Note: this article was originally published on April 8, 2013 as the first installment of my six part series for Mismanaging Perception on the unsuccessful campaign to fluoridate Portland’s water supply.
With the amount of media blitzing that’s bombarded Portland’s airwaves, interwebs, and neighborhood front yards, you’d have thought the dual campaigns for and against fluoridating Bull Run fresh water had been going on for years. In fact, this fight started in earnest just last fall, when the consulting & lobbying group Upstream Public Health began closed-door meetings with city hall. In a questionable lack of transparency, Upstream’s pro-fluoride lobbying sessions were kept off the city council’s public calendar.
There was but one public hearing before Mayor Sam Adams and the rest of city hall voted unanimously in favor of fellow commissioner Randy Leonard’s city ordinance No. 185612 – authorizing and directing the Portland Water Bureau to add fluoride to public drinking water.
Commissioner Randy Leonard, credit: Brent Wojahn
Leonard confirmed he received over 1,300 emails regarding fluoridation, mostly against his plan. But Leonard casually dismissed them, claiming he was comfortable making such decisions without a public vote. Well, the people disagreed.
With only 30 days to gather the 20,000 signatures required to enact a referendum on fluoride to allow a public vote, activists shifted into high gear. On October 11th, 2012 volunteers from Clean Water Portland delivered an astounding 43,000 signatures to the Portland auditor’s office.