Burlington City Council Could Vote to Request F-35 Cancellation | Off Message

Burlington City Council Could Vote to Request F-35 Cancellation


  • Arjan Van De Logt/Dreamstime.com
  • An F-35
The Burlington City Council will take up a resolution Monday that asks the U.S. Air Force to base a safer alternative to the F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport.

The proposed measure comes after 55 percent of Burlingtonians voted on Town Meeting Day to ask the council to "request the cancellation" of the planes and find a less noisy, less risky option.

"The voters asked us to take action, so we're going to take action," said Councilor Joan Shannon (D-South District), who sponsored the resolution.

It includes a lengthy list of questions for Air Force secretary Heather Wilson: whether an alternative mission would be plausible, the safety and environmental risks of the F-35s, how often pilots would use afterburners and whether Burlington is the only populated area where F-35s will be deployed. The resolution asks for a written response from Wilson by May 1.

The resolution, though, hasn't put to rest the debate among groups both in favor of and opposed to the F-35s.

"The resolution is good but not as good as we’d like," wrote Rachel Siegel in a "call to action" posted on the Peace & Justice Center website last week.

Siegel is a member of Save our Skies, a group that opposes the planes. The organization wants to see the questions for Wilson removed and replaced by the "full language of the ballot question."

The inclusion of the questions led Councilor Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) to remove his name from the resolution after he originally signed up as a cosponsor.

The voters "asked the council to request the cancellation of the F-35s. It didn't say do that and ask a bunch of questions," Tracy said. While the information requested would be helpful, he added, "I just wanted a simple statement that just deals with voter intent."

Before the March 6 vote, some councilors, as well as Mayor Miro Weinberger, had argued that the issue was already decided and that the city had no authority to change the outcome. The F-35 fighter jets are currently scheduled to arrive in 2019. They'll replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s.

"It's not the decision of the city — we can't stop [the planes] directly," Shannon said. "But we can ask."

Groups on both sides of the issue are mobilizing to turn out to the council meeting. The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce sent out an email on Friday asking its members to reach out to city councilors to "express support for the F-35s."

The issue was decided by the council five years ago, Chamber representatives argued in the email, and the wording of the ballot language was "misleading and confusing and the margin of passage was within the margin of error."

The Election Day vote tally was 6,482 in favor to 5,238 opposed.

On Saturday, fighter jet opponents sent out a public email response pushing back. "The president of the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to use the business community to pressure the city council based on bogus allegations," wrote Jimmy Leas, a member of Save our Skies, which lobbied for a "yes" vote leading up to Town Meeting Day.

The council meets Monday at 7 p.m.