FOND DU LAC – It’s possible there will be no fluoride referendum on the Fond du Lac ballot in November even though an anti-fluoride group has collected more than 2,000 signatures on its petition drive.
The Safe Water Group, which is seeking a referendum aimed at eliminating fluoride from the Fond du Lac water supply, turned in a packet of 2,066 signatures this week to City Clerk Tess Hochrein.
“The response was very, very gratifying,” said Rick Matthew, head of the Safe Water Group, which opposed adding fluoride to the city’s water supply. “We went way beyond (the required number of signatures).”
However, it appears that the number of signatures on the petition is not the only criteria involved in placing the referendum on the November ballot.
City Attorney Thomas Ahrens said Thursday that an issue already acted upon by the City Council would have to “wait a year” to be revisited or be placed on the agenda by two council members who voted in the majority the last time the issue was addressed.
“That means two of the five who voted against the referendum (at their April 10 meeting), would have to ask that the matter be placed on the agenda,” Ahrens said.
In April, around 100 signatures were submitted to the City Council to show opposition to fluoridation of city water. More than 20 times that amount would be presented to the City Council this time around.
“They both (petitions), it would appear to me, deal with the same issue of whether to fluoridate the city’s water,” Ahrens said.
Adding to the confusion, Ahrens said, is the ability of council to waive its rules (through a majority vote).
Though the Safe Water Group would have liked to force a binding referendum, an advisory referendum is all that’s possible, according to Matthew.
“The statutes say only direct legislation (binding referendum) can be done to initiate a new ordinance,” Matthew said. “It can’t be used to repeal an existing ordinance.”
Meanwhile, Matthew says he wonders why the fluoridation issue should be decided by the seven-member council.
“In a democracy, how can the council deny the people the right to vote on the matter,” Matthew said.
The group, which last week needed several hundred more signatures to reach its 1,652 requirement for adding a referendum to the November ballot, gathered around 700 signatures at its booth at the Fond du Lac County Fair.