Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Burlington: Unfortunate Positions & Unwelcome Proposals - from F-35s to Fast-Track Redevelopment

The statement below looks at the difference between Independent Candidate Greg Guma and Progressive Candidate Steve Goodkind on the controversial plan to base F-35s at the Burlington Airport. Greg also differs with Steve on his proposal to call in auditors on Burlington Telecom, pick a fight with the feds about the final stage of Pine Street road improvement, and push for more departmental consolidation when we really need more transparency and participation.

But those differences pale in comparison to Greg's reaction to Mayor Weinberger's many unwelcome proposals. We already know, for example, that the mayor is promoting an “anything goes” housing boom. It's "build, baby, build!" – any place in the city, up to 8 stories high. Meanwhile, he stands on the sidelines while the city’s few remaining open spaces are over-developed -- that is, when he isn't making stealth deals for a waterfront hotel and other major projects he declines to discuss until after the election. His proposals and policies will triple the city's retail space, replace working families and local artists with wealthier newcomers, and turn the city into a resort town. 

To do this, he's speculating with public funds in the form of Tax Incremental Financing bonds geared to the plans of his developer friends, while trivializing democracy by replacing transparency with press conferences and the engineering of consent.

But before addressing these problems and others in depth, here is Greg's statement on the F-35s and Steve Goodkind's troubling (shifting) and unfortunate position.

Wimping Out on the F-35s

Until weeks ago, Steve Goodkind didn’t have an opinion. When asked about F-35 basing at the Progressive Caucus in December, he claimed that he wasn’t familiar with the issue, yet also asserted that he would have found a better way to resolve it. Easy enough to say. A few weeks later, when asked about the jets again, he said the fight was over. Here’s something on which he and the mayor apparently agree – they both say the matter is settled and we should just move on.  

Is Steve wrong? Absolutely, both on the facts and on the politics.

Greg Guma's Position: Last July a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court to ensure that this basing decision really meets environmental and legal standards. The plaintiffs are hundreds of area residents and the Stop F-35 Coalition. It’s just one of several strategies being pursued. Burlington should join that lawsuit and, as Winooski has considered, allocate modest funding to help with the legal defense. If elected, I will recommend $10,000 to start and ask the City Council to reconsider the issue, with a full and balanced public debate. If residents want to place an advisory vote on the local ballot, I can’t control the City Council, but I will actively try to persuade them. And if they decline, I’ll support a petition drive for an advisory vote.

This is not just about money – or even about noise and jobs, as important as these are in the overall equation. It’s also about the most expensive boondoggle in US military history.  The F-35 is a prime example of how militarism corrupts the entire political process.

Sen. Patrick Leahy supports the jet because it will create some temporary jobs building an engine. He and others also warn that, if we don’t let the federal government have what it wants, they might close the National Guard base. This possibility is remote, and there is no evidence. But if that is true, the Pentagon’s decision becomes more like an occupation or a public seizure that will turn parts of South Burlington, Burlington and Winooski into sacrifice areas – virtually uninhabitable neighborhoods sacrificed in the name of national security. In any case, this federal overreach should be resisted.

This fight is far from over. After the federal government built the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Vermonters didn’t just roll over or walk away. We fought on for decades. And we constantly heard objections about jobs, the economy, how we were unreasonable idealists who wanted us all to live in the dark. We were ridiculed and told we couldn’t win. Today the plant is closed!

Let’s not suffer through decades with another federally-imposed mistake.


1 comment:

  1. "The F-35 is a prime example of how militarism corrupts the entire political process." Furthermore, it corrupts a community on every level, warping our sense of priorities placing a horribly expensive and flawed war machine above fiscal responsibility, the environment, and social programs that go begging while the war hog slurps at the trough. The planes flying overhead are more than noise, they are fear mongers. I think of children who have come here from war torn countries, and how emotional it must be for them when the F-16s are screaming overhead. The tentacles of militarism are increasing their grip on Burlington, on UVM, on the job market. Arghhhhh.