Open letter to VPIRG Board member and former Vermont Rep. Diana Gonzalez
Persuade VPIRG to launch a research project on the F-35 training flights low over Winooski
Dear Representative Diana Gonzalez,
I am delighted to read in your note below that you are "one of the newest members of the VPIRG Board of Trustees."
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) is an organization that is respected for researching the facts and the law on issues of public concern and reporting on the results. It uses that research to decide whether or not to embark on a campaign in the public interest. As a trustee you are in a position to suggest research topics and participate in the decision.
I urge you to persuade VPIRG to launch a research project on the F-35 training flights low over Winooski and several other densely populated Vermont cities and towns.
This is not just an issue of vital importance to you personally because you live in Winooski and you represented the City in the legislature for 6 years. Nor is it merely an issue of vital importance to the cities of Winooski, Burlington, and S. Burlington, and to the towns of Williston and Colchester which are suffering from the blasting 115-decibel F-35 noise.
As you will see from the research questions below, fundamental aspects of the F-35 issue, including climate, COVID, democratic governance, rule of law, war and peace, government spending, and social justice are vital to the state as a whole.
Noteworthy is that after completing its research on federally-regulated nuclear power, to its credit, VPIRG decided to provide effective leadership to the campaign to close Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon. Similarly, it can conduct the research, and, if the research shows it appropriate, provide the effective leadership to halt the F-35 training flights over the cities and towns surrounding the airport.
Here are some questions VPIRG research can answer:
Are thousands of Vermont families suffering pain, injury, or distress from hundreds of 115-decibel F-35 takeoffs and landings low over their homes each month?
Are students and teachers in seven schools identified by the US Air Force suffering interrupted classes, activities, and homework a dozen times a day by the F-35 training flights?
Does a review of the US Air Force Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and more recent scientific literature show that repeated exposure to noise at the level of the F-35 damages hearing, impairs learning and cognitive development, and increases the incidence of heart disease and stroke?
Does the scientific literature describe how exposure to environmental noise and hearing damage itself can lead to other serious health problems, including accelerating the cognitive decline of adults?
Do the carbon emissions from the 22 gallons per minute each F-35 burns contribute to global heating?
Do the annual emissions from thousands of hours of F-35 training flights and millions of gallons burned annually interfere with achieving the state’s climate goals?
What are the costs to the state’s taxpayers of the additional measures needed to achieve state-wide emissions goals to compensate for the F-35 emissions?
Does the massive burning of oil in wars for oil degrade the climate? Do they negatively affect the state’s climate goals? Do the F-35 training flights in Vermont prepare members of the Vermont National Guard to participate in those wars, diverting them from the training and work they could be doing to protect the state from imminent climate danger?
In view of the Department of Defense designating the F-35 as a nuclear weapons delivery vehicle and a part of the “nuclear triad,” does F-35 training from a runway amidst densely populated cities make those cities into a legitimate military target?
Is it reasonable to expect that certain other countries may seek to strike before the jets are forward deployed? And that nuclear ballistic missiles are now being aimed at the F-35 jets at Burlington airport?
Does F-35 training in Vermont cities turn tens of thousands of Vermonters into human shields for F-35 stealth-first-strike-nuclear-bomb-delivery vehicles?
Does the F-35A have a sufficient number of fleet flight hours, and a correspondingly low enough crash rate, to justify training with them from a runway in densely populated cities?
Do Department of Defense law-of-war regulations apply in all circumstances or just during armed conflict?
Does the law-of-war regulation called “distinction” require military forces to protect civilians from training operations that harm civilians by keeping a safe distance from populated areas? If so, why isn’t this regulation being enforced to protect Vermonters?
Does the US constitution, expressly reserve the authority of training the national guard to the states? If so, does that mean that the Vermont governor has authority to halt the training with F-35 jets in densely populated cities to protect civilians?
Does the Federal Aviation Act preempt state authority of training its national guard notwithstanding the express constitutional provision reserving training authority to the states and also notwithstanding the statement by the FAA that it “does not have the authority to regulate the operations of military aircraft”?
Does Vermont have authority to redirect its Air National Guard training toward protecting Vermonters from the present airborne assaults, climate heating and COVID, instead of preparing for wars for oil based on lies that kill thousands of US soldiers and millions of civilians, last decades, and which the US ultimately loses?
Does the town meeting vote in Burlington in 2018 calling for “cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35” and the town meeting vote in Winooski in 2021 urging “the state to halt the F-35 training in densely populated areas, such as Winooski,” demonstrate that the state government is foisting F-35 training flights against the will of the people affected?
Does the "disproportionate impact on low income and minority populations" reported by the US Air Force in the EIS raise an issue of injustice?
Especially in view of these facts about Winooski: 23% of Winooski residents are people of color, nearly four times the ratio for Vermont as a whole. 22% are foreign born and more than 20 languages spoken, while for Vermont fewer than 5% are foreign born. Nearly 30% of Winooski’s population lives in poverty, triple Vermont’s 10% poverty rate. 63% of Winooski’s 3,259 homes are rental, close to double the rate for Vermont. In Winooski 17% of people under 65 have a disability, while for Vermont 11% have one. 97.9% of the 774 children in Winooski’s K‑12 public schools are on free or reduced-price lunch, while for the state 38% of the children are.
