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SLC Mayor Files Lawsuit Over Utah Inland Port

Woman speaks at an outdoor podium as three men stand behind her.
Julia Ritchey
Mayor Jackie Biskupski reads a statment about a lawsuit filed against the state's inland port

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has mounted a legal challenge to the state’s new inland port, accusing state leaders of usurping the city’s taxing and land use authority.

The mayor filed the lawsuit on Monday in the Third Judicial District Court. The suit names the Utah Inland Port Authority Board, Board Chair Derek Miller and Gov. Gary Herbert as defendants.

“I have been clear since last year that I believe the state of Utah has violated the firmly addressed role of municipal government,” said Biskupski at a press conference outside City Hall.

The mayor said the action was prompted by concerns that the state is moving to consolidate its power over the 16,000-acre development in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City, a project state leaders consider a top priority for economic development.   

Biskupski cited her concerns over pending legislation by Rep. Francis Gibson, the House Majority Leader and a member of the port’s board, that would expand the board’s reach, allowing it to control more tax dollars collected within the port’s boundaries.

Gibson’s bill, in its most current form, would also limit legal challenges over the port to only legislative bodies — a provision that explicitly targeted Biskupski, who has been the port’s most vocal critic.

The lawsuit is the latest fallout between the mayor’s office and the state over the port, created in the waning days of the 2018 legislative session. After Biskupski pulled out of negotiations last year with the Legislature, the Salt Lake City Council sidestepped the mayor and hammered out a deal finalized during a special session last July.

Despite being blocked by the City Council last year, Biskupski said she does not need approval from councilmembers to fund the lawsuit.

“I would call upon my councilmembers to stand with me on this finally — that this is the right thing to do,” she said.

The mayor, who’s running for a second term this year against a crowded field, denied politics played a role in her decision.

“This isn’t about my politics or my re-election, this is about standing up for the residents of Salt Lake City,” said Biskupski. “I had to do it, the time was running out.”

Reached for comment on Tuesday, Herbert’s office said they would not comment on pending litigation.


3/13/19: This story has been updated with a response from Gov. Herbert's office.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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