Portland voters reject fluoridation
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
#1 May 23, 2013
Portland fluoride: For the fourth time since 1956, Portland voters reject fluoridation
Fluoride supporters, it appeared, had everything going for them.
Five Portland city commissioners had voted to add fluoride to the city water supply. Health advocacy groups, and many of the city's communities of color, lined up behind the cause. And proponents outraised opponents 3-to-1.
But none of that was enough. For the fourth time since 1956, Portlanders on Tuesday night rejected a plan to fluoridate city water, 60 percent to 40 percent.
"There's a libertarian component to Oregon politics ... a kind of opposition to what the establishment might want," said Bill Lunch, a political science professor at Oregon State University. "Those who have more money, despite the kind of popular presumptions in this regard, don't always win elections."
The lesser-known of two issues on the Portland ballot passed easily. Voters approved a third renewal of the city's Children's Levy with more than 70 percent in favor. The levy directs more than $9 million a year to programs that support about 14,000 children annually in areas such as child abuse prevention, after-school activities and foster care.
The campaign to renew the levy, however, took a back seat to the fight over fluoride, which intensified in the weeks leading to Election Day.
In Portland, where a largely Democratic electorate often finds liberal candidates struggling to differentiate themselves, the fluoride debate created stark, and heated, divisions.
Both campaigns accused the other of stealing yard signs. A thinly veiled anti-fluoride push poll went out to voters. Opponents were described as insensitive to equity issues, while proponents were accused of wanting to willingly pollute the city's famously pure water.
The issue also wound up politicizing a statewide health report that showed falling cavity and tooth decay rates in the state over the past five years. One of the report's authors said she felt pressured by Upstream Health, the group spearheading fluoridation, to present the findings in a certain way.
More than $1 million was spent on the campaign, a considerable total for a Portland-only election. But Portland finds itself back where it has historically been, as the only city among the nation's 30 most populous to not approve fluoridation.
Clean Water Portland, the group leading the opposition, was hesitant to claim victory, but it was clear an hour after the 8 p.m. ballot deadline that the measure didn't have enough support.
Still, said Kellie Barnes, a spokeswoman for the group, "when you really get down to it, clean water is a universal issue.
"When citizens took a look at the information, they decided for themselves that the risk wasn't worth it."
Barnes wouldn't discuss possible next steps, although the group has said it would like a ban on fluoride written into the city charter.
"I think we're going to take a little rest and reevaluate where we are."
The pro-fluoride group Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland conceded defeat early. "Disappointed" was the word of the night.
"The results are certainly disappointing, but I think they're mostly disappointing because, at the end of the day, we were not able to provide this preventative measure" to people who need it, said Alejandro Queral, co-chair of the group's steering committee. "The issue doesn't go away at the end of the election."
Dana Haynes, Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman, said Hales had no plans to come back at the issue but shared supporters' frustration.
"The measure lost even with my own 'yes' vote," the mayor said in a statement. "Disappointing, but I accept the will of the voters."
Portland has been at odds with fluoridation for more than half a century.
#2 May 23, 2013
You're a nut.
#3 May 23, 2013
The fluoridated water would have reached 900,000 people, those people are now safe.
#4 May 23, 2013
Had it for decades, you're a child.
#5 May 23, 2013
Is that what you blame your mental retardation on?
Saint Paul, MN
#6 May 23, 2013
Those Portland people vote like you do, slew.
#7 May 23, 2013
I get all my water from the fresh well near my bunker. Nothing but the best water for my.
#8 May 23, 2013
My what ?
You know, I've always heard money talks. Anyone here got a real voice ??
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