Bob Bernick’s notebook – Fighting the good fight, or throwing a tantrum?

Depending on whom you believe, Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski is watching out for city residents as she refuses to participate in the inland port agreement worked out between state Republicans and the City Council.

Or, Biskupski, already known for having personality clashes with individuals and groups, is just being a “petty” baby through her recalcitrant actions and is hurting the city’s efforts in getting the best deal possible under the state-run port authority. managing editor Bryan Schott summed up the spat between Biskupski, her own City Council, and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Republican legislative leaders in this Wednesday story.

City Councilman Charlie Luke, who has been rumored to be planning a run against Biskupski next year for mayor, told Schott Biskupski is acting “petty,” even in a “dysfunctional” manner, through her continued refusal to work with the council and state leaders on the inland port deal.

The mayor did address a Wednesday morning legislative committee hearing on the matter before an afternoon special session, where changes to the inland port law were made.

But I’m looking here not at the accords themselves, but at the politics involved.

And I’m finding Biskupski’s actions odd, even weird, politically speaking.

It’s clear one year out from the 2019 Salt Lake mayor’s race that Biskupski – seeking a second, four-year term – is in trouble, both from her political right and left.

Several people are looking to run against her, including former City Council members, her former supporter, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, and maybe even former mayor Rocky Anderson.

Outside of current or former Democratic officeholders, there are also local businessmen and women looking at the race, as well.

In short, there will be no shortage of qualified, well-funded challengers to the mayor in the officially nonpartisan race.

(While officially nonpartisan, Democrats have held the mayor’s seat since the mid-1970s.)

Biskupski’s current head-butting with GOP state officials over the inland port is, I believe, another attempt by her to set herself up next year in a campaign where she can claim to be one of the few Utah Democrats who are willing to take on the GOP establishment – fighting the good fight against President Donald Trump and the right-wingers who run state government – many of whom are active supporters of the man most Salt Lakers love to hate.

As Luke and City Council Chair Erin Mendenhall have said, the council decided to get involved this summer in serious, behind closed door, negotiations with Herbert and GOP legislative leaders over the inland port because it became to clear to them that the port train was leaving the station – and they had better start talking to the Republicans or the city may get screwed again – like Biskupski et al. believed it did with the 2018 Legislature bill passed in the last week of the session in March.

Biskupski did start talking to Herbert privately this spring. But she declined to agree to any compromise, and a May special session on the inland port compromise was cancelled.

When House Speaker Greg Hughes, Dabakis, and others started talking to City Council members in June, Biskupski says she was not invited to attend.

Wrong, say not only the Republicans, but City Council members as well.

She was invited. She just didn’t want to talk anymore.

Look, the council members probably got some pretty good stuff in their agreement passed by the special session Wednesday.

I won’t go into it all – most of its fine print details.

Biskupski and her progressive backers weren’t going to like much of anything done by GOP state leaders on the inland port – no matter what.

Anyway, the city left-winger/environmentalists are talking about lawsuits. Not compromises.

So, in my view, the mayor just decided to stay out of the inland port discussions completely.

Yeah, she may look like an obstructionist to some city voters, maybe the more moderates, or even Republicans.

But those folks aren’t her voters.

With all the moderates running for mayor next year, Biskupski has to differentiate herself in some way.

And standing against Herbert and the GOP-controlled Legislature gives her a good whipping boy.

From her perspective, let Luke et al. hang themselves out with the Republicans’ inland port compromise.

The mayor can just say next year: “Hey, I didn’t sell the city out to the Republican Legislature – but these other people did.”

Of course, it’s a two-edged sword.

By and large, Utahns – even Salt Lakers – don’t like their politicians to be crybabies or obstructionists.

 And Biskupski has a reputation of being both at times – even before the inland port fight.

Anderson’s battles with the Legislature and non-city Republicans were at times really tough stuff.

The political key is to make it look to city voters that you – the progressive mayor – are fighting on the side of most city residents against the big bad Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Biskupski is taking a pretty big political risk in this inland port fight this summer.

We’ll see if it pays off for her next summer.