SALT LAKE CITY — While Salt Lake City and state leaders continue to clash over how a future inland port will be governed, the appointments to that governing board were announced Monday with House Speaker Greg Hughes, who largely drove the port authority's creation, appointing himself.
Hughes said he picked himself because of his "institutional knowledge" of the inland port throughout the time it's been debated and researched.
"So I did appoint myself," Hughes said. "I thought it would be appropriate, in that vein, to be on the board."
"This is a big project; there's a lot of work to do to try and bring people along and make it a success," the speaker added. "What will happen and how the board will move forward — there's a lot to be discovered."
Plus, the speaker noted that his schedule "will be lightening up a little bit" after his term ends at the end of the year, referring to his decision not to seek re-election. Hughes said he will continue serving on the board after he leaves office — throughout the seat's four-year term or until a future speaker ever decides to change the position.
"I'll be a part of that, but to what extent and how it all plays out, time will tell," Hughes said.
The appointments to the 11-member board were announced by Gov. Gary Herbert's office, which also announced the date of the board's first meeting: June 18.
The entities and their selected appointees include:
• Governor: Ben Hart, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and Derek Miller, president of the Salt Lake Chamber
• President of the Senate: Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George
• Speaker of the House: House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper
• Salt Lake County mayor: Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen
• Chairman of the Community Impact Board: Sevier County Commissioner Garth Ogden
• West Valley City manager: To be determined
The board will also include other officials as directed under SB234, including Stuart Clason, Salt Lake County's economic development director; Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation's executive director; Councilman James Rogers, the Salt Lake City councilman whose district includes the northwest quadrant; and the designee of the Salt Lake Airport Advisory Board chairman, Salt Lake City Economic Development Director Laura Fritts.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski does not have an appointee under the final version of SB234 passed by the Utah Legislature, but her spokesman, Matthew Rojas, said Monday she asked Larry Pinnock, the airport advisory board chairman, to appoint Fritts. Pinnock serves on the airport board at the mayor's pleasure.
"The administration wanted to ensure the seat … was represented by someone who is credible, well credentialed and focused on the overall well-being of the city," Rojas said. "As the head of the city's economic development department … Fritts brings a wealth of hands-on knowledge of the northwest quadrant through the work the city has done in the area."
Monday's announcement comes after negotiations between state leaders and Salt Lake City stalled ahead of a planned special session to fix SB234, the law creating the Utah Inland Port Authority board. Biskupski and other city leaders say the law grants the board power to usurp ultimate land use authority, as well as capture 100 percent of the area's tax increment.
Herbert in a prepared statement called the inland port a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Utah's prosperity" and noted he introduced the concept three years ago.
"The inland port will make use of prime undeveloped land to enhance Utah’s position as a world-class business destination," the governor said. "The legislation and funds are in place. Duty and opportunity compel us to act. By convening the inland port authority, we start a powerful economic engine for the entire state and honor the law. ”
The appointments also come the day Hughes' office announced a joint news conference for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., with Sen. Jim Dabakis to "discuss a compromise framework" for SB234.
But city officials said they weren't aware of the news conference or any "compromise framework."23 comments on this story
"The council hasn't been included in these negotiations and looks forward to learning the details of what's been compromised on this city's behalf," Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Erin Mendenhall said Monday.
Hughes declined to give details about Tuesday's announcement other than to say that he and Dabakis "do not have authority to negotiate anything on behalf of Salt Lake City," but "conversations can occur between leaders and agreements can be found to move forward."
"That's what public policy and leadership is — finding areas of agreement and hoping that can bring people together as opposed to brinkmanship or playing chicken," Hughes said.