Vermont residents opposing efforts to station F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport have scored a victory at the ballot box. The task of basing America’s most expensive weapons system has sparked controversy.
On Tuesday, Vermonters approved a ballot initiative that aims to prevent the F-35 fighter jets from being stationed at the airport. Over half of the voters were opposed to jets being based at the Vermont Air National Guard Station.
“This is a huge victory for the people of Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, and all of the other towns around the airport,” James Marc Leas of Save Our Skies Burlington, a group that organised the petition to get the question placed on the ballot, told RT on Wednesday.
Leas cited noise pollution and cognitive impairment in children as reasons to oppose the basing of fighter jets in Burlington. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, was arrested during a protest against the F-35 last Saturday.
The ballot asked voters to cancel the F-35s and “request instead low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area,” according to Save our Skies. Some 12,000 of 37,000 registered voters cast ballots on the issue.
A rival group, Green Ribbons for the F-35, decried the initiative in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
“A misleading ballot item with an opposition campaign full of misinformation and a margin of only 1,200 votes does not prove any sort of mandate, only manipulation,” the group said. “There is no honor in winning by deceit.”
Green Ribbons describes itself as a voice for supporters of the Vermont Air National Guard and the basing of the F-35 in Burlington.
Regardless of the vote, the Vermont National Guard says the F-35s are still on track to fly above Burlington next year.
“We are proud to serve Vermonters and excited to receive the F-35,” Guard spokesman 1st Lieutenant Mike Arcovitch told Burlington’s WCAX-TV.
The Vermont National Guard has spent around $83 million to prepare the base for the jets, which are expected to arrive in late 2019. With an estimated lifetime program cost of $1.5 trillion, the F-35 is most expensive weapons system in the US to date.
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