Catching Up: What’s Happened Since Last August

The Fluoride Follies blog exists to provide regular coverage of Austin’s ongoing anti-fluoridation fight. For five years, starting in 2008, it did exactly that, keeping its many followers worldwide, from Austin to Australia, up to date. In 2013 we lost our Internet platform and had to shut down temporarily—a temporarily which stretched to a year and a half. We started up again in February of 2015, publishing regularly until the infamous August 19 joint meeting of City Council’s Public Utilities Committee (PUC) and Health and Human Services Committee (HHSC). That event—carefully crafted by PUC chair Delia Garza to protect the fluoridation program by ignoring all input from outside the organized health and dentistry bubble—was intended to shut down any further discussion of the issue inside City Hall. Her arrogance is on display in this short clip:

While the setback won’t stop us, it did serve to disabuse us of any hope we might have had that the new 10-1 district system would perform appreciably differently from its at-large predecessor. Of the 10 new councilmembers, only Don Zimmerman has had the courage to support our simple desire to remove a voluntarily-placed harmful and costly toxin from the drinking water supply. (Mayor Adler, far more intelligent and image-conscious than his predecessor, Leffingwell, is still an unknown quantity.)

It also gave us cause to step back and take a breather to follow closely three important, directly related events: the anti-fluoridation battles being waged in San Marcos to the south and Dallas to the north, and hanging over everything the specter of rigged electronic voting machines.

The subject of fair and open elections (or lack thereof) had been raised locally following the suspicious outcome of the District 4 City Council elections of November /December 2014, in which Dr. Laura Pressley, the popular leading candidate supposedly “lost” by a 2:1 margin to a college-age carpetbagger with a largely non-voting constituency. We have written elsewhere about her challenge to the integrity of the election process in Austin/Travis County, now awaiting resolution in the Third Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, during the intervening year and a half, Dr. Pressley, whose extensive statistics background enabled her to spot anomalies in the results of several Council races, has challenged her own presumptive “defeat” and in the process of discovery, uncovered evidence of widespread problems with electronic voting machines throughout the entire state. The outcome of her case will bear heavily upon whether we can expect an honest and open vote in a public referendum, should we one day choose that option.

While we were pondering the wisdom of ever undertaking a public referendum under the cloud of prospective vote rigging, San Marcos, a booming college town of 54,000 some 30 miles due south was doing exactly that. Following two years of steady advocacy to an unresponsive City Council, the Communities for Thriving Water – Fluoride Free San Marcos Coalition (later joined by Austin-based Texans for Accountable Government) took the petition route. In April they submitted over 1,600 signatures seeking a change to the city charter that would prohibit the artificial fluoridation of San Marcos water.

In a stunning and unexpected move, the City administration attempted to thwart its residents’ exercise of their constitutional rights. It first attempted to invalidate the properly-collected signatures, forcing the coalition to take legal action, whereupon it sued the coalition’s leaders individually. Only when ordered by a Hays County district judge to place the item (Proposition 1) on the November ballot did do so—along with a second item (Proposition 2) intended to make it more difficult for citizens to effect a charter change in the future. Further, the City re-worded the activists’ proposed language in an ambiguous way designed, many thought, to provide a loophole for continued fluoridation in San Marcos. In the end, however, when Proposition 1 passed easily by 61% to 39%, the City offered no further obstacles and the tap was turned off on November 12 without further incident. Today San Marcos in fluoride free.

Meanwhile, 185 miles to the north, Dallasites are fighting a battle that looks a whole lot like our own. Dallas, with a 1.25 million population is another large, high stakes, politically-driven city with handsome rewards available to those who play ball. It has 14 council members to Austin’s 10 and again like Austin, only one who has openly supported ending fluoridation. Their present day anti-fluoride movement began in spring 2014 when a group began speaking regularly at City Hall with the solid support of then-councilmember Sheffie Kadane. Their efforts have met the same icy resistance from their Council as have ours and initially—unlike ours—with intense press ridicule. During their short existence they’ve held many creative events from protests to banquets: all ignored by City Hall. Yet they’re seen as a threat. Within a few weeks of their first appearance at Council meetings, the City limited citizens communication speakers to one appearance a month. Next, it changed the format of archived City Council meetings to one which is virtually impossible to download and manipulate. By mid-year 2015, staff was cutting off their microphones in Council chambers. (We in Austin have experienced variants of all these tactics).

This past April 27, the Dallas fluoride fighters held their largest event yet: a Fluoride Action Day at City Hall. Eighteen speakers signed up, many with videoclips of medically-qualified experts telling why they oppose fluoride. The City of Dallas’ response was to refuse to stream the videos. It has now banned the playing of videoclips during citizens communication. Press coverage was essentially nil.  NSNBC (does anyone know what that stands for?), the curious international web news outlet which introduced Dallas’ anti-fluoride movement to the world two years ago by mis-reporting an end to fluoridation, checked in, but only to cover a tasteless tweet by one council member.  Robert Wilonsky who once spewed spleen and ridicule from his Dallas Morning News blog, promised another writeup but it never came.

Despite the present-day adage that any publicity is good publicity, I think the media blackout is not without its bright side. To me it indicates that the likes of Wilonsky and Jacquielynn Floyd, another odious Morning News commentator, by now appreciate that public sentiment is not with them and ridicule no longer works. Or at least their bosses do. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, lest they rise up and bite you.

So carry on, Dallas friends; we’ll be right beside you in the fight to be first to batter down the door that all the rest will run through.

You can find Dallas’ fluoride fighters on their Facebook page Fluoride Action North Texas and their excellent website Dogs Against Fluoridation.