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An anti F-35 sign in front of Chamberlin School. Photo: Sarah Harris
An anti F-35 sign in front of Chamberlin School. Photo: Sarah Harris

South Burlington city council approves fighter jet

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Last night the South Burlington City Council changed their mind on the F-35. The council voted three to two in support of basing the fighter jet at the Burlington airport. The long meeting was filled with passionate testimony -- and ended in a dramatic vote.

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South Burlington residents give testimony. Patrick Benner is sitting at the table, on the right. Photo: Sarah Harris Over 150 gathered at Chamberlin School last night. Photo: Sarah Harris

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Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Last year the South Burlington City Council voted to oppose the basing. But two F-35 supporters were elected to the council March. So they voted again – with over 150 people packing into the stifling Chamberlin School gym.

Everyone rose for the pledge of allegiance and then returned to their seats for 3 hours of testimony. More than 70 people testified – and two thirds opposed the new plane.

Patrick Benner chairs the Board of Civil Authority in South Burlington. He served in the Air Force in the 1970s and came to the meeting in uniform. Benner says the city's economy will suffer if the F-35 doesn't come to town.

"All of those air men and air women will be transferred to Utah. All of those individuals will no longer be renting our apartments, renting our condos, shopping in our gas stations, and so on."

 But Betty Rambur, a UVM nursing professor, says the F-35 isn't good for South Burlington.

"The voices over and over again tonight were talking about the impact on their homes and their community – their beloved community –and so it's an issue of really respecting the individuals who are most vulnerable in our community."

After the testimony, city councilors defended their views. Councilwoman Roseanne Greco is an outspoken opponent of the F-35.

"If I have to do choose, and I do have to choose, I choose the people," she said. "I choose the children. I make this choice not despite my military career, but because of it."

Greco received a standing ovation.

Three other councilors defended their views too. Chairwoman Pan Mackenzie called for a vote, saying that she'd explain her vote later.


"We have a motion on the floor, everyone has spoken," Mackenzie said.

"No, you have not spoken!" Greco replied.

"I will give my reasons when I'm done," McKenzie said.

 "Why did you not want to--" Greco began, but was interrupted when councilman Chris Shaw started to vote.

"I vote yea for the--"

"This is the discussion phase!" Greco cried adamantly.

"And we're done," MacKenzie said firmly.

"No, in Robert's rules of order the discussion comes before the vote," Greco insisted.

Chairwoman Mackenzie ended up leading the vote.

"Hell no," said Greco when casting her vote.

After almost four hours, the meeting adjourned.

After the meeting, citizens were on their feet, crowding around the city councilors and fighting to say their piece. Another meeting -- this one about purported health repercussions for children -- will take place at Chamberlin School in South Burlington Tuesday night. The Air Force comment period on the new environmental impact statement ends July 15.

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