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F-35 Supporters Dismissive, Wary Of Opposition Tactics

Lisa Ventriss of the Vermont Business Roundtable, right, at a press conference with Vermont Air National Guard Lt. Col. Chris Caputo, center, and Frank Cioffi, president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation.
Taylor Dobbs

In the seventh press event related to the F-35 this month, proponents of the jet simultaneously dismissed a new opposition tactic to block it from Burlington and acknowledged the threat of the opposition’s move.

Frank Cioffi, president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, spoke at the event about the “reckless” proposal by Burlington City Councilor Vince Brennan. The resolution sets out to block the F-35 by banning all aircraft that are significantly louder than the F-16s currently operating there or have a safety record that doesn’t measure up to the F-16’s.

“This resolution, formally, doesn’t mean anything in the Environmental Impact Statement process,” he said. “It would be a political statement, but it certainly isn’t part of the environmental permitting record, and Burlington is already in on that environmental permitting record.”

Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable, said there’s nothing Burlington can do at this point to influence the basing decision by the Secretary of the Air Force.

“All of the information that is going to be considered during that decision-making process is in. The barn door is closed,” she said. “We want people to appreciate that the resolution that’s under discussion now really doesn’t have a role to play in the decision-making process by the Air Force.”

But every speaker at the event spoke about the potential loss to the Chittenden County economy if the F-35 doesn’t come to Vermont.

“You can’t say ‘I’m for the guard but I’m not for the plane,’” Cioffi said. “An air guard without a fighter aircraft is not a fighter division, so without this aircraft, without the F-35, then the mission drastically changes for the Vermont Air Guard.”

The speakers also said Brennan’s resolution, which blocks aircraft with safety records worse than that of the F-16 currently used by the Vermont Air National Guard ­– might have the unintended consequences for commercial flights at the airport. Lt. Col. Chris Caputo said many commercial aircraft wouldn’t meet that threshold.

The press conference was Caputo’s third of the month, each coming less than 24 hours after opponents of the jet held press conferences to announce new tactics to block the basing or to emphasize statistics that support their cause. Ventriss said her effort was to bring attention the substance of the debate, not political theater.

Referring to a demonstration against the plane earlier this month, Ventriss said: “This is an effort to stop people from paying attention to the guinea pig outfits,” and start paying attention to the issues.

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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