Salt Lake City

Mayor Biskupski files lawsuit challenging Inland Port Authority

“Moments ago, the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office, at my direction, filed a lawsuit with the 3rd Judicial District Court of Utah challenging the constitutionality of legislation which created the Inland Port Authority—usurping the City’s taxing and land use authority over one-third of Salt Lake City.

I have been clear since last year that I believe the State of Utah has violated the firmly established role of municipal governments.

Rather than work to correct this error, the State is preparing to double down on the worst parts of this legislation—seizing even more tax dollars and taking steps to close the courtroom door to me and other mayors who may be impacted by this gross State overreach.

After listening to the community, and conversations with city attorneys and outside counsel, I believe we must move forward with this lawsuit today, before this year’s legislation takes effect.

As Mayor, I took an oath to protect Salt Lake City in every action I take.

The Inland Port represents one of the greatest threats to Salt Lake City—and frankly, to the rights of cities and towns, the form of government closest to the people.

While I do not take this action lightly, I take it with full confidence that I am doing what is right for the residents of Salt Lake City.”

The lawsuit names the Utah Inland Port Authority, Derek Miller in his formal capacity as Chair of the Inland Port Authority Board, and Governor Gary Herbert.

To view court filing, click here.

FAQs: Salt Lake City Corporation vs. Utah Inland Port Authority, Derek Miller, and Governor Gary Herbert

On March 11th, the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office, at the direction of Mayor Biskupski, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Inland Port Authority.

What is the lawsuit about?

  • Primarily the lawsuit challenges the State’s action in usurping tax and land use authority from Salt Lake City in the Inland Port legislation. Many people believe this violates the ‘Ripper Clause’ of the Utah Constitution which holds that cities are vested with the power of core municipal functions.
  • Mayor Biskupski strongly believes the State violated the rights of Salt Lake City and all cities with this action. Without taxing and ultimate land use authority the City has virtually no control over what the development will look like and will receive none of the taxes generated from the project.
  • It’s important to remember the tax dollars we are talking about go to fund schools, road projects, transportation, public safety, and projects across the City.

What do you hope to accomplish?

  • Ultimately, we are asking the Court to find that the power of the Inland Port Authority to reverse municipal land use decisions and to take 100% of tax from project areas violates the Utah Constitution.
  • We are also asking the court to issue a preliminary and/or permanent injunction to prohibit the Inland Port Authority from engaging in any activity which violates the Utah Constitution.
  • Mayor Biskupski believes the City is best suited to handle development of the Northwest Quadrant, in strong partnerships with the State, County, private property owners, and others.

Why file a lawsuit at all?

  • It’s important to remember that the Courts are an important check on the power of the executive and legislative branches. Many people believe the Inland Port legislation violates the Utah Constitution and Salt Lake City’s rights as a municipality. Regardless of your feelings on the project, this is a critical legal issue with wide ranging consequences which should be settled by the Courts, as our system of government dictates.

Why file now?

  • The legislature was poised to take action on an amendment of the Inland Port legislation which would have required approval by a city’s legislative branch in order for any legal action to proceed. Considering the Salt Lake City Council has supported this legislation, this change would have closed the door to potential legal action.

Can’t the City Council stop the lawsuit?

  • In June 2018, the Salt Lake City Council adopted a budget resolution which said the mayor could not use City funds for any ‘impact litigation’ unless first approved by the Council.
  • In August 2018, the City Attorney, who represents both the Council and Mayor, issued an opinion that stated while the “power of the purse” lies with the legislative branch, case law clearly defines controlling litigation as an executive function. Because the budget restriction would give ultimate approval over ‘impact litigation’ to the Council the budget restriction “impermissibly encroaches on the executive authority.”
  • Should the City Council choose to take legal action, Mayor Biskupski is prepared to defend her right to file lawsuits on behalf of the City. Our hope is the Council will join in support of this lawsuit, so the City can stand united. Regardless of their opinion on the Inland Port development, the lawsuit will allow the Court to weigh in on the critical constitutional issues which have been raised.

What can I do to help?

  • It is critical that residents continue to stay engaged in this issue. Regardless of how you feel about the Inland Port development, we should all be concerned over violations of the City’s rights.
  • Mayor Biskupski urges all residents to reach out to their City Council Members and not only politely ask them to refrain from interfering in the lawsuit but ask them to support it. Salt Lake City residents deserve to have their day in court, regardless of the outcome.

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