Fluoride Action Network

San Diego City Council Defies Citizens Initiative: Votes to Fluoridate

Source: Citizens for Safe Drinking Water | April 12th, 2000

On April 11, 2000 San Diego City Council voted 8 to 1 to defy the long-standing city ordinance that specifically prohibits the City of San Diego or any of its employees or elected officials from adding any fluoride compound to the drinking water.

Citing a February 18 opinion by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the opinion of the City Attorney’s office that a court ruling may favor preemption by the State, Mayor Susan Golding and City Council Members elected to abandon any defense of the ordinance, and voted to accept a $4 million grant from the Fluoridation 2000 Work Group to begin fluoridation.

Attorney Norman Blumenthal, representing Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, reminded the Council that Executive Assistant City Attorney Leslie Devaney had admitted that a court ruling for State preemption was not a certainty but only their opinion of the probable outcome. Blumenthal informed the Council that until such time as a court ruled upon the conflict between the city ordinance and a 1995 State law mandating fluoridation when funds become available, the issue of water fluoridation remains a Municipal Affair.

Providing citations from both the State Constitution and the City Charter that preclude a legislative body from overturning a law enacted by a vote of the people, Blumenthal politely suggested that the Council reconsider its proposed illegal action, but stated that should the Council persist he would file a writ to compel the City to follow the law.

The city ordinance was enacted by citizens initiative in 1954 in response to a 1952 city council decision to fluoridate. It was again confirmed by voters in a 1968 referendum:

It is hereby declared to be unlawful for any person, including the City of San Diego and for its elective or appointed officers or employees, to use in or add to the water supply of this City any Fluorine, Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Silico Fluoride or any Fluoride compound, or to treat such water supply with aforesaid chemicals before delivery to the consumers thereof. S.D.M.C. §67.00 .

Despite the appearance of wanting to hear both sides by listening to four hours of testimony from proponents of fluoridation and proponents of safe drinking water, the outcome of the City Council’s vote was never in question.

Council Members that were on the 1996 Natural Resource Committee that had unanimously voted to direct the City Attorney to find some way around the prohibiting ordinance were expected to follow Mayor Golding’s aggressive lead.

The session was marked by Mayor Golding’s consistent interjections and rebuttals of any statements that questioned the safety or effectiveness of fluoridation, requiring that opponents of fluoridation provide citations of the studies referenced, which the witnesses had already submitted. Golding required no references from any supporters of fluoridation, even from San Diego County Science Advisory Board Chair Elie Schneur who claimed they performed an exhaustive review but were not paid enough to provide scientific references for the Advisory Board’s conclusions.

Mayor Golding’s statement that she ate healthy, routinely purchased organic foods (that would not contain fluoride-based pesticides), and used a reverse osmosis filter that would protect her, did not sit well with proponents of safe drinking water who are concerned that indigent children, who are most likely to not have the proper nutrition to ward off the toxic effects of fluoride, do not have that option.

Tom Reeves, National Fluoridation Engineer, Center for Disease Control, clarified for the Council that, despite some manufacturers’ claims, fluoride can not be removed by filtration, only by more expensive reverse osmosis or distillation.

The lone opposing vote was cast by Council Member George Stevens, who was consistently admonished by Mayor Golding and Vice-Mayor Harry Mathis for asking questions of the witnesses.

Michael Shames of UCAN stated his organization’s concerns that the true costs of fluoridation had not been sufficiently considered by the Staff Analysis, including the legal costs that would certainly follow.

Even though Mayor Golding has publicly stated that she had negotiated the $4 million grant, she had to be corrected concerning who was providing the funds.

The $4 million grant is being offered by a collaboration of fluoride promoters; the Dental Health Foundation, which was formed specifically to fluoridate California and yet was given a sole-source contract to perform the now-discredited California Oral Health Needs Assessment that not-so-surprisingly concluded California needs to be fluoridated; the Fluoridation Task Force; the California Dental Association; and “selected representatives” of Dental Health Services.

The funds are not being administered by the State as the law provides. The Fluoride 2000 Work Group have claimed in public forums that they do not have to follow the law that establishes the sequence of water districts to be fluoridated based on least cost per connection, and can fluoridate which ever city they choose. San Diego is No. 18 on the State’s fluoridation priority list.

Council Member Byron Wear put the Council’s action into perspective by stating that in any other case where the City had a municipal law enacted by a vote of the people, the City would follow procedure by requiring that the State prove their law to be a statewide concern. One test of statewide concern includes that the State law is narrowly tailored to accomplish its stated objectives without infringing on other rights. Wear proceeded to vote for acceptance of the funds.


Jeff Green
(800) 728-3833