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  • 16 Sep 2014

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Council may speed up fluoride vote

Change would cost city $36,000


Opponents of fluoridating Portland’s water system are criticizing Commissioner Randy Leonard’s effort to speed up a public vote on the issue.

The opponents have qualified a measure on the issue for the May 2014 ballot. The City Council will consider a resolution introduced by Leonard on Thursday to hold the election in May 2013 instead.

Opponents say that moving the election forward one year will limit public debate on the safety of fluoridation. They want an independent scientific panel appointed to weigh the pros and cons of fluoridation before the election.

“We think regardless of your position on fluoridation, every Portlander benefits from having a truly independent scientific review panel evaluate the current state of scientific evidence relating to water fluoridation with a focus on issues important to Portlanders,” says Kimberly Kaminski, the chair of Clean Water Portland. “If the City yields to fluoridation promoters who want to fast track the fluoridation vote to next May, it precludes any chance for a thoughtful and independent scientific review that would benefit all voters.”

The council passed a measure to fluoridate Portland’s water on September 12. It was supported by a broad coalition of health and social service organizations. They argued that fluoridating the city’s water would reduce tooth decay and disease.

Opponents qualified a petition referring the measure to the ballot the next month. They argued that fluoride is dangerous and people should have the option of using it.

The council’s measure is suspended until it is decided at the election.

The referral will appear on the May 2014 Primary Election ballot unless the council schedules an earlier vote. A special election is already scheduled for May 21, 2013.

The council previously referred a renewal of the Portland Children’s Levy to that election. It is expected to be supported by many childrens' advocacy and service organizations.

Moving the fluoridation measure to the May 21, 2013, ballot will cost the city $36,000. The resolution submitted by Leonard argues the earlier vote is justified.

“[T]he public interest in the prompt resolution of the question outweighs the costs that would be associated with setting {the fluoridation measure] for a special election,” the resolution reads.

Opponents disagree.

“We’re confident that if a balanced, transparent review committee examines the scientific literature in depth, they will agree that fluoridation chemicals present numerous health risks and uncertainties,” says Clean Water Portland member Rick North. “If fluoridation promoters are so confident of their point of view, they should also welcome this review committee. But if the city council rushes a fluoridation decision again, it would be a real loss for Portlanders.”

Opponents are currently circulating initiative petitions for a measure that would ban the council from fluoridating Portland's water.