Commentary

Greco: A letter to Vermont’s congressional delegation on the F-35A

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rosanne Greco, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who is now a member of the South Burlington City Council.

Dear Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders, and Rep. Welch,

For years, people have been asking you to meet with those who will live in the noise zone of the F-35A, and who have grave concerns about its impact on their lives. Most of us are trying to understand why such caring, social justice-minded men, such as yourselves, are acting so out of character by supporting the basing of the F-35A in our neighborhoods; and why you refuse to meet with us. It is baffling to many to think that you would choose the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, over the health and financial well-being of thousands of average Vermonters.

People are guessing at reasons for your position. Here are some of them:

Assumption 1: You don’t know the facts, since your statements contradict what the Air Force has stated unequivocally.

• You say the F-35A will bring jobs. The Air Force says it will not. In fact, Air Guard maintainer jobs will be lost if the F-35A is based here.

• You say the F-35A will benefit the economy. The Air Force says any economic benefit will be negligible.

• You infer the Air Guard will close if the F-35A does not come here. The Air Force says the Air Guard base will not close.

• You say that noise effects on the people who live around the airport in the noise zone are minimal. The Air Force says the noise will affect people’s health and property values, and their children’s health and learning abilities.

Assumption 2: You disagree with the Air Force and other professional organizations.

Do you disagree with the 300 scientific studies showing that environmental noise has detrimental effects on human health and children’s cognitive abilities?

 

• You dismiss the residents’ health concerns. The Air Force and the World Health Organization, which the Air Force references, state that military aircraft noise damages human health, and that children who live near airports suffer cognitive impairment — in some cases — for life. Do you disagree with the 300 scientific studies showing that environmental noise has detrimental effects on human health and children’s cognitive abilities?

• You claim the noise would not “make Winooski or South Burlington unlivable.” The Air Force states homes in the noise zone will be categorized as unsuitable for residential use. Do you disagree with the federal government’s assessment of the safe noise levels for residential areas?

• You perpetuate the myth that F-35A noise can be mitigated. The FAA says that the noise cannot be mitigated.

Assumption 3: You consider developer’s profits more important than the financial lives of the residents.

• You say you “believe” the F-35 “will make local communities more vibrant through increased investment.” Who will get richer: the people living around the airport, or the developers?

You seem unaware of the 200 homes being demolished because of the F-16 noise. The people left behind are NOT flourishing, nor are the airport neighborhoods. The F-16 has NOT made the area more vibrant. The F-35A will affect thousands more people.

A few questions:

• Since you stated your support for the F-35A before the Air Force completed its environmental assessment, what objective data did you use to form your positions?

• The Air Force reported the Air Guard Base would remain at Burlington whether or not the F-35A is based there. Since you have stated that you favor the F-35A because without it the Air Guard base will cease to exist, why are you ignoring the Air Force?

•  Sen. Leahy said he would oppose the F-35A “if the report showed that this was a danger to our communities.” The Air Force says the F-35A will negatively affect the health of 7,719 people. The WHO says children living in the noise zone (1,500) will suffer cognitive impairment. Do you consider this a danger? If not, then how many more people would it take, and how much more harm to people and children would you consider a danger?

Please come meet and talk with us.

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  • Annette Smith

    A wise elder once said to me that he knew of no harm that had come from two people sitting down and talking. Vermont’s leaders’ unwillingness to even meet with people to discuss their concerns is most disturbing. We are witnessing a callous disregard for human health on many fronts, and blind support for “technology” over the rights of people.

    Given the impression that we have one of the best congressional delegations in the country, it is especially disturbing that Senators Sanders and Leahy and Congressman Welch refuse to even sit down and talk with people with whom they do not agree.

    • Cal Murray

      What “talk” is necessary? A very, very, very tiny minority of Vermonters are implacably opposed to the F-35. The vast, vast, vast majority of Vermonters are strong supporters of the Guard.

      The people have spoken. 28,000 comments and signatures on petitions in favor the the F-35.

      Time to get over it.

      • Deborah Altemus

        That does not remove our congressional delegation’s obligation to be make informed decisions about this issue. Colonel Greco asks serious questions that should be answered in a public forum.

        • Cal Murray

          Our Congressional delegation has an obligation to make decisions about the *VERMONT* Air National Guard on behalf of all Vermonters – not just the Vermonters who bought cheap-o houses next to the airport and now want to jawbone endlessly about their pet issue.

          But here’s what I’ve suggested since the whole issue arose: PUT IT TO A VOTE. There’s a state-wide election next November. Put a non-binding resolution on the ballot in every single town:

          “Resolved: If the USAF chooses Burlington as a base for the F-35, the Vermont Air National Guard should deploy it.”

          Neat. Tidy. Let the people speak.

          Any objections?

  • walter moses

    FOLLOW THE MONEY!

    • rosemarie jackowski

      Walter, That is worth repeating. FOLLOW THE MONEY !

  • James Marc Leas

    Thank you Colonel Greco.

    You illustrate what Vermonters–and people all over the world–want in our elected leaders.

