(San Marcos, Texas) – More than two and a half years into their most recent fluoride-free movement, San Marcos residents turned out in the November 3rd election to pass Proposition 1 to end the near 30-year practice of fluoridation. This was San Marcos’ first-ever citizen-led charter amendment offered to voters, gathering 61% of the ballots cast. The measure passed in 18 of the 19 city voting precincts.
On April 2, 2015, a group of dedicated activists known as the Fluoride-Free San Marcos Coalition turned in more than 1,600 voter signatures, more than the roughly 1,000 necessary to force a vote for an amendment to the city charter. However, the City of San Marcos refused to accept the petition as required under state law, instead arguing that the petition did not meet City of San Marcos guidelines.
After activists threatened to sue the city for non-compliance with Texas state law, the City of San Marcos took swift action to sue the petitioners individually, in what the activists’ attorney, Brad Rockwell, referred to as”hysterical and punitive” lawsuit. The petitioners counter-sued for the judge’s order to place the amendment on the ballot.
In July of 2015, Texas’ 22nd District Court Judge Bruce Boyer ruled in favor of the petitioners, and the City of San Marcos filed an immediate notice of appeal. This case still sits in the appeals court.
But on August 24, 2015, San Marcos City Council placed Proposition 1 on the November 3rd ballot, with their own fluoride-free language. It’s not the language activists were seeking, stating that City officials carved out language that would allow them to accept fluoridated water from the City’s water supplier.
Nevertheless, according to Sam Brannon, Organizer of the coalition, “We thought it was still worth supporting while our amendment is hung up in Appeals Court. And 61% of voters spoke out in favor of ending fluoridation. We believe that our City Council will honor the people’s wishes and move swiftly to end this practice in San Marcos.”
On December 1st, the San Marcos City Council is set to take action to adapt the contract with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which operates the City’s water facilities, to reflect the fluoride-free wishes of voters. According to Brannon, there is still more work to do, including addressing Proposition 2 which passed with 55% of the vote.
“Prop 2 was placed on the ballot by Council to prevent future citizen-led charter amendments from reaching voters, and we believe it passed due to the measure’s confusing language”, according to Brannon. “Texas case law makes its clear that cities may not add requirements on top of state law for charter amendments. We’ll probably wind up in court over this, too. It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer money, and an inordinate burden on citizens to have to use the courts to force the City that claims to serve them to follow state law.”
In the end, Brannon sees a more empowered community in San Marcos because of the actions taken by the 80+ volunteers who worked to pass this measure. “We’re proving that citizens do have power. We’re proving the process works, in spite of the resistance of city officials. Once we’ve finished successfully running the traps, we’ll have a repeatable process that others can follow when they feel the City is not responding to their needs. This was a very big win for the people of San Marcos.”
In spite of the City’s resistance, Brannon believes the will of the voters will ultimately be embraced by city officials. “Being known as a ‘clean water city’ will actually be a selling point. San Marcos will be the first city between Austin and San Antonio that has stopped adding what the EPA refers to as hazardous waste to our drinking water. That’s a bright-line distinction between this community and those that surround us. ‘Clean water’ is a unique market advantage, if they’re wise enough to use it.”
San Marcos joins Elgin, College Station, Alamo Heights, Lago Vista, and other Texas cities in being fluoride-free.
For More Information:
Organizer, Fluoride-Free San Marcos Coalition