Jimmy Leas Running for City Council 2023

Photo Credit: “SoBurlingtonVT WheelerNaturePark”, by Niranjan Arminius, licensed under CC BY Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

Published in the Other Paper on 1/26/2023

I am running for city council to serve you and our city. Key issues I will work on include: The economy. Jobs. Affordable housing. A healthy and safe environment for our children and their learning. Climate change. Protecting our remaining open space. Racial and class justice.

These are hard problems. Many solutions are needed for each. But all of them are made far worse and the solutions are all sabotaged by the 115-decibel F-35 training flights in our city.

Fortunately, our city council has the federal and state authority to act. Passage of ordinances by our city council can require Guard commanders to do what they were trained to do and what Department of Defense regulations require them to do: keep dangerous military operations, like the F-35 training, away from any city, town, or village. That’s military regulations 101. Even if not sufficient to fully solve each problem, halting F-35 training in our city is one of the necessary steps.

According to VTDigger, “housing is so tight in the Burlington area that some job applicants are turning down employment offers because they cannot find a place to live.” That’s not good for local businesses, workers, and the economy. But once the F-35 goes away FAA agreements with the airport require housing to be restored on the 44 acres where military jet noise caused hundreds of affordable homes to be demolished.

What’s more, our remaining housing stock near the airport is downright dangerous for habitation because of the F-35. The Air Force says nearly 3000 affordable homes in South Burlington and neighboring cities and towns are “unsuitable for residential use” because the military jets are so loud that repeated exposure can cause hearing loss and impair “reading, attention, problem solving, and memory” of the 1,300 children who live in those homes.

By keeping 44 acres of central-city land bereft of housing and by rendering 3000 existing homes dangerous for children, the F-35 forces sprawl—building houses away from the city center, in open fields. For example, the 32-house development proposed in the grassland bird habitat within the Wheeler Nature Park. Neighbors, including me, are fighting that development in court right now.

The Air Force admits that the noise burden falls disproportionately on working class and people of color families.

The F-35 is also a climate catastrophe: Each F-35 burns 22 gallons a minute. The F-35 training emits as much CO2 into the atmosphere as all the regularly scheduled civilian airliner flights at the airport combined.

This all means that training flights with the F-35 in our city location is a house destroyer, jobs eradicator, child abuser, climate and environment wrecker, and it discriminates based on race and class.

More solutions are certainly needed for each of these issues. But just one measure is essential to improve each of them: halting the F-35 training at the airport in our city.

And there is no downside from F-35 relocation. Jobs may move but they won’t be lost.

The City Council has the power

Fortunately, our city council has the power. The constitution and federal law delegate to the states the authority to control the training of their own state national guards. Vermont law delegates to the cities, towns, and villages the power “to regulate the operation and use of vehicles of every kind” to promote “the public health, safety, welfare, and convenience” of the people. Including by adopting and enforcing ordinances.

Our city can and must use that power. Doing so will ensure that the military’s own regulations are respected and enforced to protect our families and our children.