The state’s Inland Port is not only a threat to public health in Salt Lake City, but to the city’s long-term legal rights and protections. When state leaders snuck through legislation to steal the city’s tax revenue and land-use authority to plow the way to building an inland port, they created a real long-term threat to the city that must be resisted.
Erin Mendenhall is an air-quality activist and is deeply concerned about what the port will mean to the city over the long term. She supports the city’s lawsuit over the Inland Port and hopes we succeed, but the nature of the suit means it is essentially impossible for it to result in the Port being stopped altogether. Even if it could, however, Erin does not believe the city can take the chance of putting all its eggs in one basket. While the litigation proceeds, we need to work every angle in pursuit of the best possible outcome.
Erin does not support the construction of this Inland Port, but that has never been the question put before the City Council. Because the land on which it is being built is privately owned and because the state government’s intent to see the port built includes willingness to legislate around the Salt Lake City government to do it, the City Council’s permission was never needed.
The question before the City Council has always essentially been: does the city want to play any role in making the Inland Port development work through Salt Lake City public processes? Does the city want to have any influence on environmental standards? Does the city want to try to recover any of the tax revenue from our Northwest Quadrant area stolen by the state government?
Creating a master plan, executing zoning changes, and creating a development agreement with property owners were intentional steps that Mayor Biskupski and the City Council took to ensure the city kept its rightful place in supervising land-use development in the area.
From Day One, Erin has worked to protect the city from the Inland Port. As a subsidiary of the state, the City Council has never had enough statutory leverage to stop its construction. Erin has worked hard to get the best possible outcome for the city and will continue to make the tough decisions it takes to protect city residents.
The notion of an Inland Port has been discussed by Salt Lake City and Utah leaders for decades, but the sequence of events that has put the city government in the current predicament generally began in 2016.
Feeling pressure from state leaders threatening to build an Inland Port in Salt Lake City without the city government’s involvement, the City Council approved the mayor’s Northwest Quadrant Master Plan, which included a port very different than the one now planned by the state.
December 3, 2016
Mayor Biskupski published an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune laying out her plan to create an inland port in the Northwest Quadrant that would be subject to city rules and standards.
January 31, 2018
Mayor Biskupski signed contracts with local property owners guaranteeing their rights to develop their properties as they see fit in compliance with the city’s zoning laws.
February 20, 2018
The City Council held a public hearing on the plan for an Inland Port subject to city rules and standards.
March 7, 2018
The Utah Legislature passed a bill to cut Salt Lake City out of the development of the Inland Port. Among many other things, the bill:
Mayor Biskupski abandoned Inland Port negotiations with the state.
With plans for the port proceeding without us, City Council Chair Erin Mendenhall re-opened negotiations with the state on behalf of Salt Lake City taxpayers to ensure they were represented in discussions.
July 18, 2018
The State Legislature passed a bevy of improvements negotiated by Erin and the City Council.
March 11, 2019
The city filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah over its theft of city tax revenue and land-use authority.
The state and Inland Port Authority are proceeding with their plans to build the Inland Port in Salt ake City. The mayor’s office still refuses to participate in negotiations.
When Mayor Biskupski walked away from negotiations with the state over the Inland Port, leaving Salt Lake City residents and taxpayers exposed and without a voice at the table, Erin stepped up to negotiate on the city’s behalf. Because she did, the city won a number of significant concessions and made real progress on a wide array of priorities. Among the improvements for which Erin successfully negotiated is:
In the time since HB 2001 was passed, Erin has had to make tough choices to protect that progress and prevent those gains from being rolled back. Some of those choices were unpopular, but they were necessary to protect the progress that had been made and ensure the city could continue trying to get a better outcome from the Inland Port situation.
The pending request for summary judgment on the city’s lawsuit against the state makes it difficult to plot an exact course of action on the Port next year. Although Erin hopes the judgment is granted in the city’s favor, it is critical that the city prepares for all possibilities and continues working to win the best possible outcome.
As mayor, Erin plans to:
If the motion for summary judgment is not granted and the city’s lawsuit against the state is not yet resolved when the new mayor’s term begins, Erin will continue the lawsuit and take appropriate action to see it through.
Erin will immediately convene the city government’s top attorneys and experts, Salt Lake City Council, as well as other key policymakers to regroup, assess available options, and chart a strategy for protecting the city from the impacts of the Inland Port. Since the city’s case is better made with county and municipal partners, Erin will meet with County Mayor Jenny Wilson, elected leaders from other cities, and members of the Salt Lake County Council to discuss opportunities for the City and County to work together to shape the direction of the Inland Port.
During her first week in office, Erin will notify the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker, and Senate president of the city’s intent to reopen negotiations over the legislative framework creating the Inland Port. Erin will continually push Salt Lake City’s representatives and allies on Capitol Hill to make the adoption of legislative improvements a priority.
The West Side of Salt Lake City is disproportionately affected by our poor air quality and with the Inland Port threatening to worsen the situation, Erin has committed to a bold plan to protect residents.
A single large tree is capable of removing 10 pounds of air pollution in a year, absorbing the carbon dioxide of a car driven 500 miles over a year and generating 260 pounds of oxygen in a year. Facing an alarming disparity in the geographic distribution of the city’s urban forest, Erin will plant 1,000 trees on the West Side of our city each year as mayor.
To pay for the surge in tree-plantings, Erin will pursue national and non-profit grants partnering with local philanthropies, businesses, and others to make the greening of the West Side a true community project. The 4,000 trees planted on the West side in her first four budgets as mayor would grow to: