Fluoride Action Network

Portland City Council calendars don’t show meetings reported by fluoride lobbyists

Source: The Oregonian | October 19th, 2012 | By Brad Schmidt
Location: United States, Oregon

Fluoride lobbyists met personally with all five members of the Portland City Council in July or August but only one of those initial meetings appears on public calendars — under a vague heading — leaving lingering questions about the effectiveness of the city’s lobbying and reporting requirements.

Promoted by then-Commissioner Sam Adams beginning in 2005, the lobbying and reporting rules are supposed to preserve integrity in city decision-making. The requirements affect both lobbyists and city officials and are meant to reveal who attempts to influence city leaders — and on what topic.

Upstream Public Health is behind the push to add fluoride to Portland drinking water. But its plan has since been challenged through a referendum effort that may block the City Council’s Sept. 12 unanimous approval.

According to a recently filed disclosure, lobbyists met with Commissioners Randy Leonard on July 26, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish on Aug. 2, Amanda Fritz on Aug. 6 and Mayor Adams on Aug. 27 to push for fluoride in public drinking water.

But those same city officials — who are required to publicly post their calendars on a quarterly basis — either didn’t disclose the meetings about fluoride or left a vague subject heading.

Leonard, who championed the fluoride proposal, listed four meetings July 26. Two were about the Portland Loo, one was about skateboarding and one was with the police union. But no fluoride.

Saltzman listed three meetings Aug. 2 with the city forester, the police union and one about a homeless camp. But nothing about the fluoride proposal.

Of the nine slots on Fish’s calendar, he reported a 30-minute meeting Aug. 2 with “Health Coalitions” but didn’t identify the group or the topic.

Fritz, meanwhile, reports her calendar by week instead of by day. She listed 16 meetings or events, none about fluoride or with Upstream Public Health.

And Adams listed six items on his calendar for Aug. 27. They include a meeting with Police Chief Mike Reese, a meeting about Brazil trade, a meeting with Transportation Director Tom Miller, a media event and two blocks for “office time.” But nothing about fluoride.

According to city code, elected officials are required to post their calendars “of activities related to official city business” 15 days after the end of the previous quarter. That deadline was Oct. 15. There is only one exception: If an elected official “determines that such posting poses a safety threat.”

As for Upstream Public Health, it didn’t register as a lobbying group until Aug. 16. The Oregonian broke news of the fluoride push, and the group’s stealth lobbying efforts, Aug. 9.

According to city code, lobbyists are required to register with the city “within three working days after a lobbying entity has spent 8 hours or more or estimates that it has spent cumulative 8 hours or more during any calendar quarter lobbying.”

After registering, groups that spend more than 8 hours lobbying are required to file a full statement by the 15th day following the quarter. That’s where Upstream Public Health listed its meetings with City Council members.

While just one of five initial meetings appeared on City Council calendars, two of four follow-up meetings did show up.

According to Upstream Public Health’s disclosure, it also met with Leonard Aug. 20, Aug. 27 and Aug. 30, and Fish on Aug. 31.

Leonard listed the meetings Aug. 20 and Aug. 27 but not on Aug. 30, although he did show a meeting that day with Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, who had concerns about wholesale customers buying water from Portland.

Fish listed 10 appointment Aug. 31, none regarding fluoride or with Upstream Public Health or its registered lobbyists.

The calendar rules also apply to Portland’s top administrators.

But a review Thursday showed that just 10 of 21 bureau directors had posted calendars by Oct. 15 for the months of July, August and September. And the City Auditor’s office — swamped by the fluoride referendum effort, ironically — has yet to post third-quarter lobbying reports. The office released Upstream Public Health’s report this week in response to a request from The Oregonian.

In 2005, when the City Council approved Adams’ lobbying and reporting plan, he said it would shine a “disinfecting light” on decision-making that “will make the city government a sunnier place, not just for the political class, but for all Portlanders, even on the rainiest day.”