It was the best of days, it was the worst of days, with plenty of good and bad news to report. On October 18, a large crowd of fluoride fighters flocked to City Hall for the long-awaited City Council Public Health and Human Services Committee meeting, forcing a change of location from the modest-sized Boards and Commissions Room to Council Chambers. Among the 22 anti-fluoride speakers were concerned citizens of all stripes, including doctors, dentists, Ph.D. scientists, registered dental hygenists, nurses, computer professionals – and at least one poet. While the meeting’s focus was the addition of a health warning to the monthly utilities bill, the speakers covered their topic from a broad range of perspectives. Their 3-minute presentations were intelligent and well-crafted. Characteristically, Austin’s mainstream media were a no-show, but Joe Conger, an Emmy-winning San Antonio broadcaster who’s been working on a major fluoride story for weeks, came up with his cameraman. We look forward to seeing his piece when it appears on KENS-5 TV.
That’s the good news. The bad news: the Committee – comprising Mike Martinez (chair), Laura Morrison, and Chris Riley – failed to act, beyond a listless motion to continue gathering “more information” from the CDC and its derivitave agencies, i.e. the same corrupt sources that have held water fluoridation in place for over half a century. A bitter disappointment to some; to others, no surprise.
A bit of back-story here. Last March, then-councilmember Randi Shade, who chaired this committee at the time, bowed to Fluoride Free Austin’s two and a half years of persistent advocacy to hold two open meetings on the subject of water fluoridation under PHHSC’s auspices. It was the first time our cause had been given official agenda item status in many years, and resulted in two memorable, well-attended, high profile events: the “briefing” of March 22, 2011 which allowed for extensive citizen input, and the “work session” of May 18, 2011, a quasi-debate format in which our side thoroughly trounced the fluoride boosters imported all the way from Fort Stockton for the occasion.
We owe Shade a debt of gratitude for bringing our cause to a public forum at last. Her purpose in holding the special meetings, as well as what might have come out of them had she stayed at the helm remain unknown. Exactly a month later, she was defeated for relection in a closely-watched runoff with Kathie Tovo. Replacing her on PHHSC was Chris Riley (who in 2010, smugly declared that he didn’t need to be educated about fluoride).
“…I don’t need to be educated…”
Mike Martinez stepped up to the position of committee chair.
Coincident to these events was our discovery that Mosaic Co., the city’s new fluorosilicic acid vendor, includes a very explicit health warning about fluorosis – inclusive of children and infants – on its MSDS sheet. A year ago, following a meeting with Austin health department and water utility officials, we had succeeded in getting a weakly-worded, nearly-irrelevant “warning” against mixing infant formula with tapwater placed on the Austin Water Utility website. We now demanded a strong and precisely-worded warning, using the vendor’s and the CDC’s own language, be placed on the monthly utilities bill.*
For two months, between August and October, Martinez appeared to support us, albeit not in public. According to some of our members who kept in touch with him on the issue, he told them privately that AWU lacked power to print a such warning unless directed to do so by the Council. The first step toward that process was approval by his committee which, he hinted, would be a virtual shoo-in. Some of us believed him. Others