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Vogel: The F-35 Noise Dispute

A young protester at the Winooski rally registers her views on the F-35 that will be flying over her house.

In 1787, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote a series of articles called the Federalist Papers in order to persuade citizens in the newly formed United States to adopt the U.S. Constitution. Madison argued passionately that adopting the Constitution would protect local citizens from tyranny, by restricting the role of the Federal Government.

In Federalist 39, James Madison wrote: ‘the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only,’ leaving to the states, he concludes, an ‘inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.’ And I might argue that one of those inviolable objects would be regulating noise levels in their community.

Recently, the Burlington Airport unveiled noise mitigation maps showing that twenty six hundred homes would be eligible to receive new windows, extra insulation and other subsidies to lessen the impact from the F-35 fighter planes that will soon be flying overhead.

Public meetings convened to discuss the mitigation program were contentious. Residents pointed to recent studies showing how people who live or work in loud environments are particularly susceptible to a variety of physical, cognitive and emotional problems including high blood pressure and heart disease. They also pointed to the resolutions from the City Councils in Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski opposing the basing of the F-35s at Burlington Airport.

Local communities create noise ordinances – usually to protect residents against loud construction work early in the morning or neighbors who have loud parties. And I think it's reasonable to expect the Federal Government to also do its best to abide by these same community standards. To use national security or similar arguments as a rational for ignoring local laws is the kind of action from which our founders promised to protect us.

Certainly we need to train pilots on the latest fighter planes – but it's hard to see why as taxpayers we need to decimate neighborhoods and spend a hundred million dollars on noise mitigation because the Federal Government chose to fly these planes over the most densely populated area in Vermont.

John Vogel is a retired professor from the Tuck School of Business. His tenure at Dartmouth began in 1992, where he taught Real Estate and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector, among other subjects. He was named by the “Business Week Guide” to Business Schools as one of Tuck’s “Outstanding Faculty” members.
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