Fluoride Is Not a Fringe Issue in Austin

On February 12, Walt Olenick became the first member of Fluoride Free Austin to speak before the new Austin City Council. His talk was respectful, informative, and consumed less than the alotted 3 minutes.

His object, in this first 2015 appearance at City Hall was  simply to make the Council members aware that it’s commonplace in Austin to have doubts  about the value of fluoridation.  To reinforce the point, he handed out the flyer Water Fluoridation is NOT a Fringe Issue in Austin, available from our website. The flyer cites and graphically illustrates the results of a 2012 survey by KEYE-TV (our CBS affiliate) in which roughly half the Austinites surveyed said they consider fluoridation a waste of money.  What could be more mainstream than that?

Disappointingly, nobody on the dais had a single comment or question about the material presented, in stark contrast to the other seven citizens’ communication speakers, with whom they interacted freely. Clearly the word is already out: fluoride is a subject to be approached with extreme caution. (One  councilmember had reason to feel particularly uncomfortable–the notion that fluoridation opponents are “crazy” had been the springboard for a vile smear campaign against an opponent.)  And now here was half of Austin unmasked as sharing those same outlandish views. Instant cognitive dissonance!

Still, the immutable facts are before them, and we shall see what we shall see. Will the new Council open their minds enough to allow some enlightenment in and then vote for what’s right rather than what’s politically expedient?  Or will they freeze into the hard mold of political careerism  that has so long worked against the interests of Austin’s everyday citizens?  Only time will tell.

 

 

 

Catching Up: Where to Start?

Little did we know, when we posted our Fluoride Follies entry of June 21, 2013, that the blog would be down for an indeterminate period. The dead time was the result of a convergence of unforeseen events, but even during the hiatus, life went on.  Three major events occurred in Texas during that time, and I’ll summarize them here. (Portland, Oregon’s spectacular 2014 victory over the promoters of forced fluoridation–including a 100% bought-out City Council and Mayor–was covered on our website).

The first big change came with the adoption of a new form of Austin municipal government which gave Austinites district representation for the first time.  Previously, all of the 7-member (including the Mayor) City Council was chosen at large, through city-wide voting. That system not only made running for office cost prohibitive for all but the wealthiest but created a Council of  members clustered in an upscale area, without specific connection or responsibility to the residents of other parts of town.  In November 2013, following an intensive public education campaign by the grassroots group Austinites for Geographical Representation, Austinites went to the polls to vote in a new system: one comprising 10 geographic districts to represent our 860,000-plus population, plus a Mayor still elected at large.  (It’s fit to add here that the outcome went very much against the desires of local Democratic Party power brokers.)

Following that triumph, exactly one year later, our first Austin City Council under the new system was elected this past November. More on the new Council in future posts.

Finally, up the road in Dallas, there was energetic year-long anti-fluoridation campaign led by Regina Imburgia with the staunch support of Dallas City Councilman Sheffie Kadane. Imburgia organized groups to speak regularly at City Hall; held public educational events with high-profile guest speakers including Dr. Paul Connett; and creatively publicized the cause via Facebook pages of Activists for Truth and Safe Water North Texas and the website dogsagainstfluoridation.com. Her team’s efforts won the hearts and minds of Dallasites, but not that of the Council, which, as mostly career politicians or wanabees–acted in their own self-perceived interests rather than those of the people who elected them.  On January 28–in defiance of a recent poll showing 72% of the public opposed to fluoridation—they voted 13-2 to adopt a 3-year purchase contract for fluorosilicic acid with Mosaic Co.  Apart from the remarks of Sheffie Kadane and self-appointed spokesman for the fluoride industry Rick Callahan, there was no discussion.  Not a single other Council member (out of 15) had a word to say or a question to ask. Adam Medrano, timidly seconding Kadane’s motion to deny the Mosaic contract, was Kadane’s sole ally; Scott Griggs and Dwaine R. Caraway, earlier considered potential supporters, were last-minute bailouts.  You can watch the entire proceedings–including the anti-fluoridation speakers’ presentations–in the video at the top of this page.

Given the energy, creativity and determination of the Dallas activists, we can be sure they won’t let the matter rest with a decision so against the public will. We look forward to hearing more from them in the future.