The Fairbanks City Council demonstrated level heads last night when they voted against removing fluoride from city water. Councilwomen Tonya Brown and Vivian Stiver, who introduced the measure, supported the ban.
Maybe fluoridated water is a newly emerging health issue, maybe it is not. Maybe people who think fluoride should remain in drinking water because of its proven efficacy in preventing dental caries are Luddites (as opined by Doug Yates, director of Fluoride Free Fairbanks) and dullards blind to the mad conspiracy hatched by bureaucrats, scientists and gasp - the ADA - or maybe they aren't. Maybe fluoridated water really just wasn't much of an issue for the vast majority of city residents, not as gas and heating oil and electricity costs sky-rocketed this winter, not as the housing market collapsed, not as more and more servicemen and women were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So how on earth did fluoridated water, a complete non-issue in this area six months ago, make it onto the city council agenda? You might expect it was championed and pushed there by a group of concerned Fairbanks residents ... residents who drink city water and thus might have legitimacy in questioning what is in the water they drink.
Nope, gentle reader, it wasn't. It was the work of a hobbyist shit-stirrer, a person who trolls for molehills to make into mountains. This person makes a cause where none exists, shops it around and persists until a gullible ear is found. If a bit of a conspiracy can be manufactured into existence, so much the better. And there's always some bunko science or skewed statistic to hyperinflate the matter to one of dire importance.
Since the council voted the ban down, and Fluoride Free Fairbanks is now talking about mounting a citizen's initiative, I spent some time trying to find out who is Fluoride Free Fairbanks. The only two people that I could find openly associated with the group - billed as a group of concerned "residents" - are two that are most definitely not residents of Fairbanks, and thus do not drink the water.
So, here we have a non-issue that had its genesis in people who are not even directly affected by the matter. Already it has consumed city resources, and like a sulky, pukey child, demanded time and attention of the Mayor and Council - who really do have far more important issues to deal with: for starters, how about the deplorable lack of behavioral health care, the dearth of beds in the region's only detox center, and the inadequate size of the city police force?
Don't get me wrong. I am a strong and vocal proponent of the public process. But illegitimate end runs like this one - by people who are not stakeholders - steals legitimacy from the public and cheapens everyone's voice.