City voters in November will decide whether to continue the fluoridation of water — a move derided by it supporters and praised by those who want to end the practice started 17 years ago.
The Houston City Council unanimously voted Monday night to place the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot. The six members could have done nothing, removed it after giving state regulators a 90-day notice or let the public decide by vote.
The election is expected to cost taxpayers about $3,500, according to City Administrator Tona Bowen, who will draft language that will be used on the ballot in the city’s three wards.
The issue has been subject of spirited debate at a public meeting and council meetings over the last several weeks. An effort two years ago to remove it was turned back by a council that is now composed of different membership.
The city’s former mayor called on the council to make the decision and not place the issue on the ballot.
“You are the elected representatives of the people of the city. You can’t let the city hold a public vote on everything. You people were voted in confidence from everybody in your ward to make decisions. And it is on your shoulder folks,” said Steve Hutcheson, who was a council member and mayor for about 20 years.
Opponents pushed for a vote — with organizers George Sholtz of Plato and Marie Lasater of Licking saying they’d pay the additional costs for an election this year rather than wait for the cheaper election cost option in April 2019. The city declined the offer.
Proponents say fluoridation has improved the dental health of children throughout the community and is safe. Opponents, like Lasater, said the key points to consider in reducing dental decay is brushing teeth, staying away from sweets and not drinking soda.
“Cavities are not caused by lack of fluoride,” she said.
Opponents also point to suspected health issues.
Dr. Tom Baggett, a dentist for 36 years, said he has personally seen the benefits living in a community that didn’t do fluoridation versus seeing his own daughters, who did. He said he has several caps in his mouth while his daughters have been nearly cavity free.
About 75 percent of the population in the country, including Cabool, has fluoridated water without issues, supporters contend.
“The people who are going to be affected the most will not be casting a vote. Your children are not going to be allowed to vote,” Baggett said. “And in the future, if you make the wrong decision — which you have been elected to make those decisions in the best interest of the community — if you don’t make the right decision, in the years to come you will see a difference.”
Councilman Donnie Wilson called for the election and Viki Narancich seconded the motion. The remaining members agreed.