Yesterday councilmember Randi Shade requested, through an aide, that the following message be conveyed to all who spoke out at the Committee on Public Health and Human Services water fluoridation briefing of March 22:
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy week to speakat the Public Health and Human Services meeting last Tuesday. I amglad to have brought the item to the committee and am also glad my colleagues and I were able to learn so much.
As a next step, I plan to schedule a facilitated work session with the other members of the committee. The purpose of this work session will be for those of us on the PHHS committee to publicly engage in a more in-depth dialogue among ourselves while also allowing us to ask additional questions and dig deeper into some of the underlying assumptions that each side presented last week. I expect to include Dr. Huangand a couple of community leaders from FFA and ADA to help us with our questions during the work session. The work session will be televised and be open to the pubic for viewing, but will not include public input. Again, the purpose of the work session will be for the committee members to publicly deliberate further and weigh the issues in front of us as policy makers. I will begin putting this work session together right away with the hope of getting it scheduled for some time in May and being able to announce the details at our next scheduled PHHS meeting to take place on April 18th. In the meantime, I will continue to ask questions, gather information and receive your input. Thank you.
While we welcome Ms. Shade’s willingness to carry forward the public discourse begun last week, we can’t help but notice the same essential imbalance as occurred at the briefing: one public advocacy group, Fluoride Free Austin, facing two “authority” figures whose qualifications we challenge, without an opportunity to meet the opposition’s inaccuracies head on. But that challenge goes to the heart of our cause, and cannot be resolved outside of a chance for direct exchange. Will that chance come next time around? It could make all the difference.
We note, incidentally, that City Council election day is May 14, and that this work session not yet scheduled is proposed for “some time in May.” Will it come before, or after, the elections? Time will tell. Stay tuned.
Austin City Council candidate Kris Bailey has taken me to task – and rightly so – for omitting his name in my last post while mentioning those of two others who are challenging Randi Shade for the Place 3 seat in this May’s election. The post was intended primarily to cover the City Council Public Health and Human Services Committee’s fluoridation “briefing” of March 22, not the unrelated candidates forum that followed it later in the evening. But Bailey is a serious contender who should have been included.
Fluoride Free Austin vigorously opposes the forced mass “medication” of entire populations through the vehicle of water fluoridation. Here’s what Bailey recently had to say on the subject:
“The Austin City Council has taken the role of prescribing medication to the people of Austin. We are spending just under a million dollars a year to purchase fluoride to put in the water supply and force the people of Austin to drink it. I think the debate on whether it is good for you or not really is pointless. Is it the government’s place to decide what you should be ingesting in your body? They do not fluoridate the water in Manor right next door to Austin. It’s not in every city. This is and will continue to be a campaign issue. I believe if people want to ingest fluoride in their bodies they can freely go purchase toothpaste at the local grocery store. I do not support water fluoridation and will work to end that process.”
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. The best, because our two and a half years of tireless advocacy had finally forced the Austin City Council to recognize our cause in an official venue: the Council’s Committee of Public Health and Human Services. Because, despite the inconvenient time (2 p.m. on a weekday) and a major competing political event at the Capitol, the 154-seat Council chambers was filled to near-capacity with our supporters. Because after three weeks of intensive planning, meetings and general blood, sweat and tears, our team of expert professionals had pulled together a seamless
You can also watch the segments pertaining to water fluoridation (Item 3 and Item 9, pts. 1 and 2) here:
Following are three 15-minute You Tube exerpts:. :
The candidates forum later that evening in the Windsor Park neighborhood confirmed my earlier observation that water fluoridation as a serious campaign issue is here to stay. The three incumbents up for May re-election: Shade, Morrison and Chris Riley, were there – along with several of their challengers – to introduce themselves, set forth their platforms, and take questions from the voters. Being a damn fool (at least in this instance), I failed to record the exchanges and won’t attempt to recreate them here. But the moderators, who had discretion about what written questions to put to the panelists in a very limited time frame, allowed questions about water fluoridation to be asked of both Shade and Morrison, while we had a brief conversation with Riley on the subject later on. All the incumbents responded in the politicianly language of “glad to be finally entering into a dialogue on this important subject…” or words to that effect. The challengers all either opposed fluoridation or were open-minded on the subject.
