The City of Hood River has dropped a ballot measure that asked voters to weigh in on the issue of water fluoridation.
On Monday, the council withdrew the proposal that was headed to 3,452 registered city voters in the Nov. 1 general election.
“The cost of the election and an almost certain legal challenge could range from $7-$10,000 and we just didn’t have the money in the budget to do this,” said Bob Francis, city manager.
However, city officials have agreed to put fluoridation on a future ballot if requested by citizens. They believe the issue will resurface if enough support for the water additive exists within the community.
“I think what we’re doing is just putting it in the public’s hands. If the health care industry wants to put up an initiative then it can,” said Mayor Linda Rouches after the council agreed to pull the measure.
Kim Folts, a chief petitioner on a ballot measure to block water fluoridation this spring, was “thrilled” with the city’s decision. She said a proposal for fluoridation should not have come from a government entity in the first place.
Folts and other members of the Hood River Drinking Water Protection (HRDWP) political action committee were critical of former Councilor Charles Haynie for pushing the issue through while in office.
The HRDWP was successful in getting a citizen initiative passed in March that prohibited any “industrial waste by-product” from being added to the water supply. The group vowed to legally oppose any type of fluoride — even if the city-sponsored measure passed — that was derived from a manufacturing process.
“This is just how things should be. When we have a natural asset (water) of such quality that is so basic to human health, we’d be absolutely foolish to add anything that degrades it,” Folts said.
She said it is only fair that Haynie and other members of the Healthy Teeth for a Lifetime campaign be required to follow the official process to get an issue on the ballot.
In late December, just before he left office, Haynie gained concurrence from the council to bring a “neutral” measure before voters.
He had lost a legal challenge to stop the HRDWP’s proposal from being brought before voters earlier that same month.
On Tuesday, Haynie said that with 100 percent support for fluoridation from local dental experts, the public health concern still needs to be addressed. He said HRDWP’s measure was “an egregiously prejudiced piece of propaganda.”
Therefore, Haynie still wants citizens to answer the basic question over fluoridation.
He said it would have been more cost effective to have that answer this fall so that fluoridation equipment could be installed while the main water line was being replaced.
Haynie said the issue is not dead, but it could ultimately cost more to modify a facility for the additive if a separate construction project is necessitated.
“We’ll just bring an initiative when the time is right and we have the time, energy and the money.
I think it’s better for us if we bring it during a major election year when there are more voters,” Haynie said. “I have to believe that, when this is put in front of people in a fair way, the truth will win out.”