Activists on Monday brought a foot-tall stack of names to Santa Maria city officials — a petition calling for a citywide vote on whether to stop fluoridation of the city water supply.
Members of the Santa Maria Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, who began gathering names in October, filed the document bearing 4,545 names at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Depending on how many of those signatures Santa Barbara County election officials deem valid within the next 30 days, the petition could prompt a special vote or a general election ballot initiative.
“It’s amazing we got as far as we did,” said property manager Joe Furcinite, 57, who solicited signatures outside grocery stores in recent weeks. “It’s just a rag-tag group of volunteers. There’s one lady with lupus, one with cancer, one with diabetes. These are people who are concerned with their health. They don’t want to have to deal with the extra toxins.”
Critics consider fluoridation a “mass medication” of the citizenry, but some dentists have called it one of the best medical advancements of the 20th century. The process started in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1945.
Fluoridation supporters, who cite fluoride‘s cavity-preventing qualities as a particular benefit for local children, appeared ready to battle for the minds as well as teeth of Santa Maria voters.
“We’re viewing this as a waste of not only time and effort, but it’s unnecessarily polarizing people,” said Santa Maria dentist Dr. Glenn Prezkop. “They (fluoridation foes) are doing what they are very good at, which is deception, unsubstantiated statements and frankly out-and-out lies.
“We’ve got to go on the campaign of educating, so that Santa Maria doesn’t lose what it gained, what it fought hard to gain,” said Dr. Prezkop, co-chair of the Santa Maria Oral Health Coalition.
At the coalition’s request, the City Council last June voted unanimously to start fluoridation. A 1995 state law requires cities with more than 10,000 water service connections to fluoridate when outside funding is offered. Santa Maria, a city with more than 80,000 residents, has nearly 17,000 water hookups.
Its more than $400,000 dispersal system must be in place by June 2004. The system will be paid for by the California Fluoridation Task Force, California Dental Association and its foundation, the Dental Health Foundation, the state Department of Health Services and the California Endowment.
To qualify for the next general election in November 2004, the anti-fluoridation petition must include at least 10 percent of the 25,596 Santa Maria residents registered to vote at the time the petition was initiated.
If the petition contains 15 percent or more — if every signature is valid, the petition represents almost 18 percent of voters — the City Council could authorize a special election.
If the vote isn’t held until November 2004, Citizens For Safe Drinking Water might seek an injunction to block construction of the dispersal system, Mr. Furcinite said.