Burlington City Council votes against F-35s

Published: Mar. 27, 2018 at 8:00 AM EDT
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On Town Meeting Day, Burlington voters approved a nonbinding ballot item saying they do not want the F-35 jets here. Monday, city councilors voted 9-3 to request the guard rebase the plane.

The F-35 fighter jet is set to replace the aging F-16s at the Vermont Air National Guard. The Guard saying those planes are needed, and they're already in the middle of construction and training to make sure they're ready for when the jets touch down here.

But on Town Meeting Day earlier this month, Burlington voters approved a nonbinding ballot item saying they do not want the jets here. They are asking the Air Force to give the Guard another mission, which came in front of the City Council Monday night.

"This is the first time in my life I've felt strongly enough about any issue to speak before the city council," said one woman who attended the meeting.

People from both sides of the debate weighed in during a public comment session that lasted two hours.

"Thousands of children live and go to school in the F-35 noise. The people have heard these facts and they have voted accordingly," said Roseanne Greco, who is against the F-35s.

"The Green Mountain Boys have earned this mission through their exemplary record," said one man who attended the meeting. "The ballot question this month was an absolute joke and this council should have been ashamed to allow it."

That ballot question came up during the councilor's debate afterward. One issue brought up was that wording on the question may have been confusing something the Guard and business community had brought up before the Town Meeting Day vote. Some councilors wanted to add amendments to change the wording of the resolution others didn't.

"I think that it's important to support the will of the voters and my voters did support the ballot question," said Councilor Joan Shannon.

"They didn't want Washington to be confused. I wish you had had that much respect for the Burlington voters when you put the question on the ballot. You didn't seem to be too worried about them being confused," said Councilor David Hartnett.

Ultimately, no changes were added. The council voted 9-3 to follow through with the resolution and send Burlington's answer to the Air Force. It's still unclear what impact the vote will have. The Air Force has already decided to base the F-35 here in the fall of 2019.

All the members of Vermont's Congressional delegation have supported the F-35 basing. They said Monday the Guard will work with the community on the aircraft basing concerns.