Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, and a host of state and local business people are lobbying top Air Force officials to convince them that Luke Air Force Base is the best place for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-35 is the latest war bird coming off the military assembly lines, and it is expected to phase out the F-16, the current fighter jet.
Brewer and her crew's trip to Washington, D.C. is the latest push in Arizona to make sure that the doors stay open at Luke, a Glendale training base for F-16 fighter pilots. Since the F-16 is eventually going away, state leaders want to make sure that Luke gets the F-35s and continues its training mission.
Their goal is not much about a strong national defense -- it's about protecting the $1.2 billion that Luke reportedly contributes to the state's economy.
But officials of the tiny West Valley community of El Mirage are concerned about what Luke is doing to their local economy and about what effect noise from the new jets would have on their quality of life.
El Mirage leaders worry because the F-35 is louder. Although just how much louder is a matter still under study by the Air Force. If it is significantly louder, El Mirage officials would like to get solutions and options considered.
City officials just put out a study showing that property values would go down as much as
17 percent if there is more noise. The analysis -- conducted by Tim Hogan, an economic development expert and ASU professor -- reveals that louder jets at Luke would permanently reduce property values in a large area of the West Valley.
A $150,000 home would be worth from $14,000 to $26,000 less than an equivalent home without aircraft noise, Hogan says.
El Mirage's concerns are repeatedly gunned down by politicians from Glendale and other west-side cities. They do not like any noise-level discussion, fearing it will cast doubt on Arizona's loyalty to Luke and jeopardize Luke's shot at the F-35.
None of the officials seem to care about El Mirage's decades-old fight to attain economic sovereignty. The small community hasn't made much progress, mostly because of the state laws that restrict development around the base to protect it from residential encroachment.
(The logic is that limiting housing around the base also limits the number of homeowners who can complain about roaring jet engines soaring overhead. The Air Force doesn't take complaints lightly.)
State laws to protect Luke disproportionately affect El Mirage because the 11-square-mile community sits next to the base and is landlocked. The vacant land it does have isn't attractive to developers because, even when a project might qualify for development around the base, there are extra levels of state and federal scrutiny.
Not to mention cross-eyed looks from West Valley politicians who want the land around the base to remain virginal.
It is truly shaping up to be a no-win situation for El Mirage.
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