F-35 MEETING (copy)

A sign in the crowd before a meeting with the Air Force on the F-35 environmental impact statement held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

We are honored to collectively represent thousands of Madisonians, many of whom live on the east and north sides and will be significantly adversely impacted should Truax airfield be chosen as host for F-35 military jets.

We were disappointed to see a Capital Times opinion piece in support of this project that contained multiple falsehoods, and reiterated talking points from powerful business interests. Notably absent from this piece were any of the voices of people negatively impacted.

The Air National Guard’s own draft environmental impact statement makes clear the severe consequences and reduced quality of life that introduction of these jets would cause for our east-side and north-side neighborhoods, already experiencing significant, recent increases in air traffic throughout the day and late into the night .

The F-35s are noisier jets than the current F-16. The draft EIS estimates that F-35 military operations will initially increase 47%, or by almost 2,300 take-offs and landings per year during the transition from F-16s to F-35s, before leveling off to a 27% increase in military operations after an estimated two-year transition.

Though this substantial increased noise will broadly impact the east and north sides, the draft EIS indicates that those most negatively impacted by the F-35 noise are people who can least afford alternative housing and expensive mitigation remedies — low-income individuals, people of color and children. Those living in Oak Park Terrace trailer homes, Carpenter-Ridgeway, Eken Park and Hawthorne neighborhoods, Blooming Grove residents and hundreds of people living in publicly-subsidized and publicly-owned housing at Truax and Worthington Parks will bear the brunt of the noise impacts.

For a city struggling to overcome persistent and extreme racial inequities and a severe shortage of affordable housing, we are shocked and saddened that once again, powerful business interests are willing to push a program that exacerbates these disparities.

A City of Madison staff analysis indicates that the racial disparities detailed in the draft EIS are underestimated given the demographic makeup of the census blocks affected, and that more than 500 units of affordable housing are likely ineligible for FAA noise mitigation funding.

Yet those who support this project argue that the noise impact outlined by the EIS is the “worst case scenario” — a myth reiterated by the Cap Times opinion piece. Actual noise impacts could be lesser, but the impact could also be far greater, especially considering the ANG used 2010 census population data . For residents of Burlington, Vermont, a new study of the projected noise impacts of F-35s are significantly greater than originally anticipated.

Further, the modeled noise maps produced by the ANG are inconsistent with the lived experience of those in the impacted zone, and there is a complete absence of any noise modeling outside their 65-decibel outline. The 65-decibel contour swings magically away from local elementary schools, including Hawthorne and Isthmus Montessori. Although Lakeview Elementary School is estimated to experience peak noise levels of 100 decibels, they are not included in the impacted area. Northside KinderCare could experience up to 106 dB, yet it falls outside the 65-decibel contour. These schools all have a high percentage of children of color, children who are non-native English speakers, and economically disadvantaged households.

Dane County Regional Airport may apply to get financial assistance from the FAA for noise mitigation, but only for residents who live within the 65-decibel noise contour. The airport must conduct its own noise assessment after all of the jets have arrived — a process that can’t even begin until at least two years after the first F-35 has been introduced and the worst impacts already experienced. Estimates from Burlington, Vermont indicate noise mitigation costs anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per home, an expense few people can afford. According to the draft EIS, there is no guarantee our community will receive FAA assistance.

The EIS states that “negligible” economic benefit will result from up to 64 new permanent long-term jobs. There is no mention of the economic costs to the community to remediate the intense noise, the opportunity cost of development that otherwise may have occurred within the affected zone, the property values of homes affected by the noise including the reduced quality of life for everyone on the north and east sides, or the resulting reduced tax base.

The Badger Air Community Council — whose board consists of all white, male business executives, most of whom reside outside of Madison — has promoted the F-35 introduction with glossy mailers directed at people living in impacted homes. BACC and its supporters assert that not accepting the F-35s jeopardizes the future of Truax airbase and the continuation of the flying mission, an assertion ANG representatives have discredited.

A recent Wisconsin State Journal article reports that Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Air Force, concluded that it’s speculative to assume Truax’s mission would be in jeopardy without the F-35s. “That’s a leap, that’s making two and three assumptions together,” Stefanek said.

In private meetings and in public at the recent EIS open house, ANG staff personally reassured many of the authors of this column that Truax remains a strategically significant base with a critical homeland defense mission, regardless of what kind of plane is based there.

The negative impacts of the F-35 deployment are too great, and we question why Truax is a top pick when the impact on our community is the most severe in terms of the wide area affected as well as the disproportionate impacts on children, people with low incomes and people of color out of the five sites being considered. We question the wisdom of placing noisy, frequently flying jets in the middle of a dense urban area, when F-35s at alternative sites would have little to no impact on neighborhoods, people of color and children.

If we are truly committed to reducing racial inequities, we should not be placing the burden of creating a few dozen jobs on the backs of these community members. And we should be focused on protecting, and creating, communities people want to live in.

A strong community opposition is a necessity in avoiding the significant harm this proposal inflicts upon our community. Comments on the draft EIS can be submitted up to Sept. 27 online, via email, or by mail to: Mr. Ramon Ortiz, NGB/A4AM, 3501Fetchet Avenue, Joint Base Andrews MD 20762-5157.

Rep. Chris Taylor represents District 76 in the Wisconsin Assembly. Marsha Rummel (District 6), Tag Evers (District 13), Grant Foster (District 15) and Rebecca Kemble (District 18) are members of the Madison Common Council. Paul Rusk (District 12), Heidi Wegleitner (District 2), Yogesh Chawla (District 6) and Michele Ritt (District 18) are members of the Dane County Board. Ananda Mirilli is a Madison School Board member.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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