Published: Sunday, December 31, 2006
By John Briggs
Free Press Staff Writer
A Burlington group has gathered nearly enough signatures on a petition to put a ballot question before voters on Town Meeting Day urging a new investigation of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Spokesman Marc Estrin, a Burlington writer and musician, said the group has been meeting for several months and has more than 1,200 of the roughly 1,350 signatures needed to place the matter on the ballot. The question would advise the Vermont congressional delegation to demand a new 9/11 investigation.
Estrin said Burlington would be the first city in the country to formally make such a demand.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.”
The group includes Burlington attorney Frank Haddleton, University of Vermont physics professor Joanna Rankin, Charles Simpson, chairman of the department of sociology and criminal justice at SUNY Plattsburgh, a chemist, an engineer, a video producer and former city councilor Doug Dunbebin.
Dunbebin, a graphic designer, has created a Web site for the group that explains the weaknesses it sees in the 9/11 Commission Report of July 2004.
The city’s director of elections, Jo Lamarche, said that because the City Council in September unanimously passed a resolution promising to honor advisory ballot questions when the required number of signatures has been gathered, the question would likely be on the ballot in March. She said the council might adjust the wording.
The deadline for gathering the signatures is Jan. 29, but Estrin said the petition drive will be completed in a few days. Lamarche said the issue would be on the council’s agenda for its Jan. 8 meeting.
Estrin said that because the 9/11 attacks led directly to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people deserve an objective investigation of what happened.
In a news release, the group said the ballot question “does not advance any particular alternative theory” about what happened on 9/11, but “focuses on the need to get answers to hundreds of questions” raised by families of victims and others, including “members of the intelligence community.”
Estrin said the group believes the 9/11 Commission, in part because its work was directed by administration insider Philip Zelikow, ignored obvious questions about why the World Trade Center towers fell as they did and why nearby Building 7, a part of the World Trade Center complex, fell in what appeared to be a “controlled demolition.” The “free-fall” collapse of the three buildings, Estrin said, is “both technically and architecturally problematic” and wasn’t adequately investigated by the commission.
He said independent researchers also have raised questions about the thoroughness of the commission’s investigation of the damage at the Pentagon and of the absence of plane wreckage there and at the crash site of the plane in Pennsylvania.
Estrin said the group also would like an explanation of why routine air-defense protocols weren’t followed Sept. 11 in scrambling fighter interceptors.
A new “objective and nonpartisan” investigation, he said, “seems a reasonable thing to do about such a crucial event.”
Estrin said the ballot question is a logical way to move such an investigation forward, particularly given the city’s history of engagement with national and international issues.
“The events of 9/11 have affected Burlington residents,” he said, and added, “Democracy resides not just at the center, but at the periphery. Citizens are supposed to have a voice in national issues.”
Contact John Briggs at 660-1863 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BALLOT TEXT The wording of the advisory ballot question for Burlington on Town Meeting Day: “Shall Vermont’s Congressional Delegation be advised to demand a new, thorough, and truly independent forensic investigation that fully addresses the many questions surrounding the tragic events of September 11, 2001?”
More information is available at the local group’s Web site, www.vt911.org . The site provides an overview of what the group sees as the inadequacies of the official 9/11 Commission report and provides links to related sites.
The 585-page official 9/11 Commission report can be found online at www.9-11commission.gov .