Sink in their teeth and hold on? Not this time.
In what might be their final act on one of the more controversial local issues in the past couple of years, Modesto City Council members voted Tuesday to drop the idea of fluoridating tap water.
Although a majority of council members personally favor fluoridation in the name of improved dental health, they unanimously bowed to convincing voter disapproval. More than 60 percent of Modesto voters last week said no to fluoridation.
“We believe those who voted responded not from fear as some have indicated, but to a campaign of truth, science and above all, common sense,” said Frank Cousineau, who helped lead a charge against fluoridation.
“It just does not make sense to medicate the citizenry through the public water supply,” Cousineau said.
Because of the way Measure M was written, the council would have been forced to fluoridate if the measure had passed. Its failure, however, did not guarantee that the council would forget about it.
That is why the council revisited the issue Tuesday.
The council formally rescinded its May 2000 order to fluoridate, rejected $1 million in grants that would have paid for fluoridating equipment, and declined to raise water rates by 2 percent to pay for maintenance and supplies.
Fluoridated water would have gone to an estimated 200,000 people, including about 35,000 outside the city limit who were barred from voting on Measure M. Residential water rates would have increased $7 or $8 a year.
Fluoridation supporters said Cousineau’s camp used fear tactics to defeat the measure.
Cousineau said Measure M supporters used “distortion,” “intimidation” and “coercion” in the campaign for fluoridation. He said The Bee used its editorial pages to “conduct a campaign of disinformation.”
No one spoke Tuesday in favor of fluoridating.
“Congratulations to both sides,” Mayor Carmen Sabatino said.
He urged Stanislaus County leaders who, he said, are “charged with health and welfare” responsibilities, to push dental health programs for young people most susceptible to tooth decay.
In 1999, a statewide group offered Modesto a $1 million grant to cover the cost of fluoridation equipment. Now that leaders have rejected that money, it will be rerouted to other communities.