"Please provide copies of the scoring sheets used to rate each potential site for basing the F-35s, including but not limited to the Burlington Airport."
The Air Force had released the Burlington scoring sheets to Senator Sanders in June 2012, and he had shared them with some constituents, but in response to the FOIA request for scoring sheets, the Air Force provided only blank pages -- 205 of them.
Explaining the importance of seeing all the scoring sheets for all the locations, the federal complaint stated:
"" the scoring sheet for the Burlington International Airport was released to United States Senator Bernard Sanders, who provided it to members of the public. The scores assigned included purely factual information such as whether there are homes within the noise and safety areas and such as the total score assigned to each of the other airports.
"The scores released for Burlington are unambiguously erroneous -- at the Burlington site, there are thousands of such homes but the scoring sheet erroneously stated there are none.
"The total score Burlington received thus may have put it at the top of the chart -- in error. Thus it is necessary for the public to compare Burlington's total score, which was released, to those of its competitors, which have not been."
Air Force Neither Admits Nor Denies Errors
The Air Force has not publicly responded to or corrected its manifest error on the scoring sheet, even though its environmental impact report does not make the same error. The federal complaint also criticizes the Air Force for releasing some scoring sheets but not others, calling this a violation of the law:
""there is no basis upon which the Air Force may lawfully refuse to produce the scoring sheets or any part of them, having released the Burlington scores".
"The decision to release only the Burlington scores transgresses the rule that "FOIA was designed to preclude a government agency from cherry-picking the materials to be made public. FOIA operates on the premise that government will function best if its warts as well as its wonders are available for public review.' "
The Air Force is expected to answer the federal complaint by mid-April. The Air Force has also indicated it would announce a decision about the F-35 basing some time in the spring, although it has postponed that announcement twice already.
Meanwhile, it remains a fact on the ground that if the F-35 base were to become a reality, it would be in the in the midst of Vermont's only urban area, where it would render upwards of 1,300 current residences "unfit for residential use."
Vermont's Democratic leadership -- Leahy, Sanders, and Welch, as well as governor Peter Shumlin, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, and various Democratic state legislature have all expressed "concern" about the people whose homes will become uninhabitable due to jet noise -- but none of them has yet shown any public interest in knowing the exact number of houses or the people who live there.
Committee on Military Considers F-35 Relevance
Appearing before the Vermont House Committee on General, Housing & Military Affairs on February 14, attorney James Marc Leas presented himself as a candidate for the open position of Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard and addressed the F-35 basing question which affects the future mission of the Vermont Guard. He urged the committee to hold hearings and make recommendations regarding the F-35 before the Air Force announces its decision.
Leas held up a copy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Air Force paid $2 million to produce and emphasized that its is this document that provides the fact that are used by opponents of the F-35. Urging the committee to address the facts, he noted that