Fluoride Action Network

Watsonville. Op/Ed: Fluoride and Political Ambitions

Source: WatsonvillePatch | February 7th, 2012 | By Emilio Martinez, Watsonville City Council Member

In the attempt to keep it simple, this op-ed is about fluoridation and related political ambitions.

According to the law, California cities do not have to fluoridate unless an entity (somebody) like the California Dental Association (CDA) funds all of the costs. A city cannot be legally forced to fluoridate if they have to use any (underline “any”) of their own money (tax dollars).

On January 2010 then Mayor Luis Alejo proposed to the city council that Watsonville fluoridate because the CDA had proposed to pay for all of the costs.

What Mayor Alejo did not disclose during the city council meetings was that he had received campaign contributions from a CDA affiliate. He also didn’t disclose that he was once employed by CDA lobbyist Manny Diaz when Diaz was an Assembly Member. This was the same Manny Diaz who months before the January city council meeting lobbied Council Member Nancy Bilicich and me to vote for fluoridation. When I asked Mr. Diaz how he knew we were going to have a city council meeting regarding fluoridation, because I sure didn’t know about it, he said City Manager Carlos Palacios advised him of the information. Gee, here we (city council members) were receiving the Agenda on late Fridays before Tuesday’s city council meetings and Diaz knew months before? Did Mayor Alejo also know? How about other council members besides me and Bilicich? What about a Brown Act violation?

What was additionally alarming, well to me, was that Alejo also ignored the fact that the CDA’s proposal/Contract was based on an 8 year-old 1.6 million dollar estimate.

Now, if you obtained a bid to build a house eight years ago and you called the contractor today and said something like, “Hey do remember me? You gave me an estimate for $100,000 to build me a house around eight years ago. I’m thinking of building it now. When can you start?” what do you think you will hear on the other line?

A) Uncontrollable laughter

B) “What have you been smoking?”

C) “Did you graduate from high school?”

D) A dial tone

E) All of the above in chronological order

Why did Luis Alejo, an attorney, disregard the standard practice of requiring a current estimate of costs before entering into a contractual agreement? Could it because it wouldn’t behoove his political career as he was eyeing an Assembly seat? Would it be additionally beneficial for him to look like the champion of children stricken with poor dental health during his entire time campaigning while receiving around $12,000 in campaign contributions from a CDA affiliate? He would not have had that time benefit if an estimate for costs to fluoridate had been provided two years ago when he first demanded the city proceed with fluoridation.

On Feb. 2, 2012 (this past week) almost two years to the date, come to find out that the estimate of 1.6 million is shy by around 1.8 million. Imagine that.

For two years the children waited, the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust waited and Dientes waited, only to find out that the California Dental Association decided it was not financially feasible to fluoridate after all. Makes me wonder if sincerity was the true issue because why didn’t the California Dental Association first obtain an estimate before presenting a Contact to the city council? Why did Mayor Alejo attempt to rush the matter through the city council? I recall then Mayor Luis Alejo once saying that I was not a politician. If he meant a political prostitute, I have to agree.

You would think that by now Watsonville citizens would tire of the political smoke-and-mirror tactics. Nope, not when it looks like they are sucking up to the Costco idea like a Dyson on a shag rug. Maybe a Walmart but not a Costco.

Don’t be surprised if the Costco “plan” lasts two years, all through and up to the time when Supervisor Greg Caput’s Supervisorial seat is up for election. When will Watsonville quit being misguided by a dangling rubber carrot? It depends when they want to quit reading what they want to hear.


Emilio Martinez represents District 6 on the Watsonville City Council. He also writes a blog on local politics, the Watsonville Fishing Report.

About this column: This column is a space for community members to express their views. Community Voices will appear occasionally on Watsonville Patch.