Mayor Sues Over Military Jet Noise


VALPARAISO, FL—The mayor of a small town near Pensacola is bucking his former employer, and the government, by suing the Defense Department. At issue is the noise pollution caused by F-35 fighter jets which will be arriving at Eglin Air Force Base.

Okaloosa County, where Valparaiso is located, is reacting with a countersuit in an attempt to protect the already struggling regional economy, which they say needs the proposed training center for the jets in order to provide jobs for its residents.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission of 2005 was responsible for assigning Eglin the Army’s Seventh Special Forces Group and designated it as a training center for the fighter jets. This designation is estimated to bring 3,500 jobs to the county.

Valaparaiso Mayor John B. Arnold Jr., however, is concerned about the high noise levels that would be caused by the F-35 flyovers. Claiming that the planes would make conversation impossible by raising noise levels in 93% of the city to 65 decibels or higher, he first appealed to residents, then decided to bring suit against the Defense Department. In the suit, he alleges that the department did not consider alternatives for flight patterns or runway construction in their decision to bring the jets to Eglin.

Vice Commander of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Col. Arnie Bunch, however, said that the military has attempted to address these problems, by limiting night takeoffs and landings. Other military officials have pointed to outreach efforts, such as briefing, that have attempted to explain the intended jet-training program and its possible consequences to concerned Valparaiso residents. In one event, a completed F-35 was brought to the base by the Air Force, although the jet did not fly over the area.

Residents of the heavily Republican area are angry that the mayor has levied the lawsuit, and nervous that the Democrat administration will reassign the jet training program to an area such as Edwards Air Force Base in California – a more liberal area. In order to move the program, however, it would require an act of Congress.

The town, which has a population of 6,000, has longstanding economic ties to Eglin. Ironically enough, so does Arnold, who worked there as an engineer for many years.

Lawyers from both sides will meet later this week to try to hammer out a deal between those who are opposed to the jets’ presence at the base, and those who fear losing valuable jobs in the area.


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