Absolutely unbelievable! The business community’s latest scare tactic is to claim that setting “noise and safety standards” for the operation of the Burlington International Airport is “reckless, risky and unnecessary.” One of government’s primary responsibilities is to protect its citizens. How can it be reckless, risky and unnecessary to establish basic standards related to noise and safety?
A resolution before the Burlington City Council on Monday evening calls for the creation of standards as follows: “1) except for grandfathered uses, no commercial or government airplane using the airport shall have noise impacts from its routine use as measured by the federally recognized DNL noise impact measurement method that significantly exceed present noise levels at the airport, including any significant expansion of the land area or number of residences within the 65 db or 75 db DNL day-night averages, and 2) no commercial or government airplane that regularly uses the airport shall have a cumulative fleet accident rate significantly greater than that of the cumulative fleet accident rate of the government’s F-16 fighter jet as measured by the Class A mishap rate or comparable method.” The resolution goes on to also call for Burlington to “oppose the basing of F-35 jets at its airport during the first basing round.”
For several months the proponents of bringing the F-35 to BTV have repeatedly stated: 1) Any added noise of the F-35 can be mitigated so that it will be no louder than the F-16. 2) The safety record of the F-35, by the time it arrives at BTV, will as good as the F-16s. Did they misspeak, all these months?
The idea of skipping the first round of basing-decisions so that considerable more data is available to make a decision is exactly the position taken by the Winooski City Council. Winooski did not say, no way, never. It said, we don’t know enough data at this point to make a good decision. This allows the proponents to spend the time between the first and second basing-decisions to gather the information needed to make a truly informed decision. Why are they afraid of this deliberate process? Why are they so ready to be reckless and risky?
This whole process could have been very simple, open and transparent. For some reason the proponents, including the congressional delegation, have refused to take that route. Instead they have stonewalled, refused to participate in civil discussion and debate, and generally attempted to basically drive their agenda through regardless of the consequences. What might an open, transparent and repeatable process have looked like?
The proponents could have agreed that the opponents raised legitimate questions that were worthy of discussion and debate. They could have agreed to find a compromise that would work for everyone. Such a plan might have been as simple as the Winooski Plan – bypass the first round of basing-decisions and establish a plan for the second round. If the plane is as good as the proponents say, if the noise can be mitigated and the safety record documented, it might be suitable for a residentially-sited airport. But no, the proponents wanted it all now, no wait, our way or the highway.
So here we are. The schism will last for years. The battle will continue for decades. The business community’s (proponents) adoption of the Washingtonian decision-making process is unfortunate and unbecoming of the wonderful men and women who make that community so successful in Vermont. It could have been different.
Ray Gonda, S. Burlington