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Opponents Disappointed In Delay Of F-35 Debate

Burlington opponents of an Air Force proposal to base F-35 fighter jets at the city- owned airport say they’re disappointed about a delay in a debate on the issue.

The Burlington City Council was scheduled to take up resolutions opposing the F-35 next week, but the vote was postponed on Thursday, after the city’s attorney announced that the officials don’t have the proper liability insurance to protect them in the event of lawsuits involving the airport.

Burlington City Council member Vince Brennan is a cosponsor of the two F-35 resolutions the council was scheduled to consider.

“I’m very disappointed in the delay," Brennan said.  "We did everything inn our power to put the resolutions in a timely fashion.  I feel that the delay is very unfortunate and I really hope that there isn’t any politics in the delay.”

Burlington F-35 opponents contend the city may be liable if damages arise from basing F-35s at the airport – for example if nearby homeowners wanted to sue the city if their property values decline.  

They also claim that as the owner of the airport, the city has the power to prevent the Air Force from basing the jet fighters there. 

Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood says she can’t advise the city council on those legal questions and council member can’t discuss them until there’s an insurance policy in place.

“For us to responsibly represent the city, we have to make sure there’s insurance coverage no matter which way we go", Blackwood said. "If the city council were to do something in favor of the F-35s, somebody might be harmed by that.  If we do something against the F-35 somebody else might be harmed by that.  There are always issues when you make a decision.”

Blackwood says she doesn’t know how long it will take to secure the necessary insurance. 

F-35 opponents say they inquired about the liability issue more than a year ago and the city should have realized then that it lacked the proper insurance policies.

The Burlington Airport has its own general liability policy.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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