AIR FORCE F-35 BOONDOGGLE: A BOON FOR OFFICIALS IN THE
By William Boardman Email address removed
The Governor of Vermont and the Mayor of Burlington have decided to flaunt their corrupt behavior as they engage in a private, lobbyist-paid trip supported by a directly interested party in a charade of investigation designed to bring a nuclear weapons system to Vermont at the expense of the health, welfare, and homes of thousands of Vermonters.
That's not exactly the way Governor Peter Shumlin put it at his news conference December 6 when he announced that he would be taking a trip to Florida, in a private jet paid for by the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, to visit the Eglin Air Force Base, in order to listen personally to an F-35 nuclear-capable stealth fighter bomber that has created significant controversy in Vermont because of the Air Force's potential plan to base the world's most expensive weapons system in the midst of Vermont's most populated area.
Accompanying the governor on the December 12 Florida trip, he said, would be Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Winooski Mayor Michael O'Brien. All three elected officials are Democrats and the mayors endorsed the governor's 2012 re-election. Shumlin and Weinberger endorsed the F-35 as Burlington's own WMD last May.
Although the F-35 would be based at the Burlington Airport in South Burlington if it comes to Vermont, the governor has excluded South Burlington officials from his Florida trip. The South Burlington City Council recently voted unanimously to reaffirm its opposition to an F-35 base that would devastate the city. City Council chair Rosanne Greco is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Pentagon planner, whose concise and wide-ranging critique of the Air Force plans have gone unrefuted.
Air Force Stonewalls on Releasing Information
Rather than rebut Col. Greco's analysis, the Air Force has so far chosen to stonewall requests for data on which its plans are supposedly based. To date there has been almost no transparency to what is supposed to be a public review process.
Misrepresenting the nature of his trip at his news conference, Governor Shumlim said:
"I'm honored that it's possible for me and the mayors of the cities - the closest cities - that would be impacted and others to listen to them". I do think when you're making a decision of this magnitude it's important that you know what you're talking about."
Besides ignoring the absence of anyone from the closest city, South Burlington, when the governor talked about "making a decision of this magnitude," he was talking about a decision that was out of his hands and would be made by the Air Force and others at the Pentagon. The Governor chose to rubber stamp the plan in an unofficial manner when the Air Force presented its environmental impact statement that, among other things, finds that the F-35 is twice as loud as the planes now based in South Burlington and that the impact of the base will render thousands of homes around the airport "unsuitable for residential use," in the Air Force's sanitized phrase.
"I think I owe it to Vermonters to listen to an F-35 as compared to an F-16 and see what it sounds like," the governor said, without addressing his lack of training in sound engineering or any other relevant expertise.
Have Any Officials Read the Air Force Report?
At the "F-35 in South Burlington" blogspot, longtime F-35 opponent Juliet Beth Buck suggested that if the governor wanted to be "informed," he might read the Air Force's environmental impact statement. It is not clear whether the governor has read the report or not, but back in May he expressed "unconditional support" for the F-35 at the first hearing on the report, as reported in VTDigger blog, which has mostly stopped reporting on F-35 opposition.
On Vermont Public Radio, where the early online comments mocked the governor's jaunt, the main story quoted Juliet Beth Buck: