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Resolutions Drafted For City F-35 Ban

Burlington City Council at a Sept. 23, 2013 meeting.
Taylor Dobbs

Now insured against lawsuits related to Burlington International Airport, Burlington’s city council plans to discuss a total ban of the F-35 at the airport later this month.

A resolution drafted by Councilor Vince Brennan proposes a complete ban on the high-tech fighter, citing public health and safety concerns as well as liability issues for the city.

Much of the language of the resolution and an attached memorandum is a repackaging of widely heard arguments against F-35 basing. The documents reference alleged developmental risks for children and impacts on property value. The documents also assert that the basing would make the Burlington airport a military target, and, because of its proximity to a crowded civilian population, violate international laws against using civilians as a “human shield.”

The resolution states that “as landowner, Burlington has authority to bar the basing of aircraft that cause injury to neighbors, and neither federal preemption nor state sovereign immunity would protect Burlington from liability if it fails to do so.”

The strongly worded resolution also points out that “the Air Force [Environmental Impact Statement] provided zero advantages to Burlington or to Vermont from basing the F-35 at the Burlington airport.”

The resolution finally states that the city “will use its authority as landowner for prevent the basing of F-35 jets at its airport.”

Another resolution, which Brennan said would only come up if the first one doesn’t pass, would ban the F-35 for only the current round of basing.

That resolution says that “a decision by the City of Burlington to prevent F-35 basing during the first basing round leaves open the possibility of F-35 busing during any of these 30 future basing rounds and gives the Air Force the opportunity to actually answer the questions it so far has not satisfactorily answered.”

Those questions relate to compensation for homeowners whose property values may go down as a result of the basing and safety risks related to the F-35’s presence at the airport.

While both proposed resolutions make broad claims about the city’s power over the U.S. Air Force, it remains to be seen if the city as owner of the airport’s land, can legally ban the F-35.

City Attorney Eileen Blackwood is looking into the city’s legal power ahead of the Oct. 28 special meeting, but wouldn’t comment on the issue until the city acquired insurance against airport-related lawsuits. With that insurance policy in place as of last Friday, the city is all set to take up the resolutions.

In an interview Monday, Blackwood wouldn’t provide details about the legal opinion. She said she expects to send a final version to the City Council and Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office this week.

The Secretary of the Air Force could make a decision on F-35 basing as soon as Nov. 4.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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