On top of these issues, does Winooski need 115-decibel F-35 training flights low over the city hundreds of times a month? Is this fair in view of the fact that no privileged wealthy neighborhood is in the Air Force designated noise target zone that includes 2,963 affordable homes?
Does an assault by the state on thousands of working class and black and brown families with the 115-decibel noise of the F-35 raise issues so fundamental to health, safety, children, education, democracy, rule of law, fairness, justice, and equal rights as to require action?
Does the deliberate assault on civilians by state military forces shock the conscience? Does Winooski deserve to be respected, defended, and protected?
Do other VPIRG trustees, members of VPIRG’s staff, and members of VPIRG have questions that can be included in the research?
Would students in elementary, middle school, high school, and college, and citizens of all ages be invited to volunteer to work on such an important research project sponsored by VPIRG? Would members of the Vermont National Guard also be invited to volunteer?
I know that many members and sustainers of VPIRG, including myself, will support you if you suggest this research project at the next Board meeting. In addition, significant funds to support such a vital research project should be readily available to VPIRG from affected cities and towns and from foundations and other granting institutions on all sides of the issue.
The launching of such a research project will confirm that VPIRG is not subject to bending to powerful pressures from political leaders who may suggest that no progress will be made on VPIRG’s other vital issues if it launches research on an aspect of the military-industrial complex that deeply affects Vermonters. Launching this research will make members proud that VPIRG is not for sale. And it will confirm that VPIRG includes you on the Board because it knows that, as a Winooski mom, as an experienced State Representative, and as the Director of Leadership Programs at the Equality Federation, you will raise issues of the greatest significance, like F-35 training in densely populated cities, for VPIRG research and action.
Best regards and happy new year,
James Marc Leas
-------- Forwarded Message -------- Subject: A different perspective on VPIRG's work... Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2021 08:07:43 -0500 From: Diana Gonzalez, VPIRG Trustee <firstname.lastname@example.org> Reply-To: email@example.com To: James Marc Leas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Diana González here! If you don’t know me, I’m one of the newest members of the VPIRG Board of Trustees, joining this past February.
I’m also a mom, Winooski resident, and the Director of Leadership Programs at the Equality Federation. And, from 2014 to 2020, I represented the Chittenden 6-7 district in the Vermont House of Representatives.
One of the reasons I was so eager and excited to join the VPIRG Board is that, as a state legislator, I got to see first-hand how essential VPIRG is to ensuring Vermont enacts policy that advances the public interest.
You see, unlike many other states, Vermont has what we call a citizen legislature. Our lawmakers are part-time. They don’t have legislative staff. While that means they are very accessible to Vermonters, it also means they are reliant on the input, perspectives and information provided to them from those in the State House.
Too often, those perspectives are that of corporate lobbyists paid to represent their clients. I can’t tell you how valuable it is, as a legislator, to have the help, insight, and expertise of VPIRG advocates—people who aren’t there to represent big-money special interests; people who are there to act for the health and well-being of Vermonters.
And one of the reasons VPIRG has such credibility with legislators is that legislators know VPIRG isn’t funded by deep-pocketed corporate backers. VPIRG is fueled by thousands of grassroots donations.
That’s why your contribution to VPIRG is so important.
Yes, your gift funds the work—it allows VPIRG staff to do the research, education, organizing and advocacy necessary to enact effective public policy.
But making a gift is also a way of saying, “VPIRG advocates for me.”
“When VPIRG stands up to chemical companies and demands we enact legislation to ban the use of harmful chemicals in everyday products; they’re advocating for me.”
“When VPIRG stands up to the big tech companies and demands sensible privacy legislation to protect Vermonters’ data; they’re advocating for me.”
“And when VPIRG stands up to the fossil fuel giants and demands solutions to the climate crisis--solutions that everyone can take part in, solutions that put those disproportionately impacted by climate change first; they’re advocating for me.”
That last one is especially important to me. I used a number descriptors for myself in this message, but I would also describe myself as someone who is very concerned about the climate crisis.
As a legislator, I voted for, sponsored, and lead the way on a number of climate solutions. I’m proud of those, but I also know we need to do so much more. And so does VPIRG.
They are gearing up to push for bold climate action in the upcoming session—action that ensures Vermont significantly reduces our climate pollution and does so equitably.
Now, let’s be clear—Vermont is not going to solve the climate crisis alone. But you better believe that if we, as a planet, are going to solve this, then Vermont needs to do its part—showing what’s possible; giving others a model to follow.
And we’re not going to get that done without VPIRG. So please consider renewing your support today!
Thank you so much.
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
All rights reserved © 2021 VPIRG
141 Main Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Write or call your public servants:
Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333 Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>
Vermont National Guard's Complaint Line: 802-660-5379 (Note: the Vermont Guard told a reporter that it received over 1400 noise complaints. But the Guard won’t release what people said).
Instead or in addition, submit your report & complaint to the online F-35 Fall 2021-Winter 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the recently-completed F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (513 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx.
See links to the graphs and in-your-own words statements on all four versions of the F-35 Report & Complaint Form since Spring 2020, with a total of 1670 responses from 658 different people.
Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <email@example.com>
Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burlington City Council <email@example.com>
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <email@example.com>
S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <email@example.com>
VT Senate President Becca Balint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <email@example.com>
Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <email@example.com>
Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Major J Scott Detweiler <email@example.com>
Wing Commander Col David Shevchik firstname.lastname@example.org
Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <email@example.com>
US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>