Thursday’s Albany Common Council meeting was peppered with public comments regarding water fluoridation and public safety.
Common Councilor Tom Hoey of the 15th Ward, who chairs the public safety committee, introduced legislation to fluoridate the city water supply in October. He says discussion has been ongoing and 13 of 15 councilors co-sponsor the measure, which has the support of Mayor Kathy Sheehan and more than 30 medical professionals across the city. It awaits environmental approval.
“We probably have another couple of months, and we should be able to vote on it,” Hoey said. “You know, the evidence is pretty much there. I think it was defeated 30 years ago, but that was a different time. Pre-COVID. I think people now realize that you go with the science. What’s important that you look at the literature out there that explains, you know, that we’re doing studies on it.”
Former Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen has been advocating for fluoridation for the past 20 years.
“Tooth decay is an incredibly common public health problem,” Whalen said. “It is in fact the most common chronic condition in children. It is more common than asthma, it is more common than diabetes, it is more common than obesity. It is the greatest unmet health need because there is a lot that goes into dental health. Really allowing the teeth to get exposure to fluoride is the best thing that we can do to protect, prevent against dental decay.”
Retired New York State Department of Health epidemiologist Alexandra Bontempo offered public comment opposing fluoridation, urging councilors to base their opinions and final decision on “solid data.”
“It was Dr. Whalen who stated that there are studies showing cavity rates in the city of Schenectady where they have fluoridation that are lower than the rates here in Albany,” Bontempo said. “I would ask that Dr. Whalen please supply those studies and the data to the council. It would be really important for you all to see that prior to making the decision to fluoridate Albany’s water.”
Also Thursday, City Community Outreach Coordinator Eva Bass addressed councilors with concerns about public safety.
“If it’s not the gun violence, the domestic violence, the murders, the housing equities, if it’s not the environmental and justices, the misallocation of resources and the perpetuation of racism and white supremacy to fuel capitalism in the city of Albany in the capital of New York State. I don’t know what else to say,” said Bass, who added the “city is crying and no one is listening.” During recent public comment periods, some speakers have criticized councilors for not concentrating on Albany issues.
“And what I ask of the city of Albany, elected officials and leaders is to take heed to create positive strategies to address those things immediately, instead of doing performative actions, and putting resolutions with no backing, and no, no kind of initiatives that are really going to address and funnel down to the community,” Bass said.
Hoey says he’s aware of community concerns over violence, crime and the housing crisis. Along with 1st and 3rd ward councilors Sonia Frederick and Joyce Love, Hoey has introduced a resolution recognizing increased violence in the city and reaffirming the council’s commitment to permanently end it.
“We’re going to have more than one public safety meeting on it. And we definitely want to have a meeting just dedicated to the people in the community to be able to come in and talk about it. It’s a serious situation. This is the worst that I remember the city being in as far as, you know, starting year off, as you know, right after New Year’s Eve, I’m sorry, New Year’s Day, 40 minutes into New Year’s, we had a murder. So it’s something that we want to try to do something about. There was a good article that I read about Palo Alto in California, has actually gone from the murder capital of the United States to zero murderslast year. So that’s something that we’d like to see in Albany. And we’re going to work our way and try to figure out a way to do it,” said Hoey.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.wamc.org/news/2024-01-19/flouridation-public-safety-top-concerns-at-latest-albany-common-council-meeting