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.