COMPENSATE VICTIMS OF F-35 BASE? VERMONT PREFERS SACRIFICE ZONE
By William Boardman Email address removed"> Email address removed
F-35 nuclear-capable stealth fighter by F-16.net
Vermont's highest elected officials continue to promote class warfare in their reflexive support for basing the F-35 stealth nuclear-capable strike fighter in the middle of Vermont's only urban area even though the world's most expensive weapons system, $396 billion and counting, has been grounded since mid-January because it's unsafe to fly.
Directly challenging the state leadership's willingness to let poor and minority communities bear the greatest cost of putting an F-35 in the middle of greater Burlington, a state representative is introducing a bill in the Vermont legislature that, while it would not protect people against harm, would at least compensate them for whatever damage the government decision does to their property or health.
The Air Force draft environmental impact statement of March 2012 is unambiguous in its finding that the detrimental impact on Vermonters near the base in the categories of noise, land use, and environmental justice are far worse for the Burlington base than for people living near any of the five alternative choices, some of which would suffer no such negative impacts at all, in the Air Force assessment.
As the Air Force puts it, when it comes to noise, land use, and environmental justice, if the F-35 were to be based at the Burlington airport, "Analysis has identified unavoidable adverse environmental impact" from excessive noise, land degradation, and harm to the most vulnerable base neighbors.
When Government Hurts People, Then What?
Given the unavoidable negative impact promised by the Air Force, a state legislator elected in 2012, Rep. George Cross, a Democrat of Winooski, has drafted a bill that addresses "environmental injustice," which is the Air Force euphemism for the disproportionate harm inflicted on poor and minority citizens, the effect some characterize as class warfare.
Winooski is one of two communities that would suffer the most impact from the F-35 basing, and its city council has taken no position on the F-35, but has asked the Air Force for more information before the Pentagon makes a decision. That request has not yet been fulfilled.
South Burlington is the other community that would bear the brunt of an F-35 basing impact. The South Burlington city council has voted twice to reject the F-35, the second time unanimously. The city council chair, Rosanne Greco, is a retired Air Force colonel who worked for years as a Pentagon planner. She has taken an active role not only in speaking out against the F-35 as harmful to South Burlington, but also pointing out errors in the Air Force impact statement that made the impact of the F-35 seem less severe than the data demonstrated.
If The F-35 Doesn't Harm Anyone, There's No Cost
Rep. Cross's bill is as direct as it is uncomplicated in addressing any possible future distress that Winooski or South Burlington residents may suffer as a result of the F-35's impact. First, the bill would establish a seven member F35A Adverse Impacts Compensation Board,
"" for the purpose of awarding compensation to property owners, landowners, and other persons harmed or damaged by the noise and other adverse impacts generated by the basing of the F-35A or any other military aircraft by the Vermont Air National Guard at the Burlington International Airport."
The seven members would include representatives from each of the four closest towns, as well as an airport representative, a medical professional, and a financial professional. This board would have the authority to compensate people for damage inflicted by the F-35, including loss of property value, costs of relocating to a safer place, or costs of treatment for physical or psychological harm "caused or aggravated" by the F-35 "or any other Vermont Air National Guard military aircraft" based at the airport.
Rep. Cross's bill would also establish the "F-35A Adverse Impacts Compensation Fund" for the compensation board to administer in carrying out it's purpose. The bill proposes to support the compensation fund with 20 per cent of the state appropriation to the national guard and a 5 per cent surcharge on the cost of each ticket to or from Burlington airport. The bill also allows for private gifts and other state funding.