When I was mayor of Salt Lake City, I wanted to advance the airport by appointing a high-level body to run the airport. It would be a board of distinguished community and business people and they would have decision-making authority.
My city attorney quickly cautioned me. He referred to the Ripper Clause in the state constitution: Article VI, Section 29. It states: “The legislature shall not delegate to any special commission, private corporation or association, any power to make, supervise or interfere with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects, whether held in trust or otherwise, to levy taxes, to select a capitol site, or to perform any municipal functions.”
Case decisions regarding the Ripper Clause over the years have sought to define a balance between the greater public interest and the local responsibility a municipality has to represent the welfare of its constituents through elected officials.
As the state dictates a ruling board of non-elected officials to run the inland port, it is clear the wider state interests of economic development have trumped local rights such as impacts on the greater city, good zoning, rights to tax money, and environmental protection.
That is a lot to give up to a group of non-elected people the local citizenry has no recourse to. The next election is a hedge against faulty actions that will be sadly missing at the new inland port. It is unusual, even a bad precedent for the Salt Lake City Council to give away citizen rights to address them through the ballot. None of them face an election by the whole city. They can comfortably be removed by their responsibility only to a district.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski, voted in by the whole city, is now operating for the greater good of those electing her. It’s too bad she has been painted as obstinate in seeking a solution.
The inland port project can be a great thing for Salt Lake City and the state of Utah, but this one looks to be in the courts for some time.
Ted Wilson, Salt Lake City mayor 1976-1986