For immediate release: December 2, 2021
Utah Inland Port Authority reaches new low: votes on increased expenditures without public comment, shows propaganda video instead
Salt Lake City - Yesterday the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA) took action to increase its expenditures in Fiscal Year 2022 by $829,000 with little public explanation, and for the first time took no public comment at its meeting. They did make time to show a slickly produced video full of propaganda about the proposed inland port.
Budget documents made available to the public just a few hours before the meeting contain no details about how the public funds to develop the port are intended to be used, yet UIPA staff complained that the public doesn’t understand their budget.
UIPA has yet to explain to the public how it plans to use millions in public dollars for infrastructure development intended to support private warehouse developers.
“Over the last three and half years we’ve seen a steady erosion of public accountability by the Port Authority,” said Ann O’Connell, League of Women Voters of Salt Lake. “Yesterday they reached a new low, when they made budget decisions with scant public notice, didn’t allow public comment, and instead showed a propaganda video.
Over 20 members of the public were prepared to speak at the meeting to address issues related to transparency and accountability regarding expenditures of public money, as well as concerns about a proposed “transloading facility”, and UIPA’s intent to seek federal infrastructure funds.
"Salt Lake Valley residents are being force-fed the inland port by a legislature and Port Authority that have dismissed public opinion right from the beginning. But what UIPA did yesterday would have made both Marie Antoinette and Joseph Goebbels proud. They essentially signaled to the public, ‘We're going to drop even the pretense that we care about facts, reality, the truth, or public opinion’,“ said Dr. Brian Moench, President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
“The Port Authority continues to hide information about how it plans to use money from the public,” said Katie Pappas, from the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition, “Yet the consequences for the public are tremendous - including massive increases in truck traffic, pollution, water degradation and depletion, and wildlife habitat loss at a time when we face the dire consequences of the climate crisis.”
The impacts of the proposed polluting port development will be felt most acutely by communities closest to the area, including some of Salt Lake County's most diverse and historically marginalized communities. Yet UIPA has done next to nothing substantive to address the concerns of these communities and removed two community leaders from its “Community Advisory Council”.
“The way UIPA operates needs to change,” said Sarah Buck with the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition. “There are huge environmental injustices being inflicted on Salt Lake City and County communities, and you can be assured we will be flagging these for the Biden administration. Not one dime of federal infrastructure money should go to UIPA.”
For Immediate Release: October 1, 2021
Utah Inland Port Authority admits it doesn’t have details regarding plan to spend $150 million in taxpayer backed loans
Salt Lake City-- At a public information session held today, staff from the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA), bankers, and bond attorneys failed to answer essential questions about the proposed creation of a Public Infrastructure District that would issue bonds for $150 million to be paid back with Salt Lake City property tax revenue from the Utah Inland Port Jurisdictional Area (and a tiny amount from West Valley City and Magna township).
During the hour-long session, UIPA acknowledged it does not have specific details for the projects it is “contemplating.” UIPA Chief Operating Officer, Jill Flygare said UIPA would “vet them out as they go”.
The fact that UIPA is intending to use public money to fund projects that haven’t been fully vetted is outrageous and should be of concern to every Utah taxpayer. This lack of planning and risk would be unacceptable if private funds were used. It is analogous to creating an enormous “slush fund” which in this instance has the potential to further degrade air quality, westside communities, wildlife habitat, the Great Salt Lake and more.
UIPA provided few details about the “transloading facility” they hope to build next to the existing Union Pacific Intermodal facility - including why it is necessary since Union Pacific has always said they would expand their intermodal facility when cargo volume warrants it. Is building the proposed transloading facility with public money intended to supplant what would otherwise be a private investment by Union Pacific?
UIPA was equally vague about the purpose of constructing a rail spur into the undeveloped portion of the UIPA area north of I-80. This, too, appears to be public infrastructure built primarily to aid a private rail company, as well as warehouse developers Rio Tinto, the Colmena group and SITLA (a partner of a private warehouse developer), all of whom have been clamouring for public infrastructure investments in this area, which is riddled with wetlands, and adjacent to migratory bird habitat of global importance.
We also heard a vague description of a “renewable energy facility” that would include natural gas. Natural gas is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and is not “renewable”.
UIPA vaguely described public funds being used for construction of a daycare facility and kitchen at Stadler Rail. This is another example of public funds spent largely for private benefit.
Overall the presentation briefly outlined 6 proposed projects but only one was within the area of the proposed Public Infrastructure District and this district contains only one property owner. Other private interests would benefit from publicly funded projects that provide refueling facilities, kitchens and day care for employers, including large international corporations.
The webinar raised more questions than it answered, leaving the impression that UIPA plans to create a slush fund of more that $150 million that will be allocated based on the interests of an unaccountable board. The discussion today also underscored that Salt Lake City’s litigation against the State of Utah over creation of UIPA, based on usurpation of Salt Lake City’s lawful taxing authority is spot on, as UIPA is demonstrating what happens when the power to tax is given to an unrepresentative body.