It’s obvious that Shade is in political difficulty, her bid for a second term threatened by two high profile challengers. One is Max Nofziger, 3-term icon of the 1990’s Council. The other is Planning Commissioner Kathie Tovo. Clearly, Shade has to at least pretend to listen to the citizens, at least for now.
I’m hoping to attend another candidates forum and record their answers – if I can find one. The candidates don’t exactly broadcast those schedules: apparently they’re not crazy about such opportunities to interact peraonally with the everyday folks whose votes can put them in the catbird seat.
I commented on this to a helper at Morrison’s campaign headquarters the night the office opened. “Yeah…someone really ought to keep track of that, but nobody does,” I was told. My informant went on to suggest that the events are usually sponsored by neighborhood associations, and maybe they just don’t want too big a meeting, with too many outsiders. However, since the Council members are prone to boast that their “at large” status makes them “everybody’s” representative, the argument seems odd to me.
And that’s all I have for now. The saga continues.
After several weeks of incomplete and confusing information out of Council member Randi Shade’s office, the official agenda of this Tuesday’s meeting was finally published this past Friday. The following press release is based on that information plus a conversation the same day with Shade’s policy aide.
In a stunning triumph of common sense over politics, Fairbanks, Alaska’s Fluoride Task Force has issued a recommendation that the city cease its 50-year-old water fluoridation program.
The City Council-appointed committee, comprising six scientifically and/or medically qualified local residents, had met publicly twice a month for the past year, studying the scientific literature and taking citizen testimony. Five of its members favored abandoning fluoride.
The committee based the decision mainly on their recognition that fluoride is bad for babies — and on the will of the people, who spoke overwhelmingly against it in public sessions. In fact, it was citizen concern that led the City Council to create the task force in the first plane.
The next move now belongs to the Council, which can choose to disregard the findings, vote on the issue themselves, or throw it to the public via a referendum. And they are not likely to ignore such a strong mandate.
Chances are excellent that fluoridation will soon become a thing of the past in Fairbanks. Juneau abandoned the practice in 2007.
There will be a City Council candidates’ forum on Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Memorial United Methodist Church, 6100 Berkman Drive. Randi Shade, Laura Morrison and Chris Riley – all up for re-election in May – and their challengers will be there to make political promises and take questions from the audience. Since candidate forums are ordinarily not well-publicized, we are delighted to be able to announce this one. It sounds like a good event to attend.
One thing I learned this week: it’s a good idea to come early to City Council meetings – and to pay attention to matters outside of one’s usual sphere.
I had arrived more than an hour early in hope of putting in my two cents’ worth on a totally unrelated agenda item. But the public comment period was already over, so I settled down to listen to the Council take up issues – important issues – pertaining to the city’s homeless population. This discussion was enlivened by the spirited appearance of a number of the homeless themselves, carrying signs and advocating quite effectively for their cause. It went on for about an hour. Then the crowd began to thin, leaving the lords and ladies of City Hall relatively alone on the dais, anticipating a presentation on “imagining Austin” but with the homeless still on their minds as the witching hour – high noon – approached.
Ordinarily I would have been sitting well back. But it happened I’d slipped up front to give the AV tech the flash drive with a slide advertising the March 15 meeting (see previous blog entry). I planned to talk about that during Citizens Communication. Thus it was that, at about five minutes to the hour, I heard Randi Shade telling Laura Morrison something to the effect that “…since this vote really needs you to be there and you can’t make it on the 15th, we’ll do it on the 22nd instead.” The words went by very fast, but my antennae quivered. Shade and Morrison are both members of the Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services – the very committee that was supposed to be taking up fluoride on March 15 and the same one that would also normally deal with homeless matters. Could the date possibly have been changed without our knowledge?
