Nearly two-thirds of Salt Lake City voters do not want the inland port developed in the northwest part of the city, a new UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics poll finds.
But it is going in just the same. That’s because it is a state-sponsored project, supported by the GOP majority in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.
Y2 finds that 63 percent of city voters do not want the inland port because it will “create pollution and traffic.”
Thirty-seven percent favor the port’s development because it will “create jobs and make Utah a regional economic hub.”
Y2 didn’t give respondents a choice of “don’t know,” so the poll adds up to 100 percent of the respondents.
The inland port authority’s website is here, and it makes the case for it.
But there has been considerable opposition to the port, including an aggressive anti-port demonstration in July at the headquarters of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce in the city’s downtown, which ended up with more than a dozen protesters being arrested and later charged with various crimes.
While most city voters oppose the port’s development, an earlier question by Y2 shows that the port is near the bottom of the list of issues important to city voters.
The issues around the port are varied and complicated.
But because Republicans controlling state government have clearly forced the port on the city, which is run by Democrats, Y2 finds that voters in Salt Lake break out along partisan and conservative/liberal lines over the port.
— “Strong” Republicans support the port’s development, 76-24 percent; “not so strong” Republicans like it, 77-23 percent, while those who “lean” Republican in their politics actually oppose the port, 55-45 percent.
— True political independents disapprove of the port’s development, 53-47 percent.
— And Democrats of all stripes, “lean,” “not very strong,” and “strong” Democrats, oppose the port, 68-32 percent, 82-18 percent, and 82-18 percent, respectively.
Likewise, those who said they are “strong” conservatives support the port 79-21 percent.
Moderates oppose the port’s development, 56-44 percent.
While “strong” liberals oppose it 81-19 percent.
Remember, the poll is of city voters only and doesn’t take in any feelings on the port by other Utahns.
Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski is strongly against the port, and last year she boycotted discussions between city council officials and Herbert and GOP legislative leaders, refusing to engage.
Then-council chair Erin Mendenhall stepped in and negotiated some compromises favorable to the city, even though she overall opposed the port.
After Biskupski announced this spring that she wouldn’t run for a second term this year, Mendenhall got into the mayor’s race and won the office in last week’s elections.
Mendenhall said she still opposes the port but will work with state Republicans on its development.
Herbert showed up at Mendenhall’s Election Night victory party, congratulating her and saying he hopes for better relations with city leaders in years ahead.
The state does not have to abide by city zoning ordinances, and quasi-government state authorities don’t have to pay local taxes.
The port will pay some property and other taxes, but not nearly as much as if the port was private in nature.
The new port authority has hired experts to detail how the facility can have less of an environmental impact, mainly on air quality and traffic, as an increasing number of trains and trucks will be delivering and taking away large quantities of goods when the port is fully developed.
Lawmakers changed the authority’s law last session to allow local governments outside of Salt Lake City to be “hubs” of the port, and already a few locales are interested in becoming so.
An inland port basically operates like a seaport, where goods can be brought in without paying any duties or import fees, those fees paid when the goods are sorted out in the port and then shipped to final destinations in the U.S.