"Good fences make good neighbors"

A long time ago, Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In our time, it’s not the lack of fences that are a problem for neighbors; it is the lack of noise barriers.

Burlington has gone to great lengths to insure that there are effective noise ordinances in place in order to protect its residents from loud music and boisterous students.

When the baseball team came to Centennial Field, there were months of negotiations between the team, the city, and the neighborhood.  The team was required to erect noise barriers and to promise to turn the lights off by a certain time.

Now, Burlington has been asked by its neighbors in South Burlington and Winooski to be a good neighbor -- not to stifle the current high level of noise emanating from Burlington Airport, but not to exceed that level, to simply put safety standards in place, standards that would grandfather in current noise and crash risk levels.

But Burlington said NO.

The Burlington City Council has said to its neighbors: even though OUR airport is located in YOUR town, we aren’t going to enact any mitigation measures.

It’s as if UVM said to Burlington: even though our University is located in YOUR city, we don’t care how much noise OUR students make.  We don’t care how much OUR lack of student housing or OUR sprawl interferes with the quality of life of YOUR residents.  The City Council would never accept such a stance.

But, now the Burlington City Council has said just that to their neighbors.

They’ve said NO to the thousands of residents of South Burlington and Winooski who could now have to face the reality that their homes will be considered uninhabitable and worthless (as defined by the Air Force’s own study) and that they may need to move because the risk to life and limb is about to go way up thanks to the boondoggle that is the F-35.

The Burlington City Council has said NO to their neighbors, but YES to the local version of the Military-Industrial Complex.  Apparently, when the Chamber of Commerce and the Military join forces on something, they win, regardless of how bogus their arguments.  Of course, that’s what led to the F-35 program in the first place: Congress wanted to give a big gift to the defense industry.  No matter that the plane is poorly designed, way over budget, and likely to be useless in real combat.

The Burlington City Council has said NO, ignoring the fact that if this were put to a vote in Burlington, the PEOPLE of Burlington would say YES and vote to limit the airport to reasonable noise and safety standards.

Now, it’s going to be up to us to hold them accountable.  We must continue to raise our voices and not stop until we’ve been heard by those in power, those who yesterday turned a deaf ear to the people.  This fight isn’t over.

Press Release: Progressive Party Statement on Potential US Military Strike in Syria

In response to the prospect of a unilateral United States military strike in Syria proposed by the Obama Administration and set to be debated in Congress this week, the Coordinating Committee of the Vermont Progressive Party calls on Vermont’s Congressional delegation to vote against such an action.  Further, the Coordinating Committee calls on Vermont’s delegation to continue to push for more humanitarian aid for the innocent Syrian civilians caught in the middle of this conflict, and for the over two million Syrian refugees who have fled the country, many of whom are now housed in refugee camps in neighboring countries.  The United States should continue to work with the United Nations and our allies toward a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war, while committing to holding all war criminals, such as those responsible for the horrifying chemical weapon attacks, accountable under international law and negotiated treaties.

Last week, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon urged leaders of the G20 summit to explore alternatives to military intervention in Syria, warning that “ill-considered military action could cause serious and tragic consequences, and with an increased threat of further sectarian violence.”  The United Nations has appealed to world leaders for increased humanitarian aid in Syria and its neighboring countries, noting that both relief operations inside the country and refugee aid without are funded at less than 50% of current targets.  An estimated 5,000 Syrians flee the country daily, adding to the impacts on overcrowded, underfunded refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

With this in mind, Progressive Party Chair Martha Abbott spoke decisively on the issue:

“The reality is Vermonters, and all Americans, are tired of constant war, of living in a world in which the United States is continuously embroiled in military conflicts that fail to deliver improved conditions to the regions they purport to help.  Entire generations of Vermonters are now growing up having never truly known a time of peace.

“The Administration cites Syria's purported use of chemical weapons as their impetus for this strike.  But let's not forget that during the Iraq/Iran war, the administrations of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, and then gave the Iraqi government intelligence information on the location of Iranian troops so they could use these agents against them. 

"A military strike in Syria will not help those who have been hurt or killed by these terrible chemical weapons; it will only inflame the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, while creating more animosity toward the United States. 

