Six months after failing at the polls, fluoridation foes are petitioning for new elections and serving notice that lawsuits will soon be filed in Davis and Salt Lake counties.
“If a vote were taken right now, fluoride would fail,” predicted David A. Hansen, a Kaysville resident who launched a petition drive this week to collect signatures of more than 9,000 Davis County residents seeking a revote.
“The longer this is in the public eye, the more people come around to our side,” said Hansen, who wants to organize a similar petition campaign in Salt Lake County.
By majorities of 52 percent in Davis County and 58 percent in Salt Lake County this past fall, voters approved adding fluoride to the public water supply, a measure advocated by public health officials and most medical professionals as vital for reducing cavities.
Beth Beck, a member of the Davis County Board of Health, said opponents refuse to accept there is another side to the debate.
“The voters have spoken and these folks are going to put themselves to a lot of work. If there’s another election, they’ll find people want fluoridation,” Beck said. “It’s not because they’re misinformed. It’s because they’re informed.” The soonest fluoride could appear again on a countywide ballot is November 2002. But it will probably be on two city ballots in Davis County this fall.
Late last week, fluoridation opponents gave Centerville officials petitions signed by more than 1,100 residents who want the city to ignore the order of the Davis County Health Department to fluoridate the water supply. That order went out last month as a result of the 2000 election. Richard Brown, who led the petition drive, expects the Centerville City Council to deny the fluoride opponents’ request, because city residents backed fluoridation by a 43-vote margin last fall. But council rejection would simply put the issue before Centerville voters this November, he said. City Manager Steve Thacker said the council will consider the petition in early June.
A similar petition campaign has been under way for several weeks in Woods Cross, where voters rejected fluoridation by 194 votes. Opponents need at least 450 signatures on their petition, and hope to secure those by summer, said Janet Foster, who leads the drive. Woods Cross has been considered the only Davis County city likely to make a case for going against the countywide vote.
Residents of three other cities — South Weber, Sunset and West Bountiful — also rejected fluoride, but they get a lion’s share of their water from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which will add fluoride to all the water flowing to Davis County as a result of the countywide vote.
Woods Cross gets only about 9 percent of its water from Weber Basin.
“If Woods Cross City is willing to turn the valve off on Weber Basin, we’ll be separate,” said City Administrator Gary Uresk.
Davis County may try to force the city to fluoridate, since the County Commission previously determined that no city has a separate water system that entitles it to an exemption from the countywide vote. Uresk figures Woods Cross would prevail in court.
Meanwhile, opponents are almost ready to take their case to court. Salt Lake County dentist Marc Flack said lawsuits will be filed soon in Davis and Salt Lake counties challenging the fluoridation measures. Both counties have been given the requisite 30-day notice of the suits, Flack said.
In Weber County, where the commission declined to put fluoride on last year’s ballot, the debate is just beginning. Fluoride advocates plan to begin a petition drive this summer to collect signatures to force a countywide vote in November 2002.