Juneau’s voters delivered a resounding “no” to fluoridating the city’s water supplies on Tuesday, putting an end, for now, to one of the most hotly contested and expensive ballot initiatives in the city’s history.
Preliminary vote counts showed Proposition 2 failed 61 to 37 percent. Of 24,613 registered voters, 7,820 voted at the polls. Another 1,500 absentee ballots and 600 questioned ballots remain to be counted. The Juneau city clerk’s office plans to certify the final count by next Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of smart people in Juneau and they understood the issue very well and it was reflected in the result at the polls,” said David Ottoson, owner of Rainbow Foods and member of the anti-fluoridation group Juneau Citizens for Safe Water.
Karen Lawfer, spokeswoman for the pro-fluoridation group Citizens Promoting Dental Health, said she was disappointed and that there was a “fear factor” at the polls Tuesday.
“A lot of people, oftentimes, they vote with fear, and I can understand that,” Lawfer said. “We won’t see the fallout of this for another couple of years when people see the decline in dental health.”
Ottoson said there are better ways to deliver fluoride to those who aren’t getting it.
“Everybody wants our kids to have healthy teeth, and there’s other ways to do that besides putting it in the water,” Ottoson said.
As for the American Dental Association, which funded most of the pro-fluoridation’s $151,000 campaign, Ottoson said he hopes the group will continue its involvement in this community past this election.
“We’d like to see them participating in some of these other solutions. That (money) could have bought a lot of fluoride varnishes, and fluoridated toothpaste for people who can’t afford it,” Ottoson said.
Dr. Emily Kane said she hopes the community “can work together to repair the rift” caused by this election.
“Our common interest in improved dental hygiene supersedes our differences in approach,” Kane said.
Kane practices naturopathic medicine and is starting a task force to reinstate a program that will provide fluoride varnishes for kids. She also said that SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is now able to provide complete dental care to any child who does not qualify for Medicare because of a new grant.
Fluoride was taken out of the city’s water supply last year after the Juneau Assembly voted against it. They acted on the recommendations of a city commission that studied the issue for two years.
Mayor Bruce Botelho said he expects to see the issue of providing more dental care through the schools to come before the Juneau Assembly in the next few weeks.