There was one person standing up for the people of rural Utah.
Standing up to power. Standing up for the law. Assistant Utah Attorney General Alison Garner told the Community Impact Board (CIB) the truth.
I predict Garner will be quietly transferred--soon. The Governor, Attorney General and powerful legislators will not like her message. Too much money is at stake.
A little background. I sat on the committee overseeing the CIB for years. It was torture. The CIB is the most powerful group spending Utah money--which you have never heard about. CIB is the Board that allocated the $53 million dollars for Oakland Coal Port (with Legislative approval).
The CIB is funded from the state's share of the tens of millions of dollars in revenue received from extraction on federal lands in Utah. Like all landowners, the Feds get a royalty of about 11% of the take--Washington then gives CIB about 49% of the Feds share. It is a huge pile of cash. Eleven board members decide where to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars in the CIB fund.
The money, by federal law, is required to be used to help with the consequences to local communities from the nasty impact of the extraction industry. Traditionally in Utah, it went to rural schools, roads, community centers, jails, water projects, etc. Projects that benefit the local community.
But in recent years, there has been a huge change in state policy. The state piggies have moved in – unchecked – and have taken a lot of the money away from the impacted areas.
Federal law explicitly forbids CIB money to be spent on 'economic development'. Yet, in the last few years, the CIB board has been spending what is designated to be community money--on their corporate friends.
At least one board member's company was in line to get more than a million dollar commission from a CIB expenditure--he may have received it--state won't tell me. Legislative lawyers said the board members’ actions were legal – if unethical – because (a) the board position was part-time, and (b) because the member quit the board shortly before the final vote.
Rural Utah should be outraged! CIB money should be used for their community projects. Not as subsidies to a few rich, politically savvy (and politically generous) corporations to get welfare. Instead of roads, sewers and playgrounds, CIB is giving money to projects like the Oakland Coal Port and millions of dollars for rail studies. The CIB has a quiet new grand vision, to spend $150 million dollars of community money to build, through the roadless Book Cliffs area, a single-use, coal railroad that would profit only one private company.
Fight hard Alison Garner!