The Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen Tuesday night approved the finalized warrant for the next town meeting, adding four new articles to be discussed and voted on.
Two of the four new items could require an overhaul of Shrewsbury’s water management and relationship with fossil fuel providers. Citizen petition articles 13 and 14 call respectively for Shrewsbury to approve a resolution in support of fossil fuel divestment and to approve a resolution banning water fluoridation.
Both motions have been the subject of debate in recent months as dedicated groups have pushed and petitioned for cities and organizations to adopt these practices.
The petitions were filed by Shrewsbury resident Bryan Moss.
“I have two young children and it came down to what future I want for them,” Moss said. “A lot of these issues might seem big, but when it comes to thinking globally, we need to act locally. So something I can do locally is to bring awareness (of) these issues to the town.”
Fossil fuel divestment is a form of boycott that would require the town to get rid of and withdraw all stocks, bonds, and other investment funds in any and all coal and oil companies. The pro-divestment organization Fossil Free features a spreadsheet on its website of the top 200 fossil fuel producers, including well-known entities such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP.
“Fossil fuel divestment is going on around us right now,” Moss said. “There’s efforts being led by the students in the state. One thing that I’ve seen is that the students are the ones speaking out on this. This is a problem they’re going to inherit. It’s time for people from across the generations to come out and support the students. We need to bring our voice to the table and say this isn’t just a problem for the students, it’s a problem for everybody.”
According to Fossil Free, several major Massachusetts towns have already adopted divestment, including Cambridge, Northampton, Concord, Sudbury, Framingham, and Provincetown.
Article 14 is the equally controversial call to ban fluoridation in the town’s public water supply. Many towns, including Shrewsbury, add a balanced level of fluoride to the water supply in order to combat tooth decay, but that practice has received criticism over the potential health risks of fluoride.
Anti-fluoridation website FluorideAlert.org claims that the practice “is an outdated form of mass medication,” and that there are potential side effects, including ADHD, cancer, arthritis, and reduced thyroid function.
The National Cancer Institute has repeatedly denied a correlation between cancer and fluoride, stating on their website, www.cancer.gov, that there is “no credible evidence of an association between fluoridated drinking water and an increased risk for cancer,” citing a 1999 report by the Center for Disease Control. Moss disagrees.
“I think the issue is clear,” he said. “I think it’s a matter of choice. Rather than being a mandate where we put fluoride into the water, it comes down to the right to choose if I want to put fluoride in my body, or my kids’ bodies. Especially given a lot of information that’s coming out now saying that there’s not much benefit to ingesting fluoride.”
According to UMass Medical Center, 140 Massachusetts towns fluoridate their water, as of 2010.
Moss took the initiative to bring these issues to Town Meeting by himself, collecting signatures and filing the articles with the town. He intends to attend the meeting in order to defend his position.
“There’s a lot of armchair activists,” he said. “But there’s nothing more rewarding than getting out of the chair and shaking people’s hands and getting to talk to them about these issues.”
The other two additions to the warrant are articles 23 and 24. Article 23 will see if the town will vote to sell land near North Street and Vista Drive. Article 24 seeks to authorize the Board of Selectmen to file a petition with the General Court to include an act exempting the deputy fire chief from the Civil Service Law.