Six prominent local scientists have agreed to serve on a new city committee to prepare a report on the use of fluoride in the water systems in Fairbanks.

Retired UAF Chemistry Professor Paul Reichardt is to lead the committee, while others named to the panel are UAF Chemistry Professor Emeritus Dick Stolzberg, UAF Economic Geology Professor Rainer Newberry, dentist Bryce Taylor, former UAF Dean Joan Braddock and pediatrician Beth Medford.

Opponents of fluoride use approached councilman Jerry Cleworth with this idea and Cleworth pushed it through the council. This committee is not made up of advocates for one point of view or another, however. It consists of respected local scientists.

Cleworth did not name himself to the committee, but the rest of the council and the mayor should appoint him as an ex-officio member and ask that he attend its meetings as a city representative.

That way, when the final report is delivered to the council, he will be fully informed on the topic. He said he doesn’t know enough about the subject yet, so that’s why a committee was needed. Participating in this committee would allow him to become the most well-informed council member on fluoride.

In some of his remarks Monday before the city council, Cleworth suggested that it is possible that this group’s work will lead to a ballot measure in the fall, so he asked for a final report to be completed by July.

But the measure creating this committee does not mention anything about a ballot measure and that’s how it should be. The city has an obligation to the members of this committee to make it clear that they are not being asked to develop ammunition for a pro or con election campaign.

And the council needs to have a representative involved as an observer.

Cleworth and the other members of the council were elected to study issues in detail and make decisions on controversial topics. That’s how they should be approaching this issue and that’s why Cleworth deserves to be part of this educational process.

It would be a disservice to the six people who have agreed to volunteer for this committee for the council to take a hands-off approach. As a first order of business, the committee members should ask that the council get involved from the start.