The city council took a unanimous vote on a resolution at its May 20 meeting in which it “strongly opposed” the basing of any nuclear weapons in South Burlington.

Councilor Meaghan Emery shared updated language to the resolution reflecting historical facts as well as a clearer statement that the opposition is toward placement of any nuclear weapons in South Burlington – not necessarily the basing of the F-35 itself. Emery initially pitched the resolution to fellow councilors at the May 6 meeting, and a charged discussion ensued. 

The history and language of the resolution took cues from S.R.5., the non-binding resolution that the Vermont State Senate passed out of committee affirming its opposition to basing any nuclear weapon delivery system in the State of Vermont. On May 7, the resolution passed with 22 senators in favor, including South Burlington Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden; seven were opposed and one was absent. The resolution will not be moved to the House.

The South Burlington resolution includes reference to the council’s Sept. 17, 2018, meeting in which is passed the “Resolution Calling for the United States to ‘Pull Back from the Brink’ and Prevent Nuclear War.” 

Also referenced was Town Meeting in 1982 in which 88 percent of the 180 municipalities voting for a U.S.-U.S.S.R. bilateral nuclear freeze. At Town Meeting in 1999, 33 Vermont municipalities voted to “call upon the U.S. government and governments of all nuclear weapons states to secure on an urgent basis a nuclear weapons abolition treaty,” after which time the General Assembly adopted Acts and Resolves No. R-120, “Joint resolution relating to urgently requesting the U.S. government to immediately enter into negotiations with all other nuclear nations for the adoption of a verifiable treaty to abolish nuclear weapons.” 

The resolution calls upon the governor and members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation to inform the Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan that, “the City of South Burlington will not support nuclear weapons to be located in this municipality.” The city manager will send a copy of the resolution to Gov. Phil Scott, Shanahan and the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

“I think very reasonable people support the Vermont Air National Guard and support the basing of the F-35, but at the same time, nukes keep them up at night, so this is a very reasonable resolution, and I’m going to vote to support it,” said councilor Tom Chittenden. Chittenden was opposed to the first reading of the resolution.

James Leas, patent attorney and longtime opponent of the F-35 basing, stated that “the resolution is consistent with the military’s own laws, and so passing this resolution puts us in a position that’s consistent with what the military itself says.”

“The rule requiring separation of military equipment and civilians,” is outlined in the Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual published four years ago, Leas said, and, “it would be illegal under the military’s own laws to position nuclear weapons in South Burlington.”

“This resolution also protects the men and women in our armed forces who are based in South Burlington from being participants in violation of the military’s own rules,” he added.

Councilor Tim Barritt moved to approve the resolution, councilor David Kaufman seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.

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