California cities are not required by law to fluoridate unless somebody like the California Dental Association comes along and fully funds all costs for estimates, building, installation and maintenance of the system. In Watsonville’s case, the CDA has proposed to finance the construction and fluoridation for two years. Back around 2002, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court ordered Watsonville to fluoridate based on an estimate and an offer by the CDA to pay for all costs.
So, what’s stopping us from fluoridating? Well, we don’t have a current estimate, so we don’t have a way to evaluate if the current offer by the CDA, based on a 2002 handwritten estimate, will cover the costs. And the CDA has not provided a contract that will guarantee that the city will not be obligated to put up any money or staff time.
If the city enters into an agreement with the CDA without assurance that it will not have to pay anything, it will be on the hook for any costs exceeding the CDA budget of $1.6 million. It is fiscally irresponsible for the city to enter into any agreement with the CDA without at least having some idea what this venture could cost the city. Remember, this is the same city that could not afford to decorate our plaza with Christmas lights in December.
It is pretty obvious that the fluoride ad hoc committee selected by Mayor Luis Alejo is stacked to find a way to finagle a contract with the CDA. This is the same mayor who had a financial and political relationship with CDA lobbyist Manny Diaz. It is inconceivable that Mayor Alejo appointed council member Manuel Bersamin to the ad hoc committee after Bersamin lost his temper and told John Martinelli, who runs the city’s most historic company, that he could jump off the Civic Plaza parking lot for daring to voice a concern that his business would be affected by fluoridation. And we wonder why Watsonville is pushing a 30 percent unemployment rate.
On Feb. 18 the appellate court will hear oral arguments on the Watsonville Pilots Association’s lawsuit against the city for attempting to build affordable housing on Buena Vista Drive next to the airport. As some of you may know, the city lost the lawsuit. After attending a UC Davis Extension class on airport land use last week, I will be shocked if the city wins the appeal. If the city loses, we will have to rewrite the General Plan and the city may have to reimburse the Pilots Association and Friends of Buena Vista their legal fees of approximately $400,000.
So where is all this money coming from? Well, out of the same pot as the fluoride project overruns, many city services and nonprofit grants — to name a few.
The City Council was provided six different contracts by the CDA in about 12 working days prior to the last council meeting. These contracts are legally complicated and none of us on the City Council, including our mayor, who is an attorney, could have read and understood them in the time allowed to review them. We were even handed another new contract as we sat down for the meeting. And maybe some of you witnessed the mayor’s attempt to have City Attorney Alan Smith revise the contract even another time right at the meeting. Does that sound like good business practice to you?
So what is the problem with the contract, you ask? Luckily, I sit across the dinner table from an attorney every night, so I asked her. After spending a couple of hours going over it, she announced to me that the contract binds the city to pay everything above the amount of the CDA grant, that we can’t back out if the bid is too much (although the CDA can) and that if we can’t afford to build the project or cover the additional cost of operation, the city is still on the hook.
If the project doesn’t get done on time or we can’t afford to pay the additional money to operate it, we have to pay the CDA back with 10 percent interest. Well, since we know absolutely nothing about the costs at this juncture, it sure sounds like a lawsuit to me. There’s lots of talk about the court ordering us to fluoridate. But, according to my dinner partner, the appellate court just said to follow the state law. And we can ask the superior court to take a new look at its decision in light of the new numbers, if we had them.
Funny how no one mentioned any of this, isn’t it? The bottom line is, the city can’t enter into this contract unless the CDA says it will pay everything. That will take about two lines on one piece of paper. Even I can understand that.
The opinions of columnists are not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.