SLC mayoral candidates vow to continue lawsuit over inland port

SALT LAKE CITY — A highly contentious lawsuit filed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski over the inland port would likely continue under the next administration.

Each of the candidates running to replace her have told FOX 13 they would continue the litigation in some way or another.

The inland port, a massive import-export center being planned for Salt Lake City’s west-side, could encompass up to a third of the city. It’s been mired in controversy over the legislature stepping into Salt Lake City and creating a port authority, and faced repeated protests over air quality and wetland pollution fears. At Wednesday’s meeting of the inland port authority, police arrested demonstrators.

“The litigation that the mayor filed I think is a good idea. When the city goes fisticuffs with the state, we come out bloodied, it’s a matter of how bloodied,” said Erin Mendenhall. “I think it’s better on this constitutional issue of taxing and land authority that we have the courts decide.”

David Ibarra said he would also continue the litigation.

“There’s no doubt the inland port is a mess. I don’t need to get into how or why, it just is,” he said. “We have to determine jurisdiction. A lawsuit must be followed through, all the way to the end whether it’s done by our current mayor or continued by the next mayor.”

Jim Dabakis’ campaign vowed he would “pursue the Inland Port lawsuit with feisty vigor, verve, and voice.”

“Yes, I would continue the lawsuit. The city has to pursue every avenue possible to protect our air. As a former attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, I’ve already litigated against the State several times on air quality issues; I’m not afraid to do it again,” said David Garbett.

Stan Penfold said he couldn’t comment on specifics of the lawsuit, but called it a “shame that the relationship between the city and the state has soured to the point of a lawsuit being necessary.”

“I do believe the State overstepped it’s bounds and I think this is an issue that needs to be resolved by the courts. That being said, it has been my experience is that it’s more productive to work out issues at the negotiating table than it is arguing about them in a judge’s courtroom. As mayor, I will work to repair the trust lost between the City and State and avoid costly court battles,” he said in a statement.

Luz Escamilla, who has run legislation on the inland port while in the Utah State Senate, expressed some support for the ongoing litigation.

“My position will always be to represent the best interest of SLC residents. As mayor I will let the lawsuit run its course. I believe the suit could bring closure and the courts would offer guidance on how to move forward,” she said in a statement.

Only Rainer Huck, an upstart candidate who filed earlier this week, said he would drop the lawsuit.

“I would definitely not continue this foolish litigation. When one government sues another the people always lose. My candidacy is all about the hard working people of Salt Lake who are being over burdened by their government,” he said in an email.

Mayor Biskupski sued the state of Utah over the creation of the inland port, arguing it usurps Salt Lake City’s land and tax powers. The move faced criticism from some members of the city council, but the candidates vying to replace her seem to support the move.

The lawsuit remains pending in state court. On Thursday, Mayor Biskupski reacted to the candidates’ stances in a post on Twitter:

Asked for comment on the candidates’ stances, Utah Inland Port Authority Chairman Derek Miller said in a statement:

“The Utah Inland Port Authority is working diligently to create the most technologically advanced logistics facility that will help mitigate the impacts of growth as they relate to the economy, environment and sustainability. The board values its working relationship with the Salt Lake City Council and welcomes the opportunity to partner with whichever candidates is elected mayor to create the best possible future for our Capital City.”

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