Burlington residents to vote on fighter jets

Joey Waldinger, Assistant News Editor

Burlington residents get another chance to voice their support for or opposition to F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport.

City councillors voted Jan. 29 to add a non-binding question to the Town Hall Meeting Day Ballot, the outcome of  which could advise, but not force, the council to request cancellation of the plan to base F-35s at Burlington International Airport.

It is hard to predict the outcome of this ballot question as many citizens continue to support basing the planes in Burlington, Mayor Miro Weinberger said.

“When I’m out knocking on doors talking to people in Burlington, I don’t hear a desire to make that decision,” Weinberger said, referring to the request to base the planes elsewhere.

Much of the opposition comes from worries about damage caused by noise from the planes, said James Marc Leas, a patent lawyer and member of Save Our Skies, an organization campaigning against the F-35s.

Low-income communities would be disproportionately affected by the F-35s, according to the Air Force’s 2013 Environmental Impact Statement.

The planes’ impact would be concentrated in Winooski and South Burlington. Winooski has a larger low-income population than the state average, and both cities have a larger than average population of minority residents, according to the EIS.

Millions of dollars have been spent modifying the airport in anticipation of the arrival of the F-35s, Weinberger said. Should the F-35s be based elsewhere, “there is a possibility of those investments going to waste,” he said.   

Additionally, the basing of the F-35s in Burlington ensures a continued mission for the Vermont Air National Guard and the survival of over 1,000 jobs, stated Weinberger in a Jan. 25 email.

Save Our Skies spent months gathering petition signatures to put this issue on the ballot. Going forward the group has a new focus, Leas said.  

“Our key task right now is to get the truth out,” said Rosanne Greco, Save Our Skies activist, former Air Force Colonel and former chair of the South Burlington City Council.   

Save Our Skies is now passing out flyers, speaking to the media and using social media to spread their message, Leas said.

By continuing to educate the public, Greco is confident that Burlington citizens will vote against the F-35s, she said.  

Whether or not the greater public agrees that the planes should be stationed elsewhere, all residents should have the right to vote on the matter, said Julie Macuga ‘17.

“The planes shouldn’t just get Burlington’s stamp of approval without the approval of the citizens,” she said.