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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Weinberger Could Veto Burlington City Council Resolution on F-35s

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 2:27 PM

click to enlarge An F-35 - FILE
  • File
  • An F-35
The Burlington City Council passed a resolution on Monday night requesting an aircraft less noisy than the F-35 fighter jets — but it may be premature for opponents of the jets to celebrate.

Mayor Miro Weinberger can sign or veto the resolution, according to Katie Vane, a spokesperson for the mayor. A veto would then require two-thirds of the council to vote to override the decision.

Weinberger needs to "take action or provide a response" by the council meeting on April 16, according to Vane, and he plans to make a decision by then.

On Tuesday, the mayor indicated that he'll be deliberate.

“I will use that time as needed to continue the further work on this issue that I promised, and to make this decision with care," Weinberger said in a statement.

Weinberger, who has previously expressed support for the jets, "is still digging into the repercussions of the city requesting an alternative mission," Vane said.

In his statement, Weinberger remained noncommittal but highlighted the significance of the vote. “The decision now fully before me ... is potentially consequential for the people of Burlington, the Burlington International Airport, the region and the Vermont Air National Guard," he said.

The council resolution, which passed 9-3, responds to an advisory Town Meeting Day ballot item. About 55 percent of Burlingtonians voted to request from the U.S. Air Force an alternative to the F-35s. In addition, the resolution sends a list of questions to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson about the safety and noise of the planes.

Proponents of the jets, including Vermont's congressional delegation, said the council action didn't change their minds.

"The resolution passed by the Burlington City Council does not support the men and women of the Vermont Air National Guard, their families or anyone involved with the Guard," said Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the adjutant general for the Vermont National Guard, in a statement.

Cray labeled the letter to Wilson "an unfortunate distraction" and irrelevant. "Allow me to be clear: the men and women of the Vermont Air National Guard will be ready to receive the F-35 in 2019," he said, noting that the decision had been finalized five years ago.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) issued a joint statement that said they still support the basing of the F-35s in Burlington. “We stand by that decision, and we respect the fact that not all Vermonters agree on this issue,” the statement read. They also said that they expected Wilson to respond to the questions submitted to her.

Members of Save our Skies, the group that petitioned to get the measure on the ballot, praised the council for bringing forward the resolution — though some said they would have preferred the resolution follow the exact language of the ballot question.

"The voters voted yes, and you're responding!" said Rachel Siegel, a member of the group, during public comment at the council meeting on Monday. "I do think the resolution could be slightly better," she noted.

But, she added, "I am so grateful that you're responding and that you're listening to the will of the people."


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Katie Jickling

Katie Jickling

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Katie Jickling is a Seven Days staff writer.

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