SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker said Salt Lake City will be reviewing its legal options now that the Legislature's Prison Relocation Commission has recommended moving the Utah State Prison to Utah's capital city.
"We are troubled to learn that Salt Lake City was chosen today as the recommended location,” Becker said during a news conference Tuesday at the site of the proposed prison. “We have been vocal and consistent in our opposition in as elected officials and as a community.”
The mayor criticized the recommendation of the site near I-80 and 7200 West as a heavy-handed edict handed down to Salt Lake residents.
“By selecting Salt Lake City today — assuming that it's approved by the Legislature and the governor — they have forced a new prison on Salt Lake City against our wishes,” he said.
City officials will continue to fight the prison’s relocation, Becker said.
"We will continue to do everything we can to prevent this site from being ultimately selected," he said. "Next week we’ll meet with our lawyers."
Earlier this month, Becker said city officials were contemplating a legal challenge to the relocation of the prison if the Salt Lake site were chosen. Commission officials said at the time that the threat of lawsuit wouldn't affect their decision.
Jacki Biskupski, who is running against Becker, criticized the mayor's handling of the city’s west side and his desire for increased sales tax in the city as factors that led to the site being chosen.
“This is a decision that will shape this city's future for generations to come. Our west side has been ignored by this administration, so it should come as no surprise that Mayor Becker would sell them out in his negotiations for a sales tax in this city,” Biskupski said in a prepared statement.
“In addition to the lack of concern for residents of the west side, the environmental impacts and the shortage of water resources in this part of the valley should be more than reason for the commission to look elsewhere,” she said.
Biskupski was referring to accusations she made against Becker in March that he tacitly scaled back his opposition to the prison being moved to Salt Lake City in exchange for the state Legislature allowing a sales tax increase there.
Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott also raised his suspicions Tuesday about an implied deal between Becker and the Legislature. Garrott called on the mayor to take legal steps against the prison relocation immediately.
"This is a bad deal for Utah and continues the disrespect of residents on Salt Lake City's west side,” said Garrott, another Becker challenger. "I support taking legal action to block the prison move, and if Ralph is serious about stopping the prison and hasn’t made a back-room deal to the contrary, we expect his immediate support of the lawsuit."
Becker has denied those claims and asserted again Tuesday that he is opposed to the prison being moved to Salt Lake City.
"Not only do we oppose this site — because I don’t think anyone wants to see this site in their community — but there are enormous problems with this site,” he said.
Becker also took time to defend his desire for an increased sales tax in Salt Lake City, saying residents there pay disproportionately for services that also benefit Utahns from other cities and counties who commute there for work.
"We suffer a burden of having the population double every day in terms of daytime population,” he said.
Becker also said the city has been wrestling with how to develop the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City for decades.
"In the most recent version of that plan, which came forward several years ago, the City Council rejected the idea of having residential uses here,” Becker said. "The costs, the potential safety of residents if they were going to live out here, the environmental effects out there are really significant."
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
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