August 22, 2019

Burlington City Council calls for cancellation of F-35s

Observer file photo
The Air Force’s F-35 plane is scheduled for basing at Burlington International Airport.

By Kelsey Neubauer

For VTDigger

The Burlington City Council voted 9-3 Monday in support of a resolution requesting the cancellation of a planned F-35 fighter jet basing at the Burlington International Airport in favor of an aircraft that is quieter and has a proven safety record.

The City Council vote follows a ballot measure passed by Burlington residents on Town Meeting Day demanding that the City Council ask the Air Force to cancel plans for basing the F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport.

The motion states: “the Burlington City Council values the Air National Guard’s contributions to our community and respectfully requests the Honorable Secretary of the United States Air Force, Heather Wilson, replace the planned basing of the F-35 with a basing of a low-noise-level plane with a proven high safety record …”

Like the ballot measure, the letter is advisory in nature. With the basing already approved, the Air Guard has the final say on whether to cancel the basing.

“We obviously have no authority over the Air Force, but we are clear on what we’re asking,” said Councilor Joan Shannon, who drafted the resolution.

The resolution also includes a list of questions for the Air Force secretary regarding impact on surrounding communities.

Members of the council said they wanted to ensure there was a replacement mission before canceling the F-35s.

During the meeting, Councilor David Harnett, who voted against the resolution, described the language on the ballot as “deceptive.” Hartnett echoed a point repeatedly made by supporters of the basing who say the ballot question was meant to trick voters into opposing the F-35s.

“Throughout the process, this group has been turned away at every stop … so they have one last resort,” Harnett said of the F-35 opponents, “put a deceptive question before Burlington voters and hope and pray that they don’t understand it.”

Councilor Ali Dieng, D/P-Ward 7, said he decided to oppose the basing after learning of the impact F-35s would have on communities in and around Burlington. He dismissed the claim that the resolution passed because of misleading language.

“I have never seen that level of outreach on an issue, so when people say they were misled on wording, it strikes me,” Dieng said. “Even as an English language learner, I knew very clearly what the resolution was saying.”

Dieng eventually voted against the City Council resolution because he said “we are past asking questions.”

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