Burlington City Council votes to oppose 'nuclear-capable aircraft' in Burlington

Published: Aug. 13, 2019 at 12:28 AM EDT
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The Burlington City Council voted unanimously to formally oppose the placement of nuclear weapons delivery systems at the airport but does not oppose the basing of the F-35s.

The vote Monday night comes as the F-35 fighter jets are expected to arrive at the airport in the next few weeks. The Vermont Air National Guard has previously said there are currently no plans for the jets to carry nuclear weapons. They also say the jets are safe and aren’t any louder than the F-16s which were previously held at the base.

At Monday’s meeting, the City Council approved a resolution drafted by four of the Progressive councilors who oppose the basing of any nuclear-capable aircraft at the Burlington International Airport. It also calls on Mayor Miro Weinberger, Gov. Phil Scott, and Vermont’s congressional delegation to tell the U.S. Department of Defense that the city of Burlington strongly opposes the basing of a nuclear weapon delivery system at the Vermont Air National Guard Base.

Progressive City Councilor Max Tracy, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he shares many of concerns residents have about the F-35s. He said he feels the jets are too loud, too expensive, are not safe and require more testing.

“I think the jets themselves are going to have an incredibly negative impact on our communities, specifically by expanding the number of homes that will be impacted by the noise that is essentially unsafe for human habitation,” Tracy said.

Tracy told WCAX News the federal government has the power to override the city’s vote but he still wanted to put it on record that he does not support nuclear-capable aircraft being in Burlington.

“Recognizing the concerns that I have, I feel like I need to do everything I possibly can to try and prevent that basing so that our community doesn’t experience those harms,” he said.

An amendment to the resolution, introduced by Republican City Council President Kurt Wright, says the council does recognize the jets are coming and the resolution will not have an impact on their arrival.

Before voting, councilors heard from a room full of protesters making their final pleas to stop what they call the militarization of Burlington.

“I come to you with the hope that you will continue to choose peace over war and quiet skies instead of the deafening roar of nuclear-capable F-35s,” said one woman through tears.

Another protester, who is partially deaf, said the noise is her biggest worry.

“I expect my hearing is not going to get better over the next few years if the F-35s arrive,” she told councilors.

Other protesters expressed disappointment in Congressman Peter Welch and Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders for supporting the decision to base the jets in Burlington.

“It’s like salt on the wound, it's unthinkable,” said one protester.

The resolution also claims the placement of nuclear weapons delivery systems at the Vermont Air National Guard base would make Burlington a target in the event of war since nuclear targeting strategy is to target the delivery system and base.