Who hears the noises? Who gets to be free?
The North Side of Madison, Wisconsin is a group of several neighborhoods, lots of little houses on medium-sized lots interspersed with small and medium apartment buildings. The busy streets have sidewalks; the smaller lanes are quiet enough to walk beside. There are tree-lined parks and bike paths, elementary and middle schools, shopping plazas and libraries. The area is full of community and neighborhood centers and lots of children. It’s one of the city’s more affordable places for young families, as it has been for the past 75 years.
Most of the single-family homes were built after WWII to house returning soldiers and their families. They came here to work at the Oscar Meyer plant or one of the myriad other factories, warehouses, and businesses downtown, or they were already living in the area because they worked at the Truax Airport that’s in the center of these neighborhoods or the Air Force base just north of the airport that shares the same name.
The factories are gone now, replaced by bars and shops and mixed-use, prairie-style developments full of condos for tech workers and university professors.
If the Air Force chooses its Truax base location for the F35 fighter jets it’s currently placing, a lot of the homes on the North side may be gone soon too.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported on August 11 that more than 1,000 homes on Madison’s North Side
…could be ‘incompatible for residential use’ because of heightened noise levels if [the] new fighter jet program is placed there, according to a draft report compiled by the U.S. Air Force and National Guard Bureau.
Despite this early coverage, and a community comment session with the National Guard held September 12, 2019, many community residents have said that they were not informed of the possible siting of these planes at the already-busy base. At a community meeting held at Hawthorne Elementary School on September 23rd, several local community members who lived less than a half-mile from the airport said they found out less than a week before — well after the National Guard information session — that the planes were even coming.
On September 24th, Emily Mills published an excellent piece in Tone Madison that has a wealth of information about the planes and the community response on both sides.
Really, just go read it, I’ll wait.
You’ve read it? Good.
Now you know the details:
- Who is for the proposal
- Both Wisconsin senators,
- The Madison Chamber of Commerce
- The out-of-town Badger Air Community Council
- A racist jerkbag;)
- Who’s had mixed reactions
- WI-002 US Representative Mark Pocan
- The Madison City Council
- The Mayor
- Who’s opposed
- Most residents
- Grassroots activists
- Schools and churches in the area
- State Representative Chris Taylor
- And who will be impacted
- Residents in and near the area the military’s Environmental Impact Statement designates “incompatible with residential use”
- Children in nearby schools
- Poor families and families of color who make up the majority of residents
- Anyone on the North Side who likes to talk to people or walk outside
I was at the community meeting with the retired Air Force colonel, although I’d been out of town for the previous one with the National Guard. I don’t live in the directly impacted area, but I can hear the current F 16s during their maneuvers. I have lived in one of the impacted neighborhoods, and my current home is less than a mile away from the “impact area” — the line drawn by the Air Force that marks the edge of the area that will have a 24-hour average decibels of 65 or above.
That is, if you take all the sounds in the area inside that line over the course of one day, and average them together, the result will be about as noisy as a vacuum cleaner.
Yes, that’s confusing. If it’s less confusing, you can think of it as occasional really loud noises every time a jet goes by — up to 110 decibels, or about as loud as a rock concert, if rock concerts came at you out of the sky at irregular intervals.
A lot of people are confused about the possibility of louder jets flying over their homes more often. Even more people are upset. That night, in an elementary school not eligible for noise remediation even though it’s only around a mile from the base, I heard many distressed residents of all colors, genders, ages, sizes, abilities talk about potential impacts to themselves, their children and businesses, their communities. Many people said they or their neighbors do not have the option of moving; many are afraid. Many are angry.
I am angry.
I am angry that this is a decision being made by the rich and powerful, again, which will, again, most harshly impact the poor and weak. I am angry that there was not more effective outreach to the neighborhoods most affected, so they do not have the facts and we do not have their opinions. I am angry that none of the alders who voted against the resolution condemning having the F35s here live on this side of town. I am angry that so many people who will feel the effects of this decision were not asked to weigh in.
There are some things I have done to feel less angry.
I have written a comment asking the military to reconsider using this base for a site for the F 35s. If you’re reading this before September 27th, 2019, you can do it too, here: http://www.angf35eis.com/Comments.aspx.
The Air Force will read all these comments, although reconsidering is unlikely once the initial determination has been made.
I have contacted my senators and my representative, telling them I am disappointed in their support for this issue.
I have written this article. I am sharing it. You can share it too.
I will pay attention to this kind of power dynamic in the future. I will do what I can.