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.

To date, 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.

The current Utah Inland Port jurisdictional area is made up of approximately 16,000 acres in one of the few remaining undeveloped areas of Salt Lake County.

“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 modus operandi of UIPA needs to change,” said Sarah Buck with the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition.  “There are huge environmental injustices about to be 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.”