    Not just that you put the interests of the community you serve first (rather than pretending to do so while actually putting the interests of the rich and powerful first).

    Not just that you are freely available and personally responsive to every citizen who calls or writes.

    Not just that you are fearless.

    Not just that you ask the hard questions.

    Not just that you do the research and find the answers.

    Not just that you read all the authoritative sources, including the Air Force report, the Federal Aviation Administration report, and the World Health Organization report.

    Not just that your findings are based on the facts.

    And not just that you set the standard for incorruptibility.

    Without in any way disparaging anyone else, you tell the truth.

    You are tenacious.

    You illustrate what it means to be of, by and for the people.

    People in South Burlington, Winooski, Williston, and Burlington are grateful for your leadership. Your leadership in building the kind of grass roots citizens movement that–combined with an effective legal strategy– can and will stop the F-35 basing in Burlington.

  • George Cross

    Cal, the problem with your response is that it fails to acknowledge that there are somewhere around 8000 Vermonters who actually live in the impacted area. The real question is why have the politicians refused to call a meeting of these impacted citizens to listen to their concerns? No matter how many Vermonters may or may not have signed misleading petitions or prepaid identical postcards, the economic, educational and health concerns of 8000 Vermonters is worthy of careful consideration.

  • Janice Schwartz

    As one of the 8000 residents that actually live in the impacted area I say Thank You to Colonel Greco. She has always been led by common sense, intelligence and a sense of justice and all attempts at bullying her into silence have not succeeded. I applaud her bravery.

  • Charles Simpson

    When we take a job, any job, we obligate ourselves to carrying out the associated responsibilities that it entails. Taking a seat in Congress is taking a job. That job requires meeting with one’s constituents, listening to their concerns, and evaluating those needs in the light of additional concerns made clear by other constituents. Then bringing those needs and concerns to Congress for possible remedy.

    Step one in the process is listening to one’s constituents. Congresspersons don’t do this as a favor to those voters; it is their legal and moral obligation. Welch, Sanders, and Leahy have ignored this fundamental obligation of elected officials in a representative democracy, thus threatening the functioning of that democracy. Col. Greco eloquently made the case: our senators can’t be bothered to meet with their electorate about a very serious public policy issue. For shame!
    Charles Simpson, Burlington, VT

  • Walter Luchini

    Well said, Mr. Leas. Thank you, Colonel Greco, for your service to South Burlington, especially on the F-35 issue.

  • It is likely the Vermont Congressional Members will not even read Rosanna Greco’s article, because if they did, it would show just how ill-considered their statements were.

    Why should they read it? They already know how make judgements affecting the lives of about 8,000 people in the impact zones before the Air Force studies were completed and the facts were known. My lord, profundity bordering on the irrational.

    Is this how other policy positions are developed in Vermont? Hold a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing? Collecting signatures from people who are NOT impacted, and call it the will of the people.

  • Fred G

    Councillor Grego is correct. Our congressional delegation is stonewalling the issue. I, too, wrote to each of them, and to Gov. Shumlin. I’m used to getting no response from even a Leahy staffer. No response at all from Bernie puzzles me; I’ve worked on his campaigns because he seemed to be one of us little guys. Welch’s office sent a boiler-plate reply that simply ignored the evidence I cited from the Air Force EISA, as did Shumlin’s. Thanks to those two, though, for at least acknowledging me.

    Even our own South Burlington City Council is stonewalling. After nearly three hours of hearing residents’ statements, they took less than a minute to vote the way they came prepared to do. I’m speaking particularly of Councillors Mackenzie and Nowack, who haven’t deigned to discuss the matter on points, or even mention their reasons.

    My objection isn’t to the noise from the F-16s, which we’re accustomed to. It’s about the doubled or quadrupled noise that the EISA states as fact.

  • Thank you Colonel Greco for your ongoing efforts in this matter. As a S. Burlington business owner (we have been here since 1968) I can tell you that existing aircraft noise is a frustration that we live with. It means putting a customer on hold until an F16 has completed take off (if we have been so bold as to open the office window to let fresh air in). If we are talking with a customer or colleague in the parking lot or in our shop during takeoff, conversation must cease until the jet has passed. My father and I own 14 apartments in S. Burlington and we consistently field questions from potential tenants regarding aircraft noise. With the F-35 on the horizon I worry about our ability to find tenants, I worry about our property values should we decide we must ultimately get out of the rental business, and I worry about the impact on my family and my employees. I am not a Communist. I support the Guard. I am a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a mother. The inevitability of the F-35 in light of the unwavering support it has from our congressional delegation has left me and my family feeling hopeless. I am grateful that you, Colonel Greco, and others continue to speak up for those of us who are concerned about the impact on our business and the health and well being of the community. Thanks again.

  • Richard Gravelin

    Why is God being left out of this decision? Have we become pagans again and are we not building a pagan idol with the airport and the F35A? Are we seeing just the gold? If we worship these things then God will grant us what we want but we become slaves again to them and only then will we scream at God for deliverance. Return to God now; ask Him to help us with this decision. I will gladly bend to the Will of God.