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Letter to Mayor O’Brien

Dear Mayor O’Brien.

I am confused. According to VPR, “’For me it’s a fact-finding mission. Period,’” says Winooski Mayor Michael O’Brien, who dismisses any charges that this is a junket.” But according to WPTZ, “The business group organizing the flight acknowledges it hopes the governor’s presence sends a strong message to the Air Force that the state really wants the F-35. ”

I am concerned that your reason for being present on this trip (and perhaps the reason they suggested when they invited you) is not the real reason they invited you. If they are trying to send a message that VT supports the basing, are they not using you as a cheerleader, before you have made up your mind? Since you are the Mayor of the city that is most dramatically affected by the basing, it would be very powerful if they could spin it to look like your presence signals your approval. Likewise, of course, your opposition to the basing of the planes in VT would be very powerful in halting the basing.

So I would ask two thinks of you, the Mayor of my city:

(1) Please take careful note of Jimmy Leas’s message, which explains some of the ways that the business and military interests leading you on this trip might try to convince you that the DEIS is incorrect. Please remember that that study involved multi-million dollar scientific analysis of noise impact, using data provided to them by VTANG and the airport. Please remember that these planes are not yet operational, so guarantees they might make about what they will able to do with these planes (flying them differently than the DEIS predicts) are based on speculation, not evidence. Please remember that they are going to try to sway you. There is an obvious reason why they didn’t invite anyone from South Burlington, an illogical move if this is anything more than an attempt to cheerlead for the basing. Please remember that the people who SHOULD be taking such measurements would be sound engineers, not politicians or businessmen.
(2) Please take seriously the statement that the GBIC made. They are seeking to show the Air Force that VT supports the basing. You have been brought into that goal, whether you wish to be or not. Will you have the political courage to call out their bait-and-switch?

The organizers of this trip have said that they did not invite S. Burlington because everyone there has already made up their minds. But let us be honest, of the people going to Florida, YOU are the only person who has not made up his mind. Every other person has not only made up his mind, but has publicly made strong statements of support. The GBIC has sponsored a website and a petition! Please understand that this trip is likely designed to convince YOU, because they know that, if the Winooski City Council came out against the basing, it would be huge, since that would mean both Winooski and South Burlington’s City Councils AND School Boards would be objecting – the two most affected municipalities.

Finally, I am curious. Will there be a forum in which you will present to Winooski residents the “findings” of your trip, and engage in a conversation with us about what you learned?

Have a safe trip,

Katherine E. Kirby, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Philosophy & Global Studies
St. Michael’s College