VERMONT'S "LEADERS" RUN AWAY FROM SUBSTANTIVE DEBATE ON F-35
By William Boardman Email address removed
Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont National Air Guard Brigadier Gen. Steve Cray wait by VPR
Judging by their behavior, Vermont's highest elected officials don't much care if a thousand or more Vermonters lose their homes to the world's most expensive weapons system.
That level of residential destruction is what the U.S. Air Force anticipates in its own environmental impact statement: basing the F-35 nuclear capable fighter-bomber in Vermont will render at least 1,366 houses "unsuitable for residential use." That's a scale of human disruption on a par with 2011 Hurricane Irene, but the reaction of public officials couldn't be more different.
Given the unresponsiveness of their representatives, numerous landowners in the three cities around the Burlington Airport have hired attorney James Dumont who, on December 12, initiated a legal review of the Airport's plans under Act 250, Vermont's comprehensive environmental land use law.
Where elected officials rushed to help those harmed by the weather last year, the same people won't even engage in substantive discussion of the F-35 base now.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy again refused to meet -- or even speak on the phone -- with Vermonters most affected when more than 100 of them showed up at his Burlington office, as announced a week in advance. Leahy was in Washington, but his aide in Burlington stonewalled the delegation with open hostility as shown on WPTZ-TV.
Leahy to F-35 Opponents: Drop Dead
Leahy has never met with Vermonters most in harm's way from the F-35 and came out in support of the $400 billion-and-growing WMD before the Air Force impact statement was made public. (Vermont Public Radio said its cost would be more than $1 trillion.)
Despite their left-leaning images, both Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch have kept very low profiles on the F-35, though both have expressed public support. Vermont congressional delegation comprises all Democrats.
The same day Leahy's office was turning away his constituents, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin was making fun of his. That was while he was flying to Florida, surrounded by military and other F-35 supporters to make a show of personally listening to the plane take off and land in the rain.
"I'm shocked at how quiet the F-35 is,'' Gov. Shumlin said, according to an Associated Press report that omitted the fact that the governor was listening with headphones on. AP also reported, erroneously, that "the trip was funded for [sic] by the Greater Burlington Industrial Corp., which supports basing the F-35s in Vermont."
In fact the Industrial Corp. picked up only the cost of the private jet ferrying cheerleaders for the plane to Eglin Air Force base. The cost of respective state, local, and federal employees, as well as the cost of using the F-35 and other equipment for the show-and-tellt was borne by the appropriate taxpayers.
While most media coverage of these official performances was insubstantial, Paul Heintz in Seven Days had a more probing view in his weekly listing of the week's winners and losers. Among the losers, he listed: