Since the beginning of the year, a group of anti-fluoridation advocates has attended Athens City Council meetings urging the body to take action against the continued fluoridation of the Athens water supply.
While some council members have appeared amenable to the proposal, the body has taken a move to prevent the issue from coming up repeatedly at each and every meeting.
The anti-fluoridation advocates typically speak at the end of council meetings during a time specifically afforded to citizens to voice opinions and concerns not covered during the meeting. Before that portion of the meeting this past Monday, Council President Jim Sands made an announcement.
“If you’re here to speak about fluoridation, we’ve heard comments for the past several months,” he said. “We’ve had what we promoted as experts come in to talk about both sides. (Council) member (Elahu) Gosney has offered to do a public forum on the issue. And so, if there is information that we do not have, you’re certainly welcome to come speak to us. We have an open mic here. We may decide that we have to take some kind of action, legal action, to restrict this open mic if we feel it is being abused.”
His obvious implication was that information that council has heard before in testimony during the meetings isn’t welcome.
For his part, Gosney clarified that a “legal action” would constitute an amendment of council rules to restrict the number of times a group such as the anti-fluoridation advocates can address council without new information on the same topic.
For their part, the anti-fluoridation advocates were not pleased to hear this.
One of the leaders of the advocates, a libertarian candidate for county treasurer, Abe Alassaf, said that he was shocked to hear these comments.
“I don’t think any citizen should be stopped, limited, restrained, muzzled from giving their opinion about policies that relate to them,” he said. “For you, President Sands, to make a comment like that, I just see a very undemocratic (stance). We named Athens after Athens, Greece, where they invented the best democracy we’ve seen so far.”
Dane Waller said he is also disturbed by the comments preceding the opportunity for citizens to speak
“The United States of America, I thought, had a First Amendment, but apparently it’s being eroded,” he said, before going on to read some documents outlining various scientists opposed to fluoridation.
Dane McCarthy said the fluoride issue is a medical concern, not an attack against the City Council body or its members.
“I think we all have to understand that Athens, as a very progressive community, should be concerned about this issue,” he said. “You really need to just roll with it and relax and try to enjoy yourselves a little bit… We will try to make it more entertaining for you as time goes on.”