At the June 26 City Council meeting in Modesto California, both supporters of fluoridation and advocates of safe drinking water appeared to be surprised as a previous 4 to 3 vote to fluoridate by the City Council was waylaid by a shift in support by a 4 to 3 vote in favor of voters making an advisory decision.
The agenda item before the City Council on Tuesday night was to address the protest ballots returned by water customers concerning a proposed rate increase for the purpose of financing the expected ongoing maintenance and operational costs for fluoridation.
As funding for capital equipment necessary for fluoridation is to be supplied by grants from the Fluoridation Work Group 2000 and the Sierra Health Foundation, supporters of fluoridation expected this to be the final public step needed to force the addition of fluoride to the public water supply on Modesto, a city that has made pride in the quality of their water a motto.
Under California Proposition 218, rejection of the proposed rate increase would require that more than half of the 70,000+ ballots included in water bills be returned protesting the rate increase.
With testimony from citizens stating that sending ballots only to bill payers, rather than actual consumers of the water, was not representative of the will of the citizenry, and Mayor Carmen Sabatino stating that his ballot was still sitting at home because he believed that the ballot was a sham, some of the Councilmembers were further shocked to learn that 7020 ballots were returned. Although the protests were well below the number of returns necessary by law, previous responses to rate increases for waste treatment garnered less than 300 protests.
The City Council action on Tuesday evening continued the discussion of the rate increase until November 13, 2001, with the expectation that the City Council will vote next week in favor of placing the fluoridation issue as an advisory vote on the ballot for November 6.
Herculean efforts by Danny Gottlieb, Frank Cousineau, and so many others in conjunction with Citizens for Safe Water in Habitats in Modesto, have kept the public spotlight on every detail of the once-thought-to be overwhelming certainty of fluoridation.
The November 6 General Municipal Election in Modesto will also address the fate of 3 of the 4 Councilmembers who voted for fluoridation, as their Council seats will be the only seats open for election. These same Councilmembers are also opposed to term limits and Council seats to be determined by district election, both hotly contested issues in Modesto.