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Tue, Jun 12, 2007

San Francisco Lawmaker Wants Blue Angels Grounded During Fleet Week

Critics Include Anti-War Groups Who Cite Safety, Pro-Military Message

What would San Francisco's annual Fleet Week be, without a performance by the US Navy Blue Angels aerial demonostration team? A city official wants to find out.

The San Francisco Examiner reports Supervisor Chris Daly, with help from such groups as CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans For Peace, is pushing for a Board of Supervisors resolution to ground the annual performance, calling it "dangerous and unnecessary."

Perhaps not surprisingly, critics of the performances point to the April crash of a Blue Angels performer at an air show in Beaufort, SC as "proof" the shows are dangerous. Paul Cox, a Vietnam veteran and member of Veterans for Peace, says the slightest miscalculation or mechanical problem could cause a plane to "go barreling into the Golden Gate Bridge or a high-rise and cause a significant amount of damage."

Cox, along with other members of the group, is also opposed to the pro-military theme of the show, and the fact the Blue Angels are a recruiting tool for the Navy. He also says the performances cause "noise pollution."

CodePink, a women-for-peace group, has started an online petition calling for city leaders to end the flyovers, citing concerns with public safety, pollution and fuel usage. The Examiner reports as of last week, about 500 people had signed the petition.

Despite those points and protests, the Blue Angels performances are a popular draw at Fleet Week and the 34 other locations the Blues have scheduled throughout the US this year alone. In 2006, more than 15 million spectators watched the team perform, including well over one million in the Bay Area alone.

Edward Leonard, chairman of the San Francisco Fleet Week Committee, notes in 2004 -- when the Blue Angels did not make an appearance -- attendance to the weeklong Fleet Week event dropped by more than 50 percent.

"We think it's safe," said Leonard, on questions about the safety of the Blue Angels performances. Leonard notes the Blues must receive approval from the FAA prior to each performance, and the more complex maneuvers are conducted over Bay waters.

Plus, he adds, "commercial airlines fly over the city all the time."

Daly's resolution calling for an end to Blue Angels performances over The City By The Bay may be introduced this week. The non-binding document wouldn't carry any legal weight, but it would present the Board's view on the issue -- and "We can then take the next steps we have to legally stop them," Daly told the Examiner.

This year's Fleet Week activities are scheduled for October 4-9.



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