Fluoride Action Network

When public officials refuse to obey voters

Source: The Sun Chronicle | March 10th, 2003

Here’s a riddle for the times: When is a binding referendum not binding? Answer: When government officials don’t want to obey the voters.

This shameful situation has arisen in Plainville, where townspeople said they don’t want fluoride in their water, but officials keep delivering fluoridated water to their homes.

Fluoridation continues 11 months after voters overturned a decision by the board of health to add fluoride to town water. It appears the town is stalling until the health board can vote again for fluoridation, hoping that citizens won’t petition again for a referendum.

We have supported adding fluoride to municipal water supplies, and still maintain this is a responsible public health measure. However, we also support self-determination and expect public officials to comply with binding referendums such as Plainville’s vote of last April.

That is not what has happened. In fact, it’s the opposite of what has happened.

First town officials refused to address the issue. Then a consultant was hired to do a study about how to stop the fluoridation. Finally, after several options were developed, select men selected the most expensive one, knowing voters will reject it at town meeting in June. That will preserve the status quo, which is apparently what officials want.

Unfortunately, the issue is complicated because the bulk of Plainville’s water is processed at a treatment plant in North Attleboro that the two towns jointly own. North Attleboro fluoridates its water.

Separating Plainville’s water can be done in different ways, according to the consultants. The options range from installing a new water main, for less than $200,000, to building another treatment plant, for $1.8 million, or nine times as much.

Asked to pick one method to present to town meeting for funding, Plainville selectmen chose the treatment plant. Of course, they’re well aware that voters won’t approve such a hefty expenditure in these times, if ever.

Fluoride opponents have rightly denounced these tactics. They have considered filing a lawsuit, but so far have not done so, hoping to avoid a major expense for the town and themselves.

But they aren’t giving up. One of their number is running for a seat on the board of health.

Another tactic they might explore is petitioning to get one of the cheaper options on the town meeting warrant for funding.

And should the health board decide again to order town water fluoridated, you can be sure the opponents will be there with another referendum petition to overturn this action.

We applaud their efforts to work within the system, and we deplore the efforts of the board of selectmen to thwart the will of the voters.