Fluoride Action Network

Writing on the Hall: Flo ridin’

Rutland Herald | December 9, 2022 | By Gordon Dritschilo
Posted on December 9th, 2022
Location: United States, Vermont

Jack Crowther is trying very hard to get fluoride on the city ballot again.

Crowther was part of the movement that put fluoridation on the ballot in 2016, and he didn’t give up when the city voted by a solid margin to maintain the process. The following month, he was in front of the Board of Aldermen trying to convince them to ignore the vote and discontinue fluoridation anyway, and in subsequent years he would often show up during the budget process and ask the board to defund fluoridation.

A year ago, he got the board to revisit the issue, referring it to the Public Works Committee. Crowther argued he had been “educating” the public on fluoridation since the vote and claimed new studies on potential side-effects might tip the balance. That meeting finally happened in October and no motions came out of it.

Crowther came to the board again last month with proposed charter change language that would forbid fluoridation.

Alderman Tom DePoy, a supporter of the anti-fluoride movement, told Crowther that with a couple of aldermen missing that night, they didn’t have the votes to get the measure on the ballot. DePoy made a motion to table the subject to the next meeting, but didn’t have the votes for that, either — in fact, he didn’t even get a second.

The latest

All that brings us to this week, when Crowther once again appeared before the board. This time, he argued that the overall silence of board members in response to his proposal at the previous meeting implied a consensus had been secretly reached ahead of time, and he lectured the board on Open Meeting Law.

Crowther also said it was determined “at the last minute” that he would have to go the route of a charter change because the charter gives the public works commissioner sole authority to fluoridate the water.

This latter claim struck me as particularly odd. The DPW commissioner’s authority was a prominent part of the discussion in 2016 and was part of why the ballot item then was an advisory vote. It also figured into the discussion each time Crowther attempted to get the funding cut.

Board President Michael Doenges told Crowther the lack of discussion was down to procedure.

“Alderman DePoy could have said, ‘The sky is orange, I move to table,’” Doenges said. “He moved to table and when there was no second, the motion died. That’s it.”

Decision time

There was going to be a discussion this time, though. Alderwoman Anna Tadio made a motion to put Crowther’s charter language on the ballot and Alderman Michael Talbott seconded it.

Alderman Matthew Whitcomb said he would vote against the measure, arguing that all that has changed since the 2016 vote is the public’s trust in public health leaders.

“That’s very dangerous,” he said. “Overwhelmingly, the consensus still is this is one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century.”

Alderwoman Sharon Davis similarly said she would vote “no,” saying she had been listening to public health experts for years and appreciated the benefits of fluoridation.

Even DePoy, who has consistently opposed fluoridation, said he would vote “no” because the discussion was “an exercise in futility” with fluoride funded in the budget through 2025.

The motion failed, with Tadio casting the sole “yes” vote.

Last word?

Once again, the vote didn’t end the discussion as city resident Lopi LaRue, another anti-fluoride activist, asked how many members of the Board of Aldermen drank city water without a filter. Everyone’s hand went up except for Tadio’s and DePoy’s.

“Without filtration?” LaRue asked with surprise in her voice.

“Absolutely,” Davis replied.

LaRue put the same question to the handful of people in the audience and got a less lopsided result and spoke a bit longer before trying to poll the board about who wanted fluoride in the water.

At that, Doenges cut her off — with some difficulty — saying that she could contact board members individually if she wanted.


You may have noticed the new city website has gone live. If, like me, you had trouble accessing the city calendar from your phone, city officials have been notified of the problem.

Monday, the Charter and Ordinance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. to look at what purports to be the final language for the noise ordinance rewrite. The Police Commission meets at 6 p.m. with its standard agenda.

Tuesday, the School Board meets at 6 p.m. The agenda includes a preliminary presentation on the FY2024 budget.

Thursday, a special Board of Aldermen meeting for final budget approval begins at 5:30 p.m.