MORE BLOGS: Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics


September 25, 2013

Vermont Remains "Preferred Alternative" to Host F-35, Air Force Says

* UPDATED below with links to final Air Force report *

The Vermont Air National Guard is well positioned to host a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, an Air Force official said Wednesday. 

A final environmental impact statement prepared by the Air Force and received by the Vermont Guard Wednesday lists its South Burlington air base as the military's "preferred alternative" to host the planes, Air Force spokeswoman Kathy White said. While that means Burlington's odds of getting the planes are "favorable," White said, it's not a done deal. 

Once the final environmental impact statement is entered into the federal register next week, Air Force leaders will have 30 days or more to make a final decision. 

"The Burlington Air National Guard station is the preferred alternative in the final EIS to receive the F-35 operational air craft," White told Seven Days. "So that means that right now it looks favorable the Guard's first operational F-35 will be stationed there."

Continue reading "Vermont Remains "Preferred Alternative" to Host F-35, Air Force Says" »

September 18, 2013

This Week's Issue: Untangling Vermont's Health Care Exchange; Union Busting Allegations at SMC

Cover-091813Happy Wednesday, people. Here are the news and politics stories you'll find in the latest edition of Seven Days:

If those links aren't your style, read these stories in print or on the Seven Days app.

Cover illustration by Michael Tonn

September 12, 2013

Pentagon Picks Camp Ethan Allen as Finalist for Missile Defense Site

* Updated throughout at 3:55 p.m. *

The Vermont National Guard's Camp Ethan Allen has been selected as a finalist to host a potential East Coast missile defense facility, according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The Jericho site was one of five chosen by the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency to contend for the system, which is designed to destroy nuclear-armed, intercontinental ballistic missiles. The facility would be operated by the Department of Defense — not the Vermont Guard — and could host 20 interceptors.

Leahy said Thursday morning he would oppose Camp Ethan Allen's selection as a missile defense site. 

"I’ve always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am emphatically against putting one of these sites in Vermont," Leahy said in a statement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gov. Peter Shumlin joined Leahy later Thursday in criticizing the Pentagon's announcement. 

"My first impression is that this is a very bad idea and, for a wide variety of reasons, I do not believe that it will ever happen," Sanders said.

"This is absurd," Welch added. "It's the wrong location for a bad idea and dead on arrival."

Said Shumlin, "Vermonters are well-served by our federal delegation's thoughtful involvement and deep experience in these issues, and I agree with Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch."

All four men are strong supporters of the Pentagon's proposed basing of F-35 fighter jets in Vermont.

Continue reading "Pentagon Picks Camp Ethan Allen as Finalist for Missile Defense Site" »

September 04, 2013

F-35 Battle Moving to Burlington Council as Key State Dem Joins the Opposition

The battle over local basing of the F-35 will soon return to a familiar arena — the Burlington city council. Last summer, councilors passed a resolution asking for more information about the planes without supporting or opposing the basing. But now F-35 opponents intend to introduce a resolution declaring the war plane unwelcome at the city-owned airport.

The four Progressives who plan to bring the resolution to a vote on October 7 face a difficult task. To win, they need to sway a majority of the 14 council members. Ward 7 councilor Tom Ayres, considered the most potentially persuadable of the seven council Democrats, said on the margins of a Wednesday press conference outside city hall that he will not vote for any resolution categorically rejecting the F-35. And that’s exactly what the Progs’ proposal would do.

DSCN0407But the plane’s opponents did wheel out a new political weapon on Wednesday. Three Democratic state legislators, including senate majority leader Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden, pictured), attended the anti-F-35 press event. Activists there argued that the Burlington city council has the power, as landlord of the airport, to prevent its tenant, the Vermont Air National Guard, from operating the aircraft on city property.

Baruth is the highest-ranking Democrat in the state to publicly oppose the local basing option. The Chittenden County senator has cracked the solid wall of Democratic-establishment support erected by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch and Mayor Miro Weinberger. Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders also favors stationing the plane in Vermont, as do most local business leaders and thousands of Vermonters who have sent postcards to the Air Force urging the military to bring the F-35 to the Burlington airport.

Continue reading "F-35 Battle Moving to Burlington Council as Key State Dem Joins the Opposition" »

August 13, 2013

Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again

F35 005State Rep. Kurt Wright criticized ice-cream baron Ben Cohen, who in turn had indirectly accused Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger of lying.

And so it went at Monday night's speak-out on the proposed basing of the F-35 warplane at Burlington International Airport. The Burlington City Council meeting drew a placard-holding, finger-wiggling, standing-room crowd that generated almost two hours of public comments — to which city officials listened but did not respond.

Ward 7 Democrat Tom Ayres had earlier withdrawn a resolution that would have postponed a council decision on stationing the fighter jet at Burlington's city-owned airport. Ayres said private conversations had indicated that his proposal lacked support "across the spectrum."

The council's Progressives dissed the resolution because it did not explicitly oppose basing the F-35 at the airport. Democrats, who form the largest bloc on the council, had declined last year to oppose local basing, instead passing a resolution that amounted to a slightly weaker version of Ayres' aborted proposal. Ayres said during a meeting recess that council Dems, including himself, remain unwilling to go on record against local bed-down of the stealth fighter.

Speaker after speaker sounded familiar themes Monday night as the two sides clashed in their third showdown at a local city council in the past six weeks. Winooski's council voted 4-0 against the BTV basing option, while South Burlington's council reversed its earlier opposition and passed a resolution on a 3-2 vote in support of the planes.

But the stakes are potentially higher in Burlington, which owns the airport.