“If the United States is willing to commit another billion dollars to yet another quagmire in the Middle East, those monies should instead be used to help innocent civilians, not to fund yet another foolhardy military intervention, which will only lead to more suffering for the Syrian people, while enriching the military-industrial complex and a handful of others with a vested interest in continued conflict and chaos in the Middle East.”

Opponents of F-35 fighter again appeal to Burlington City Council to oppose basing

September 4, 2013; John Herrick; VTDigger

Progressive members of the city council will introduce a resolution to oppose the F-35 on Oct. 7. The current draft of the four-page resolution requests that the Air Force not base the jet at the airport. The resolution was circulated to council members Tuesday.

While the resolution might change before the next meeting, Vince Brennan, P-Ward 3, said Progressives, who hold four seats on the 14-member council, will not compromise their opposition to basing the F-35 with the Vermont Air National Guard.

“The bottom line is we don’t want the F-35s here,” Brennan said.

Read the whole article >>

F-35 Battle Moving to Burlington Council as Key State Dem Joins the Opposition

September 4, 2013; Kevin Kelley; Seven Days

The battle over local basing of the F-35 will soon return to a familiar arena — the Burlington city council. Last summer, councilors passed a resolution asking for more information about the planes without supporting or opposing the basing. But now F-35 opponents intend to introduce a resolution declaring the war plane unwelcome at the city-owned airport.

The four Progressives who plan to bring the resolution to a vote on October 7 face a difficult task. To win, they need to sway a majority of the 14 council members. Ward 7 councilor Tom Ayres, considered the most potentially persuadable of the seven council Democrats, said on the margins of a Wednesday press conference outside city hall that he will not vote for any resolution categorically rejecting the F-35. And that’s exactly what the Progs’ proposal would do.

But the plane’s opponents did wheel out a new political weapon on Wednesday. Three Democratic state legislators, including senate majority leader Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden, pictured), attended the anti-F-35 press event. Activists there argued that the Burlington city council has the power, as landlord of the airport, to prevent its tenant, the Vermont Air National Guard, from operating the aircraft on city property.

Read the whole article >>

Progressives on Burlington City Council to pursue resolution against F-35

August 13, 2013; John Herrick; VTDigger

BURLINGTON — Supporters wore green ribbons and opponents raised signs Monday night as both groups filled Burlington City Hall to voice their positions on the Air Force F-35 basing project.

According to an informal tally of public opinion taken at Monday night’s City Council meeting, 36 people spoke against the aircraft and four spoke in support during a comment period that exceeded one hour.

Though the council heard comments from both sides of the F-35 issue, there was no discussion. It was a standard public comment period, Joan Shannon, D-Ward 5, said.

But some council members used the meeting as an opportunity to move forward on the issue.

Progressives councilors are drafting a resolution that opposes the basing of the F-35 fighter jet with the Vermont Air Guard at Burlington International Airport, according to Max Tracy, P-Ward 2.

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Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again

August 13, 2013; Kevin J. Kelley; Seven Days

Opponents, who outnumbered supporters 32-5 on Monday night, offered arguments that were alternately analytical and emotional. Their objections focused on the F-35's impact on public health and safety, local real-estate values, environmental quality and "brown-skinned people" in other countries who would be on the receiving end of the plane's payloads. One proponent responded to the other side's expressed concerns about the plane's health effects on children by suggesting, "If we want to keep our children safe, keep them off the runways."

The roar of the planes will place hundreds of additional homes in a zone that federal authorities already deem unfit for human habitation, several speakers warned. Two of them drew comparisons between ravaged, bankrupt Detroit and the South Burlington neighborhood adjoining the airport, where scores of homes have been demolished or are sitting vacant as a result of a federal buy-out program keyed to noise pollution.

"Shame on Burlington and shame on the airport for what has been done to my home and to my neighbors' homes," declared Carmine "Gramma" Sargent, a leader of the Stop the F-35 movement who lives about 100 yards from BTV's parking garage.

State Sen. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, said in a written statement that he feared the risk of the plane crashing in a densely populated area.

Read the whole article >>

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