By NICOLE NIXON KUER
Earlier this month Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski nominated state Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City) to represent the city on the Utah Transit Authority Board. But on Tuesday evening the city council voted down the nomination.
Dabakis has been a vocal critic of UTA’s closed door meetings and favorable deals with developers. He reminded the city council that in 2015 Salt Lake County voters rejected Proposition 1—a tax increase for transportation projects.
“The reason we’re not getting that extra money from the vote is because people don’t trust the UTA,” Dabakis said.
Dabakis said if confirmed to the UTA Board, he’d fight for transparency and appropriate use of taxpayer money.
City Council members said those are important priorities, but said they wanted someone who would focus on expanding service for residents.
“It’s going to require a more intimate relationship with our transit provider than we’ve ever had before,” said Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall. “It’s not a time for our single (board) position to fight.”
Many of the council members began remarks by expressing affection for Dabakis, then moved on to reasons they were going to vote against his nomination.
Several noted that Dabakis is already in a prime position to act as a watchdog over UTA in his role as a state senator. Other council members said they wanted a representative who is a frequent transit user.
Councilman Derek Kitchen presented a broader critique of Biskupki’s transportation priorities, noting that the city’s transportation department has been without a director for nearly a year.
“Instead of exploring ways to better connect our community, whether it’s an east-west connection or otherwise, we’ve been talking about building walls on 200 South,” Kitchen said.
In a 6-1 vote, the city council rejected Dabakis' nomination.
Mayor Biskupski said she was disappointed in the vote. She said like Dabakis, her priority is restoring public trust in UTA.
“Without public trust, we will never have our own Proposition 1 pass,” the mayor told reporters. “We just won’t.”
Biskupski will now have to come up with another nomination. She did not say whom else she may be considering.