Continue reading "Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again" »

July 30, 2013

"Sticker Gang" Seeks to Push F-35 Debate Leftward

Sticker 002A sticker slapped on telephone poles and utility boxes around Burlington highlights dissent among the dissenters on the issue of basing the F-35 military fighter jet at the local airport.

A small band of graphic guerrillas who call themselves the Sticker Gang are seeking "to up the political ante by depicting the depth of the opposition to both the weapons system and the pols fronting for the 1 percent's continuing agenda of empire," gangster Albert Petrarca writes in an email.

Designed by a local artist who won't reveal his or her name, the sticker shows the war plane in a completely vertical ascent. It's got a skull-and-crossbones emblazoned on one wing; the nuclear radiation symbol on the other. The exhaust from the F-35's engine takes the form of the names of Vermont politicians who support the basing plan: Shumlin, Sanders, Weinberger, Leahy, Welch. 

"F the 35," the sticker proclaims on top.

Continue reading ""Sticker Gang" Seeks to Push F-35 Debate Leftward" »

July 18, 2013

F-35 Defenders Aim to Move Off the Defensive in Debate on Local Basing

Green ribbons 002Debate over the F-35 has been dominated in recent weeks by the plane's opponents. But supporters of basing the fighter jets at Burlington International Airport went on the offensive Wednesday.

Their tactics did not prove as creative or as colorful as the opposition's deafening F-35 noise simulation and the fudge-gifting event staged at Sen. Patrick Leahy's downtown office. The organizer and two prominent backers of the Green Ribbons for the F-35 campaign held a traditional press conference at the Main Street headquarters of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The pro-F-35 speakers nevertheless made controversial claims that were met with skepticism from some of the reporters in attendance.

Chamber president Tom Torti argued, for example, that there's no validity to the case against the plane on the basis of the noise it makes. "We believe that's a red herring," he declared.

Continue reading "F-35 Defenders Aim to Move Off the Defensive in Debate on Local Basing" »

July 11, 2013

Air Guard Sticking to Its Guns on Basing F-35 in Vermont

Gen. HarrisThe F-35 remains "the right fit" for the Vermont Air Guard, its top officer declared on Thursday — one day after the Winooski city council voted unanimously to oppose local basing of the plane.

During a 90-minute press briefing at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Gen. Dick Harris (pictured) and other Air Guard officers disputed that the F-35 would be significantly louder than the existing fleet of F-16s.

They also challenged the assertion by Vermont medical experts that many local residents exposed to noise levels now produced by the F-16 will suffer negative health effects.

Unless Vermont is chosen to host up to two dozen F-35s, it appears at present that the Air Guard will be left without a mission within the next five to seven years, Harris added. As early as 2018, the F-16 will be withdrawn from operations in Vermont, the general said. "There is nothing hanging out there" as an alternative to the-F35 for the Green Mountain Boys, Harris added. The Air Guard facility at Burlington International Airport will not be included in an Air Force program to extend the lifespan of the F-16, he told reporters.

Continue reading "Air Guard Sticking to Its Guns on Basing F-35 in Vermont" »

After Public Forum, Winooski City Council Opposes Basing of F-35s

Winooski’s city council voted 4-0 Wednesday against basing F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport. The council will formally request that the Air Force take Vermont out of consideration for this round of basing decisions for the next-generation warplane.

The vote came after an hour of discussion by councilors before an audience of 30 people who came to watch the deliberations, virtually all of whom were opposed to basing the jets at the Vermont Air National Guard facility. On Monday, Winooski residents attending a public forum voiced overwhelming opposition to the basing plan. The council wasn’t accepting any additional public comments Wednesday.

Councilor Seth Leonard, right, greets constituents after Wednesday's vote.

The council spent much of Wednesday's meeting piecing together a message to the Air Force using the framework of two documents it submitted last year in response to an environmental impact statement that ranked Burlington as a preferred basing location. It was unclear for much of Wednesday's meeting whether the council would simply submit an updated version of its previous comments — which were hesitant about but not outright opposed to the F-35 — or draft new ones.

The crowd erupted into applause, though, after Councilor Seth Leonard introduced language that took a clear stand.

Leonard read from a prepared document what he hoped the council would say: “In the interest of protecting the public health, quality of life, and economic rights of its citizens, the City of Winooski resolves that the Burlington Airport be removed from consideration for the current basing of F-35 fighter jets.”

Continue reading "After Public Forum, Winooski City Council Opposes Basing of F-35s" »

July 09, 2013

F-35 Foes Pile on the Data as Battle Builds over Local Basing Plan

F35 noise 004Opponents of the F-35 made emotional appeals Monday night in a failed attempt to persuade the South Burlington city council to reject local basing of the fighter jet. On Tuesday night they summoned scientific data to reinforce their argument that noise from the planes is harmful to human health.

At a forum entitled "Last Call for Kids," three Vermont medical experts warned that the F-35 will have potentially acute physical and mental consequences for those living in areas subject to the highest decibel outputs.

Citing a 2011 World Health Organization study, University of Vermont nursing school professor Judith Cohen listed some of the possible impacts: "headaches, tiredness, irritability, impaired intellectual function, inability to complete tasks." Noise levels produced by the likes of the F-35 can cause "cognitive impairment" in children, Cohen added, saying "reading, attention span and learning" may all be adversely affected.

Dr. John Reuwer, an emergency and occupational medicine practitioner in South Burlington, reduced the data to a simple formulation: "The F-35 is bad for our children's health." The effects are such, Reuwer added, that "allowing this plane to come here is like encouraging our children to smoke."

Continue reading "F-35 Foes Pile on the Data as Battle Builds over Local Basing Plan" »

Subscribe to the Daily 7

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684