Nothing heightens the late-to-catch-your-flight panic than fumbling with a ticket machine, zipping through an unending sea of cars while squinting for a free spot, then waiting for a parking shuttle before beginning the 500-meter dash to security and finally, maybe, your gate. And choosing to lessen the time crunch by parking in the terminal-adjacent garage is a nice way to ensure you'll be in debt once you get home from your trip.
Free airport parking is a perk given to a select few—for the most part, members of city government, especially those who are affiliated with the oversight of the Salt Lake City International Airport. But a few free-parking recipients seem, at first glance, to be unlikely members of this jet-setting crowd—like Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, who obtained free airport parking thanks to a request from Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Through an open-records request, City Weekly obtained a list of the 40 people who are able to park for free at the airport. The list is divided among city department heads, the city council, the airport board and other groups. All nine members of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports Advisory Board receive free parking, including former city councilman J.T. Martin, Natalie Gochnour of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Wayne Holland, who is the former chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
Key members of Utah government, such as all of Utah's Congressional delegation, also enjoy free parking. House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, of the state legislature also made the list. All members of the city council get free parking, along with Cindy Gust-Jenson, the executive director of the council.
All city department heads receive free parking, including Becker; his chief of staff, David Everett; Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank; and D.J. Baxter, director of the Redevelopment Agency.
The last group of parking VIPs are those selected by Becker, including his former protégé and current Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. It also includes some influential fliers likes Michael Allegra, the general manager of the Utah Transit Authority.
Lobbyist David Stewart made the list at Becker's request. Stewart represents not only Salt Lake City but also, according to state lobbyist disclosure filings, clients ranging from EnergySolutions and private-prison giant Corrections-Corporation of America, to Equality Utah and the United Way of Salt Lake City.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is the staunch conservative Utah County lawmaker Bramble. Art Raymond, mayor's office spokesman, says the reason Bramble obtained the parking perk was because Becker appreciated the Provo lawmaker's hectic travel schedule, as Bramble is active in the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization he was recently elected to lead as president. Besides that, Raymond says, "he's also a former colleague from [Becker's] legislative time, and I believe Ralph helped coordinate an airport pass for Sen. Bramble because he has a very busy travel schedule."
"I will be the national president of the Conference of State Legislatures, and that requires a significant amount of travel meeting with legislators and legislative leadership throughout the country," Bramble says. Bramble says Becker asked if the pass would help, and says there's nothing unusual about the support from the Democratic mayor, pointing out that his roles with the conference involve plenty of bipartisan work with lawmakers from across the country.
Bramble says that, for example, he's presented information to Democratic lawmakers in Nevada about legislation he passed in 2005 allowing undocumented immigrants to use a driving-privilege card to drive legally in the state and pay into the insurance pool. Bramble says he'll even present to the Texas Legislature about that bill in the near future.
Being able to fly with a little more ease, he says, helps out the whole state in his NCSL work.
"As an officer of NCSL, I'm also an ambassador for many of the things we've done in Utah that have a proven track record," Bramble says.