The Bellingham City Council took no action Monday on a voter initiative to fluoridate the city’s drinking water, essentially sending the measure to November’s ballot without expressing an opinion on it.
The council voted Monday night to table the matter until an Aug. 22 meeting, but the initiative will have been put on the ballot by then. The city’s charter says city officials must put voter initiatives on the ballot if the City Council doesn’t take action within 30 days of receiving them.
“It’s a way to neither endorse nor reject the petition, but rather honor the request that it be placed before the voters and let the voters endorse or reject it,” Mayor Mark Asmundson told the council at a meeting Monday afternoon.
Five council members voted to table the matter, with John Watts abstaining and Terry Bornemann absent.
Watts said he wanted to learn more before the vote was taken about how the city would pay for fluoridation, should the voters pass the initiative in November.
Bellingham Families for Fluoride, with financial backing from the Washington State Dental Association, collected 6,460 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Supporters say putting a small amount of fluoride in the water supply is a safe and cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay.
“I’ve seen less decay in my patients who’ve grown up in fluoridated areas,” said Leona Groesbeck, a Bellingham dental hygienist who is on the board of directors for the Washington State Dental Hygiene Association.
Groesbeck was one of about a dozen people who spoke about fluoridation during the council’s public comment period. About 65 people came to hear the discussion, some carrying small signs advertising their opposition to fluoridation.
Terry Poth, one of the organizers of Citizens Against Forced Fluoride, urged the council to vote to reject the measure, which still would have put it on the ballot.
“I hope you look to disavow this initiative,” he said.