Portland, OR – Immediately following the Portland City Council’s decision to add fluoridation chemicals to Portland’s water, clean water advocates announced plans to launch a citizen referendum that would put the fluoridation question to Portland voters.
Referendum paperwork was filed within an hour of the City Council’s vote. The Clean Water Portland PAC at the same time announced the opening of two Portland offices that will be used as bases of operation for both a volunteer and professional signature gathering effort. Over 125 volunteers have already registered to help gather signatures and organizers plan to have more than 25 paid signature gathers working by the end of next week and have a goal of raising $30,000. Organizers believe that through a combination of a volunteer and paid signature gathering drive they will be able to gather the 19,858 signatures needed to qualify the referendum that would stop the fluoridation measure from going into effect within 30 days. Petition sheets will be available on-line at cleanwaterportland.org and signature gathering will begin as soon as they are approved by the City of Portland’s clerk’s office.
While Portland Mayor Sam Adams and multiple City Council members had been discussing the issue behind closed doors with fluoridation promoters for over a year, the plan was only made public after the Oregonian broke the story. Portland voters have rejected water fluoridation in three separate votes, but the Mayor and a majority of the Council members announced their support for fluoridation before even hearing from the public or fluoridation opponents. The City then rushed a public hearing and vote allowing for little public discussion or debate on an issue that has been highly controversial in Portland for decades. Fluoridation opponents and those opposed to the process the City used to rush the decision through will now begin the task of gathering
Dr. Malgosia Cegielski, who is one of the three chief petitioners on the measure, said her involvement was driven by her concerns about both clean drinking water and the manner in which the City Council rushed the fluoridation decision through. “Clean drinking water is a fundamental right and something that affects our drinking water so directly is exactly the type of thing the public should have the right to vote on,” says Dr. Cegielski a clinical psychologist and child specialist in Portland.
Kim Kaminski, a mother of two and long-time fluoridation opponent agrees stating, “Whether you are for or against water fluoridation, giving voters the right to have a say on water fluoridation just makes sense and that is what this referendum is aimed to do. There is no question that we are going to need a lot of financial and volunteer support to make this happen, but we are seeing a major backlash to how the City Council has handled this. “What is inexcusable to me is that they turned the notion of a fair and democratic process on its head and did so claiming they were trying to help poor minority kids,” says Frances Quaempts-Miller who is also a chief petitioner for the referendum. “As a half-black half-Indian woman the idea that a group of mostly white men would try to justify their closed-door decision making by claiming its good for minorities is offensive.”
The Columbia Group of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club endorsed the referendum effort explaining it has concerns about the environmental effects of fluoridation chemicals and supports the public’s right to vote on the issue. “The City really rushed this decision and didn’t even have the time to consider all the impacts. This is an issue the public deserves the right to carefully consider and then vote on,” says Jeff Fryer Chair of the Columbia Group (Contact for Jeff Fryer: (503) 403-9222).