Guest Opinions

Let’s hear the F-35s. A community working together is more likely to land a mission.

An F-35A that visited Mountain Home Air Force Base for testing and evaluation in 2016.
An F-35A that visited Mountain Home Air Force Base for testing and evaluation in 2016.

If you are tired of conflicting arguments and claims, and you want to know how a squadron of F-35s will affect Boise, let’s get some evidence when two F-35s visit for the air show this weekend, or have them return as soon as possible. And then let’s get the solutions going, like Alabama has done in courting the F-35s, instead of a confrontational public relations campaign that has solved nothing.

We need our Air Guard. The way to keep them is to solve problems the mission generates, not yell louder than those who are concerned about their quality of life or have to sell their homes. A government working with its citizens is another sound of freedom.

Bringing F-35s to Boise for a demonstration has been repeatedly requested and a full squadron would be best, but with real public notice. The visit by two planes this weekend can help answer questions and get solutions. An F-35 flew in the Idaho Falls July air show. Lets fly ’em in Boise. Let’s hear ’em and analyze the result.

First, the two planes need to exactly duplicate daily training missions. They should also take off fully fueled with afterburners, and again without afterburners, to help resolve that ongoing dispute. They should fly in the planned patterns.

Then let’s work together to determine if there are problems. Public officials and residents should set up noise-monitoring stations in key areas, such as Owyhee Park, Grace Jordan and Hillcrest Schools, Pasadena Drive/Roosevelt and areas east and west of the Boise Airport. They should be advised of flying times, agree on the appropriate equipment and the entire community should be invited to observe. Let’s all get the same information and identify issues together. The state and city should jointly be able to fund work that affects thousands of Bench residents.

With this evidence, problems can be solved as Alabama already has done. Alabama identified issues and offered solutions, including a $3 million appropriation from its legislature and Montgomery County to address a “security” issue at its base; the airport purchased additional land to extend a runway for Air Guard use. When Air Force evaluators arrived this year, Alabama had money and a plan in place.

Another F-35 site contender, Jacksonville, Fla., has been building earthen buffers to shield residents from fighter jet disruption, which has reduced neighborhood opposition a bit. They try.

Idaho, on the other hand, spent $100,000 on an aggressive campaign to influence public opinion, ignoring the problem of disruption of neighborhoods discussed in the Boise Airport’s own 2016 $400,000 Noise Study. This approach may be expensive. Just ask Burlington, Vt., where tens of millions of tax dollars have been spent demolishing homes in what can be described as a planning nightmare.

Area residents deserve answers from an affirmative government policy that may disrupt their lives. Many have worked all their lives, paid taxes and supported our country, including military service.

I don’t know what the Air Force will decide, but I do know that a community that works together like Montgomery County, Ala., has a better chance of success. And I know people who live in the impacted area deserve a government that is a partner, not an adversary.

Rep. John Gannon represents Boise’s District 17 in the Idaho Legislature.