Gloucester’s mayoral hopefuls and candidates for other offices have been busy discussing the city’s issues in a series of campaign debates, and more are on the schedule in the remaining 2 1/2 weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
But the city’s lone ballot question will be in the spotlight when the Gloucester Board of Health hosts a forum Monday night to discuss whether the city should continue to provide community-wide, supplemental fluoridation of its public drinking water.
The question is non-binding, and — even if passed by voters next month — would also require City Council endorsement and state approval. It is an issue that Dr. Richard Sagall, president of NeedyMeds and chairman of the Board of Health, says needs discussion.
“It is a complex issue,” Sagall said Friday. “I have a medical background, and the more I read about this and the more I learn about it, it’s not as simple or basic an issue as some people might think.”
The Monday forum, set for 7 p.m. at City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium, will feature a panel from the local and regional medical and dental communities, including Dr. Brian Orr, a Gloucester pediatrician; Dr. John Fisher, chairman of the Better Oral Health for Massachusetts Coalition; dentists Myron Allukian and William Bebrin, and Dr. Candace Thompson.
Sagall acknowledged the panel does not include anyone who opposes the continued use of fluoridation. The question was placed on the ballot by the City Council, but was generated by a citizens group called the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network, which opposes the addition of supplemental fluoride on a system-wide basis.
“We had thought about that,” he said of the board, “but this is a panel based upon the decision by the Board of Health to support the continuation of fluoridation of the city’s water.”
He said each of the panelists will speak for 10-15 minutes, during which those in the audience will be able to call for index cards and submit questions for a session to follow. After that, he said, the panel will also take questions from the floor from anyone who lives or works within the city.
City resident Linda Wrinn of the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network said Friday the idea of taking questions and comment from the floor is a welcome part of the program, saying the group had asked for that in a formal request to the board.
“We didn’t ask to be part of their panel,” she said. “We understand that their stance is to continue the use of fluoride, and that’s the position of the panel. But we did put in a formal request to allow people to speak and ask questions, because there are a lot of questions.”
She added that the fluoride network will host its own forum Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. at Sawyer Free Library.
The question of continued fluoridation has sparked debate across Cape Ann over the past year, with Rockport voters deciding to continue adding supplemental fluoride to their town’s water by a 1,186-800 count last May.
The issue has also divided Gloucester’s mayoral candidates in their own debates.
City Council President Paul McGeary has said he not only supports continued fluoridation, but would veto a council order to drop it even if voters call for halting the process in the advisory referendum.
Interim Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken says she wants to see more data and learn more about the statistics cited by dentists who stand by the community fluoridation practice; she also said she would abide by residents’ call in the non-binding Nov. 3 vote.
The fluoridation forum Monday kicks off a busy slate of election-related events aimed at helping Gloucester voters make their choices when they go to the polls — and those include two debates that have been added to the schedule.
The first of those will be a head-to-head debate between Romeo Theken and McGeary aimed at reaching the city’s “millennials.”
That exchange, hosted by a group called Gloucesterity, is planned for The Hive, located at 11 Pleasant St., next Wednesday at 7 p.m., and is open to voters ages 18-39, said The Hive’s Avery McNiff, who is also part of Gloucesterity.
McNiff said the age limit is due in part to The Hive’s small capacity — it will only hold about 50 spectators — but is also aimed at addressing issues important to those under 40.
Also, the Magnolia Library and Community Center — which hosted a mayoral debate during last month’s preliminary campaign — will host a Ward 5 candidates debate and a forum and a meet-and-greet for the mayoral School Committee and at-large council candidates Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 p.m.
Douglas Shatford, president of the Magnolia Library’s board, said each candidate in the other races will speak for two minutes, with the debate between Ward 5 incumbent William Fonvielle and challenger Sean Nolan to follow at 7:30 p.m.
Staff Writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Election Season
Gloucester candidate and issue-related debates and forums leading into the Nov. 3 general elections are as follows:
Monday, Oct. 19 — Forum and discussion of community fluoridation, hosted by Gloucester Board of Health and featuring a panel of dentists and physicians, at Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 20 — Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce mayoral candidates’ debate at The Elks at Bass Rocks. Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. with debate to follow; tickets are $25, and include a light breakfast and available through the chamber at 978-283-1601, or capeannchamber.com.
Wednesday, Oct. 21 — Mayoral candidates debate for “millennials,” residents ages 18-39, 7 p.m., The Hive, 11 Pleasant St.
Wednesday, Oct. 21 — League of Women Voters of Cape Ann Candidates’ Night for mayoral, ward council and at-large council candidates, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at The Gloucester House restaurant.
Thursday, Oct. 22 — Magnolia Library and Community Center Forum, 6:30 p.m. Meet-and-greet for all candidates for Mayor, School Committee, City Council Ward 5 and councilors at large; each candidate will speak for two minutes. Ward 5 candidates debate, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 26 — Gloucester Times debates at Gloucester Stage Company’s Gorton’s Theatre. Mayoral debate at 7:30 p.m. City Council debates at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 27 — Gloucester Times City Council debates at Gloucester Stage Company’s Gorton’s Theatre, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 28 — Debates between Ward 4 City Council candidates and then among candidates for councilor-at-large, 7 p.m., Lanesville Community Center.
Thursday, Oct. 29 — Forum on fluoridation, hosted by the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network, 6 p.m., Sawyer Free Library.