El Mirage Probably Will See Complete Turnover on City Council, Effectively Silencing Concerns Over Potential Noise-Impact of F-35s On Residents' Quality of Life, Property Values

Looks like major change is on the horizon for El Mirage, a West Valley city where five out of seven seats on the City Council are up for grabs.
The deadline for potential candidates to file petitions to get their names on the ballot was Friday.

There are nine residents jockeying for a spot on the council - and at least five of them are part of People of El Mirage, or POEM, a group formed to defend the F-35's potential arrival at Luke Air Force Base.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the military's newest war bird, and a fleet of the jets might land at Luke Air Force Base as U.S. Air Force official move to replace the F-16 with the F-35.

Most current city leaders have led a campaign questioning the potential effect of noise levels on homes, how they might affect residents' quality of life and property values. They also have been seeking information about possible ways to mitigate the noise.

That message may soon change.

Only two of the five People of El Mirage candidates have to win the primary election to gain control of the City Council, a political advantage now enjoyed by those who have been asking questions about the noise levels and how they might affect the community.

Those two would join councilmen Roy Delgado and Dave Shapira, who are not yet up for re-election and share POEM's political views, and nab a 4-3 majority.

Lana Mook, a founding member of People of El Mirage, is running for mayor against Mike Humes.

El Mirage Councilman Roger Cleveland is seeking re-election, defending his seat against known POEM members James McPhetres, John J. Palladino III, and Joe Ramirez. Jeff Zaharia is also vying for a spot on the council.

Lynn Selby, also a POEM board member, is running against Hubert Flisyn for a seat left vacant when Bill Conner resigned from the El Mirage City Council.

Concern over the community impact of noise levels from the louder, more-powerful engines in the F-35 has been a politically divisive issue in the 11-square-mile city.

While City Manager B.J. Cornwall, Mayor Michelle Kern, and other elected officials have expressed concerns about the F-35, People of El Mirage and other Valley leaders blast El Mirage and paint its elected officials as unpatriotic and un-American for asking questions.

Luke is the largest training base for the F-16, and those who dub themselves "Luke supporters" fear that if the F-16 is phased out and not replaced with a similar mission involving the F-35, Air Force officials will simply shutter the base.

They feel obligated to protect Luke to preserve national security and support the troops. But, in all fairness, they might wrap themselves in the flag and sing God Bless America, but their concerns aren't all about patriotism or national security. State and local leaders are trying to protect the estimated more than $2 billion that Luke contributes to the state's economy.

But the questions in El Mirage are legitimate, and are already getting asked by community and city leaders across the country whose areas might also land the new state-of-the-art jet. (That is, if the delayed jets ever make it off the assembly line.)

The city of Valparaiso, Florida filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Defense over concerns about noise from the F-35s that were stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, and guess what? The base didn't go away, and the Air Force is working with the community to address its concerns.

If People of El Mirage leaders take over the council, what will change?

We can almost guarantee that Cornwall is toast.

Cornwall led the charge about the detrimental effect that state laws aimed at restricting development around Luke Air Force Base to prevent encroaching were having on the city's economic well-being.

And, no doubt, Jason Rose and his public relations machine, hired by Cornwall at $12,500 a month to help manage the message about Luke Air Force Base, can kiss his account with El Mirage goodbye.

Regardless of who wins the seats on the El Mirage City Council, no one should believe that just raising the questions poses a risk to Luke Air Force Base's shot at getting a mission that involves the F-35.

What if it was a landfill that was moving into the community? Would it be wrong to ask how it would affect residents? What if it were a race track? Or any business that would create noise or pollution or otherwise disrupt the lives of residents?

It is the responsibility of elected officials to seek answers to such questions. And it would be pretty sad if new elected leaders neglected their duties to residents in favor of federal or state needs.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo