F35 File 01-09122019143123 (copy)

At least 18 of the Air Force's F-35s are expected to be stationed at Truax Field in Madison. Photo: Wisconsin Air National Guard handout.

A group of Madison City Council members is sponsoring a resolution asking the Air Force to reconsider using Truax Field as a preferred location for a fighter jet program after a draft environmental impact statement showed significant adverse effects on neighborhood residents.

Alds. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, and Grant Foster, District 15, co-wrote the resolution. They represent nearby neighborhoods and the disproportionately vulnerable populations that would be most affected by the proposal to base a squadron of F-35 fighter jets on the east side. 

“On principle and in defense of our values and of the residents who live in the highly impacted area who no one else is speaking up for, we as the elected representatives of those people need to speak up for them and say, ‘This is unacceptable,’” Kemble said. 

Though the decision to locate the fighter jets at Truax is up to the Air Force, Foster said adding to the collective of voices opposed to the proposal will hopefully prompt consideration.

“Regardless of whether we have direct power in the decision, I think it’s really important that we represent their voices,” Foster said. “I think it’s really important it’s a statement that is put in front of the whole Common Council.”

Further, Kemble said the city has no official role in any potential mitigation of noise from the planes. The inability for the city to act on behalf of its residents and in the best interest of city-owned housing is a concern, the resolution states. 

In addition to Kemble and Foster, Alds. Syed Abbas, District 12; Marsha Rummel, District 6; Tag Evers, District 13; and Patrick Heck, District 2, are currently sponsoring the resolution. 

The lengthy resolution includes excerpts from the massive 1,099-page environmental report, which is required by the National Environmental Protection Act before the secretary of the Air Force can officially approve the basing.

In December 2017, the Air Force announced that Truax was one of two preferred sites for the new jets, along with Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama. 

While the Air Force’s proposal promises to bring new jobs and economic benefits to Madison, it could also make more than 1,000 nearby homes “incompatible for residential use,” according to the report. 

The report assessed 13 potential forms of environmental impact — including noise pollution, socioeconomic consequences, water pollution and children’s health — that could occur from flying F-35s at each base and from the construction of new facilities and the maintenance of the jets.

Ultimately, the report found that the proposal would disproportionately affect minorities, low-income residents and children. 

A city staff report released Wednesday found that more than 500 mobile homes and low-income housing would not be eligible for sound proofing. Several low-income housing communities, including Truax Park Apartments and city-owned Community Development Authority units, are located right outside of the zone in which homes are eligible for federal noise mitigation funding. 

“All of our efforts for affordable housing, for decreasing racial disparities, for environmental sustainability — all of those things that most if not all council members and the mayor campaigned on and ran on and work hard every day to implement will be set back by this action in a very significant way,” Kemble said.  

The resolution also points out that the proposed Bus Rapid Transit east route is supposed to run through the area most affected by the Air Force’s proposal. The potential for transit-oriented development would be “significantly diminished,” according to the resolution. 

If adopted, the City Council would conclude that the adverse effects outlined in the environmental report would reduce the quality and quantity of current affordable housing stock, decrease the property tax base value, reduce opportunities for transit-oriented development and disproportionately affects children and families of color. 

It would also state that the negative effects are “contrary to the city of Madison’s values of equity, sustainability, health and adaptability” and “undermine multiple long-term goals of city policy makers.”

 

The City Council will take up the resolution at its meeting Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in room 201 of the City-County Building , 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

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