Burlington Voters Approve Anti-F-35 Ballot Initiative | Off Message

Burlington Voters Approve Anti-F-35 Ballot Initiative


Burlington voters on Tuesday approved a ballot initiative meant to prevent the basing of F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport.

The advisory vote, which passed 6,482 to 5,237 in a preliminary tally, asks the Burlington City Council to request that federal officials cancel the basing decision.

The fighter jets, scheduled to arrive in 2019 and replace the 18 F-16s currently at the airport, have been a source of controversy for years. The Vermont Air National Guard was the first reserve unit in the country scheduled to receive the next-generation fighter jets, despite vocal opposition from environmentalists and local residents concerned about noise.

The item was put on the ballot by Save Our Skies, a group that has led opposition to the F-35 since the city council voted to allow the plan to move forward in 2013. The group secured 3,000 signatures to get the item on the ballot and spent an estimated $15,000 advocating for it.

Critics said that Save Our Skies wrote a misleading ballot item, cloaking their opposition to the F-35s as support for VTANG.

The ballot question asked whether voters "as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National Guard," would advise the council to request the cancellation of the F-35 basing and request planes with "low noise level equipment."

Burlington developer Ernie Pomerleau, who took out ads urging voters to reject the ballot item, said the wording was "bullshit," designed to mislead people.

It is unclear what, if any, impact the vote will have. Local officials have no formal say in military decisions. All three members of Vermont's congressional delegation supported the decision to bring the F-35s to the airport.

Military officials have said the F-35 is the only future mission for the guard. Airport improvement projects to accommodate the new aircraft have already begun.