SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski broke her silence on the proposed bill to amend the inland port deal, saying it continues to “undermine” land use authority of the city she leads.
“I am here today to stand in opposition to HB 2001,” she told lawmakers Wednesday in a Building and Finance Committee Meeting. Biskupski has been relatively silent on the bill saying it became clear to her during negotiations with Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah) that her concerns would not be validated.
Biskupski has spoken against what she calls a lack of transparency in the process of getting an inland port in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City, a project she says would bring more air pollution and has too many unanswered questions attached to it. “We must start over from a place of true and open dialogue,” Biskupski told lawmakers.
But she got pushback from Rep. Mike Schultz (R-Hooper), who asked her why she chose to stay out of the amendment negotiations until now.
“It became clear to me that Salt Lake City was not going to maintain its land use authority,” the mayor answered. She does not believe the amendments to HB 234, the bill passed earlier this year to approve the building of an inland port, are any better than the original bill.
Schultz said it was disheartening the Mayor would not participate in discussions, but her City Council jumped at the chance.
“I stand here as the mayor who represents everyone in Salt Lake City and I am showing up on their behalf,” she said. “The mayor who chose not to participate?,” Schultz clapped back, to which he was rebuked by Curt Bramble (R-Provo), who heads the committee. “You know better,” he said to Schultz.
The Mayor went on to say the bill was boxing the city into having to create an ordinance accepting the legislation as it is today. “I think that is extremely dangerous for us as a community, we do not know fully what to expect in the development of this land.”
The inland port would encompass about 20,000 acres of the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City. Under the amendments being discussed in a special session Wednesday, a portion of that land would be removed from the deal, including some already developed land and the wetlands.
House Speaker Greg Hughes (R-Draper), who recently resigned his seat on the board that oversees the development of the inland port land, presented to the committee today. He says the amendments up for debate on the floor will address the concerns of residents.
However, some residents who attended the committee meeting, who have complex feelings for and against the building of an inland port, were disappointed in the amount of time they received to speak about it during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“You’re proving our point,” cried Deeda Seed, an activist who also opposes what she calls a lack of public comment and transparency in the inland port decision-making process. Dorothy Owen, a leader of the Westpointe Community which sits near the airport right next to where the port will be built, was cut off after 60 seconds, as were other citizens who got up to speak. Bramble stuck to the 60-second time limit for all citizens who chose to speak out, urging them to take a definite position on whether they were for or against the proposed amendments in HB 2001. He discouraged them from giving broad opinions on the inland port itself.
Still, feelings among those in attendance were complex. Many are not necessarily opposed to an inland port, they just want to see more checks and balances, including a port authority board that is elected, not appointed. They would also like to see more safeguards against environmental hazards and more chance for public comment.
The special session to debate the amendment points happened Wednesday afternoon. News4Utah has coverage on our website and on the air.