ACTIVISTS UPDATE: Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 1:30 A.M.
Due to a variety of circumstances, Fluoride Free Austin has been largely inactive since February 2017. But that is about to change. In the months ahead, and particularly in the New Year, we will be gradually updating this website as well as the Fluoride Follies blog, accessible by the blog button on this page.
We're still here. We've never really gone away. And we'll be back with some new ideas and some new strategies in 2019. Stay tuned.
Laura Pressley, Ph.D. recently filed her landmark appeal and final legal brief in her historic election challenge to Travis County's elections process. Oral argument took place on April 27th in the Third Court of Appeals, Travis County, and a decision is expected within a month. The outcome will affect the integrity of elections Texas-wide.
MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS
This page was last updated during a period of optimism: a time of hope that the still-new 10-1 City Council, elected by districts, would have a stronger connection with the average Austinite’s concerns than prior at-large Councils: would make decisions in the interests of constituents rather than out of political considerations. Regrettably, that hasn’t happened. City government is as politically-driven as ever and the Council members, Don Zimmerman excepted, seem as entrenched in appeasing the special interests that have ruled Austin for years as those they replaced. Nor has the committee system, touted as a quicker route of citizen access to the Council’s attention, fulfilled its promise.
Last summer, we gained firsthand experience of that failure. In June, Councilman Zimmerman, vice-chair of the Public Utilities Committee, decided, in the absence on maternity leave of chair Delia Garza, to bring the fluoridation issue to PUC’s agenda at its June 17 meeting. Two city staffers: Ruth Jane Burazer, the Water Utility’s regular apologist and Janet Pichette, Health and Human Services’ chief epidemiologist represented the fluoride cheerleaders. Two local biologic dentists, Dr. Griffin Cole and Dr. Joan Sefcik, gave the anti-fluoride professionals’ side. Discussion among the three Committee members present was thoughtful and intelligent, but in the end Zimmerman could not get a second to his motion to bring fluoridation before the full City Council. Instead, members Ellen Troxclair and Ann Kitchen—both newcomers to the issue—expressed a need for more time to study into it and the meeting adjourned without a vote taken.
PUC did not meet in July. In August, Delia Garza returned as chair determined to assert control. She arranged for an August 19 joint meeting of PUC and the Public Health and Human Services Committee (PHHSC) chaired by Ora Houston, to kill the matter once and for all. Significantly, Troxclair and Garza herself are members of both committees; Kathie Tovo, potentially the only new face, was a no-show. The format Garza set up was carefully pre-scripted to shut off all serious discussion and preserve the status quo. Declaring that she wanted no “back and forth” (the essence of debate), she assigned a strict 15-minute time limit to presenters on both sides, plus three 3-minute slots for two pro- and two con-F citizens communication speakers. Dr. Philip Huang, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department medical “authority”, the first speaker, opened with his favorite and foundational lie: an assertion that the highly toxic fluorosilicic acid put into water is identical to natural (calcium) fluoride, and fluoridation simply an “upward adjustment” of an already-occurring natural substance. This statement provided an instant pretext for all the committee members save Zimmerman to avoid a political hot potato. Armed with the medical officer’s permission to vote for continued fluoridation they completely ignored all opposition input, turning a deaf ear to information from two prominent dentists and a pharmacist, and treating a distinguished LULAC leader with palpable coldness. Neither of the “opportunity district” beneficiaries—Houston and Garza—showed the slightest interest in knowing that fluoride’s toxicity disproportionately impacts communities of color. In the end, Zimmerman was unable to secure a second to his motion for Council-wide consideration and the issue died in committee—for the time being.
The entire meeting can be viewed on this page and is well worth watching in its entirety. For those who crave shorter clips, there are some interesting takeaways:
DELIA GARZA believes she has the right to force every single family in Austin to drink fluoridated water (or at least pay for it) because she can’t get every single family in Austin to brush with fluoridated toothpaste.
ORA HOUSTON thinks fluoridated water is the best use of dollars in a district with 6,000 hungry children because with without it “they would have more cavities than they already do.” (how many that might be we didn’t get a chance to ask).
ELLEN TROXCLAIR, who furnishes her office with fluoride-free water at taxpayer expense, uttered not a peep during the proceedings. . .
ANN KITCHEN has absolute, blind faith in the wisdom of the Public Health and Human Services Department burearcracy, something she neglected to mention during the June meeting.
A former Pew operative made a surprise appearance in the guise of simply “an Austin resident and a mother.” STEPHANIE RUBIN, who has since moved on to another, Austin-based paid advocacy position, was comically flustered during her 3-minute citizens communication patter. See to believe!
WHAT'S NEW SINCE OUR LAST UPDATE
Just a year ago this month, the voters of Buda TX decisively rejected fluoridation by a healthy 66%. The town, which shares its water supplier with San Marcos, had lost fluoridation when the latter city voted to end it a year prior - and Buda citizens couldn't have been happier. So when the Buda city council quietly took steps to re-introduce it without consulting them, even going so far as to purchase the costly equipment, local activists got busy. Drawing upon the experiences of San Marcos before them, they organized to publicize the issue and, following a contentious city council meeting the Council unexpectedly voted to leave the issue to the people, who in November 2018 voted the toxic chemical out for good.
This month's elections brought big changes in Austin. Two Council members - Ora Houston (District 1) and Ellen Troxclair (District 8) - declined to run for re-election, and their successors will be determined by runoffs between newcomers. Pio Renteria (District 3) is also embroiled in a runoff, with his own sister Susana Almanza just as in 2014. With Don Zimmerman (District 6) having been replaced by Jimmy Flannigan and Sheri Gallo (District 10) by Alison Alter in a prior election, the Council will have an entire new look when it convenes in the New Year. In the Mayoral race, incumbent Steve Adler easily trounced challenger Laura Morrison, a past Council member.
November 13, 2018