.

John

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 6:15 PM
What I wonder though, is why do many of you seem to be okay with state regulation, but not federal oversight? Sure, I can understand why Disney would want to pose this as a state's rights issue. The Floridian politicians bread is buttered by those voters who *need* Disney to prosper. Cause if Disney starts cutting jobs due to the legislature, those reps are going to have to answer for it. OTOH, if this was a federal issue, a rep from Wyoming could conciveably be the determining factor. This would cause Disney to have to lobby on a broader basis (expensive). This is likely *not* at the top of Disney "wish list". ;)

But I would argue, generally, and particularly, in the case of Disney, that this type of issue is *better* suited for the feds than the states. Why? I'm glad you asked. Someone mentioned interstate commerce. I proffer that many amusement parks could be considered as participating in interstate commerce, even though the parks themselves never physically move.

Take for example, one of my favorite parks, HersheyPark. They *routinely* advertise to people in PA (where they are located), Maryland, DC, and Virginia (perphaps to other states, but these I know for sure). Now, for arguments sake, let's assume that VA has strict safety guidelines but Penn's standards are lacking a bit. A guest visiting HP from VA would reasonably expect that the rides in PA are held to the same standards as rides in VA. They would have no reason to suspect that they would be taking on additional risk riding in PA than riding in VA. Much like when a person buys a coke in VA, they would expect that 'acceptable' number of rat hairs in that coke is the same in VA. But with each and every state coming up with their own standards, no such guarantee exists.

Now, my *personal* opinion is that the industry itself is the best regulation. Any park that routinely injures/maims/kills its guests won't be in business. It is in the industry's best interest to share information among themselves about potential hazzards as an accident on a coaster in Illinois will resonate with negative feedback for parks in Texas. I dont care *what* Markey says about accident information being supressed/hidden. When I see CNN stories on coasters like Two-Face and Titan (or was it Goliath?) in which the coaster did nothing more than engage the safety system as designed, I doubt that huge accidents could be easily hidden...not in the 24 hour news cycle we live in!

lata, jeremy

BTW: I additionally think that it's about time we re-visit the concept of a federal system as a whole. The idea of "state's rights" in general, to me seems antiquated. Not saying that we *have* to dump it now, but I dont think there is anything wrong with a little debate...*** This post was edited by 2Hostyl 6/21/2005 6:17:52 PM ***

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 7:37 PM
I'm sort of with your "personal opinion" that the parks should monitor themselves. The problem that may arise with this situation is the obvious conflict of interest. Would a park have an incentive to be honest with reporting?

I have not really thought about States rights versus Federal rights. I’m coming from the opinion that there does not need to be ANY intervention (State or Federal) until it can be proven that there is a problem beyond reasonable statistical significance. We cannot allow governmental intervention for anything they decide under the pretense of “safety.” Just because Markey has decided roller coasters are not safe does not make it so. They should at least minimally have to prove there is a statistically significant problem. They (Markey et al) have not even come close.

I guess I error on the side of freedom from interference until evidence suggests that businesses or individuals are not capable of policing themselves. Somehow I do not think Disney and Six Flags have proven themselves to be Enron.

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