Lacking an opportunity to approach the Council privately before my turn to speak, I was obliged to use part of my precious three minutes to ask a question. The exchange went like this:
RNO: I’m going to have to ask a question because it impacts what I was going to say. Did I understand correctly that the Committee on Public Health and Human Services meeting originally scheduled for March 15 has been postponed to the 22nd?…
Mayor Leffingwell: I’ll let council member Shade answer that question.
Shade: You did, and I planned on telling you about that and reminding you and making sure that you knew about it since you were going to be here at Citizens Communication. Please spread the word. The Committee will be doing its best to reach out to the constituents who have contacted us already and we very much apologize [that] yesterday, when it became clear that council member Morrison would not be available, we scheduled a meeting where we would have the full complement of the Council …
RNO: OK,I won’t show my slide, then…So that will be the same time as…?
Shade: Two o’clock. Yes, two o’clock rather than three, to allow us more time. We’ll meet here in the Council chamber as we expect you’ll have a large number of people attending…
RNO: We hope so!
Shade: It will be on March 22nd rather than March 15.
RNO: OK, well, thank you…
Yes, thank you, Ms. Shade. Though it would have been nice to know yesterday, before running off hundreds of flyers with the wrong information.
Having consumed over a third of my precious time on this exchange (the Mayor has sternly reminded us that questions count as part of CC), I cut short my planned talk by a third. Later that day, one of my Fluoride Free Austin colleagues, Linda, roundly took me to task for not being more aggressive. I should, she insists, have confronted Shade for failing to immediately inform us of the schedule change; should have demanded the clock be re-started.
But at the time I didn’t even think of it. I’m the non-confrontational type: slow to wrath and thoroughly invested in the mighty power of the pen. Besides, even after several years of advocacy, I continue to be amazed and sometimes slow to react to the antics of professional politicians. One thing is sure: we can expect more fun and games at City Hall until we win our cause – as we one day will.
My original planned mini-speech, Fluoride Date Lecture #40, follows:
Good afternoon, Mayor Leffingwell and Council Members. First off, I want to let everyone out there know that the Austin City Council
Randi Shade Mike Martinez Laura Morrison The Austin City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services
At the February 15, 2011 meeting of the Austin City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services, Council member Randi Shade moved to place fluoride on the agenda of the Committee’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 15. (The date has since been changed to March 22 – see below.) Her action is unprecedented in our two and a half years of advocacy, for it places the water fluoridation issue on the path to potential adoption as a future agenda item by the full Council. Certainly it’s unlikely to be dismissed as cavalierly as the Environmental Board’s calls for a serious fluoride investigation in August, and again in December, of 2009.
This may be – literally – the chance of a lifetime to remedy a decades-old wrong by removing the dangerous toxin that’s been pumped into our water supply since early 1973. We need to show up in strength at the meeting and speak out to make it clear that there is widespread and growing public opposition to the harmful practice of water fluoridation.
TIME: Tuesday, March 22, 2:00 p.m. PLACE: Austin City Hall, Council Chambers LOCATION: Cesar Chavez (1st) Street between Guadalupe and Lavaca PARKING: City Hall Garage (enter from Lavaca side) and some street parking
TO SPEAK: Sign up before the meeting starts (get there 15 minutes or so early). Each speaker will be allowed 3 minutes, with no signing over time to others. It’s a good idea to bring a fact sheet or other handout that you can leave with the committee members.
PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IMPORTANT DATE AND BE THERE. (IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND, YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS TO INFO@FLUORIDEFREEAUSTIN.COM TO BE DELIVERED TO THE COMMITTEE. PLACE “COMMENT FOR HHS COMMITTEE” IN THE SUBJECT LINE.)