Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 30, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Madison taxpayers will pay more than $1,300 to cover the cost of Alder Rebecca Kemble’s impromptu trip to hear the F-35 fighter jets in Vermont, according to records obtained by Empower Wisconsin.
How much the “fact-finding” mission may cost state taxpayers is yet to be determined.
Kemple, state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and left-wing Madison activist Brandi Grayson led a group last week to the Vermont Air National Guard base in Burlington. The purpose was to get an up-close look — and listen — to the F-35s flying in and out of the base, Kemble said.
Madison’s Truax Field is one of two sites in the running to base similar aircraft for the United States Air Force.
Records show Kemble charged $1,313.77 on the city’s credit card, with expenses including airfare, four nights hotel accommodations, meals, and ground transportation.
It won’t break the bank, but was the trip necessary? Kemble said, absolutely.
“We all were really trying to understand what are the processes, what are the impacts on the communities,” the alder told Empower Wisconsin Tuesday.
The group spent four days talking to community leaders and members around Burlington, Kemble said. But they missed an important stop on their itinerary. Vermont Air National Guard officials could not accommodate the Madison contingent because they had requested a tour of the base on short notice.
Capt. Mike Arbovitch told WKOW 27 News that such tours usually take weeks to plan. Taylor first asked to visit the base two days before arrival. Taylor seems to assume her position in the Wisconsin state Legislature entitled her and her group to get around Air Force protocol, based on her email sent to Air Force officials.
Taylor’s office did not provide cost information on the trip upon Empower Wisconsin’s request, but Kemble said Taylor “raised money” for the other members of the group to attend.
The new jets would create dozens of new jobs and expand Wisconsin’s role in military defense.
Opponents insist the aircraft noise will drive many from Madison’s north side out their homes. Taylor, known for her political grandstanding, told 27 News that residents who live near the Burlington base describe the jet noise as “an all-body experience.”
But reports show F-35 jets paid at least three unscheduled calls on Madison this past summer, with little complaint from neighbors.
“This is being over-exaggerated as far as the noise levels,” state Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) told the Associated Press. “This is going to be no different than what the F-16 does.” Truax is already home to F-16 jets.
The AP piece notes the Netherlands Ministry of Defense conducted a 2016 study comparing the noise from F-35s to F-16s at air bases in Volkel and Leeuwarden. The study found that local residents noted only small differences between the two.