YORK — Months of sparring between proponents and opponents leave plenty of room for disagreement about putting fluoride in York’s drinking water.
But there’s no doubt about this: No means yes when voters go to the polls Tuesday.
That’s right. No means the York CityCouncil’s 8-0 vote last summer is upheld. No means York joins Lincoln, Omaha and about 70 percent of the state’s population in fluoridating.
Yes means the council’s effort to end the 1970s ban on fluoridation will be set aside. A yes vote means the ban stays in place.
York dentist Mark Brouillette, part of the leadership of the York Fluoride Committee and a strong promoter of using fluoride to curb tooth decay, said the ballot language presented a challenge in educating voters.
“The only thing we’re worried about is yes means no, no means yes,” he said. “And we’re trying to work so people are informed. We want them to go vote and vote the correct way.”
Wesley Trollope, a leader of the petition drive and of Citizens for Safe Water, is more worried about the voter turnout than he is about backwards ballot language.
“If the general population of York gets out and votes, we will win,” Trollope said.
In an interview in the days leading up to the election, Trollope continued to call fluoride a health risk that makes bones brittle and brains sluggish. He also continued to criticize intrusive government and to recycle and sometimes reshape quotations from such heroes from American history as John Paul Jones and Patrick Henry.
“As John Paul Jones was thinking, I have just begun to fight.”
A prominent part of Trollope’s fight in the days leading up to the election will be a series of full-page advertisements in the York News-Times.
He said he had paid much of the cost of the antifluoride campaign out of his own pocket. As Election Day approached, he said, “I was up to $7,000 of my own money.”
Dentist Brouillette dislikes politics and publicity, but he feels too strongly about fluoride to stay out of this community fray.
“I’m competitive and I want to win this, because of the benefit, especially for children. I’ve seen some especially bad cases (of tooth decay) lately.”
He said York residents needed to understand there was already fluoride naturally present in their water. The idea is to boost that amount to about 1 part per million from the current .3 parts per million.
“It helps keep the enamel strong. It hinders the ability of bacteria to break down enamel and another primary thing is it also helps remineralize any small decay that might have started.”
In the absence of extensive voter surveys, it’s hard to know who will prevail at the ballot box.
Victor Johnson, 80 and fresh from a cavity-free visit to Brouillette’s dental chair, sides with the man who tends to his teeth.
“Why take the word of uninformed people when the educated people know more than the rabblerousers?” he asked.
Laurie Plock, 28 and mother of three, is on the fence.
“I’m not against it. I’m not for it,” she said during a break in shopping errands. “There are a lot worse things in our water.”
Marcia Pedersen, 53 and another downtown shopper, takes a darker view.
“My chiropractor told me fluoride is not good for my body and she’s totally against it,” Pedersen said.
Sought out for confirmation on that point, chiropractic physician Julie Schelkopf acknowledged fluoride’s value in battling tooth decay, but said it also could interfere with the body’s ability to process vitamins.
“Now we’re going to add something to water which is going to cause us to have a decrease in what we get from vitamins,” she said.
Johnson puts his trust in his dentist and his City Council. He trusts his memory to guide him past tricky ballot language.
“If you’re for it,” he said of fluoridation, “you’ve got to vote no.”