The Port Authority refuses public comment; We deserve to be heard.
UPHE Board Member, E. Thomas Nelson M.D., wrote the below letter after sitting in on a Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA) board meeting that did not display the transparency and public input Salt Lake deserves.
Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a Utah Inland Port Authority meeting. You know, the proposed port that would forever alter the landscape and future of our city? It was a meeting held by the port authority with an open invitation to the public, with a plan for comments from residents at the end. As with almost all meetings these days, this was done virtually on zoom.
I had prepared comments and questions that I was eager to ask. For one hour and 27 minutes my screen showed the first slide of a slide show that simply read “closed session“. After this hour and a half of excitement, the board reappeared on the screen, but didn’t resume the meeting for another eight minutes or so, as there wasn’t a quorum. During that time I had the opportunity to watch two board members sitting idly by in front of their computers. Then, without further adieu, the meeting was called to session.
UIPA’s executive director, an individual who appears to be new to Utah and also appears to have helped build ports across the nation, gave a presentation on how wonderful this port will be. Included was a nice little video, complete with impressive drone footage of the Great Salt Lake, flocks of birds, and even a lone bison looking pensively into the distance. During this video there were some impressive, lofty, dare I say outlandish claims made about how this port would improve our quality of life (including emissions output) here in the Wasatch front. There were comments about how this port would be the trendsetter for the rest of the country. When the video was over there were congratulations amongst the board members. At this point the time allotment for the meeting had expired, and the meeting was hastily adjourned, with no public comments.
This is no way to push this port through. This is wrong on so many levels. There are endless questions to be answered, and no one’s stepping up to the mic. We’re just getting nice stock footage and claims that can’t possibly be kept.
This board claims that the inland port will be “green.” When? How? If there are things to be done that will offset the toxic diesel emissions from this port, why not adopt those measures before we break ground on the port? Why should the Wasatch Valley, a place with a dire air quality situation as it is, be the test dummy for how to build a port that one day might be environmentally friendly? Why not roll out a plan that’s green already; why must this be pushed through now, with a plan to wait for the positive environmental impacts later?
If this inland port is such a spectacular idea, why not allow the public to comment? The decisions made now behind closed doors will resonate for the citizens of Salt Lake City for generations to come. We deserve to be heard. We deserve a say in our future. Currently our voices are being heard about as much as that pensive Bison staring off into the distance, looking ahead to what appears to be a very rocky and unpleasant future.
E. Thomas Nelson, M.D.