Fluoride vote legal

FLUORIDE webBenjamin Gohs

News Editor

Attorneys for the Boyne City Commission determined that a recent vote to discontinue fluoridation of the city’s water supply was legal.
The opinion came from the commission’s civil counsel James Murray and Rhonda Stowers of Plunkett Cooney law firm in a June 6 memo to the commission.
“The city acted in a legal manner with regard to this issue and the decision of the commission is valid,” Murray and Stowers stated in the memo, citing that in 1973 when the fluoridation issue was first considered by Boyne City, a 1968 Michigan law required municipalities to add fluoride to public water supplies unless they adopted an ordinance prohibiting its use.
“This statute made the addition of fluoride to the public water supply mandatory by July 19, 1973 unless an ordinance was passed or a majority of electors voted against it,” they stated in the memo. “Boyne City adopted such an ordinance in June of 1973, the month prior to the deadline set forth in the (1968) statute.”
According to the memo, in the same June 1973 meeting that Boyne City Commissioners passed the ordinance rejecting fluoride usage, they also voted unanimously to let the voters of Boyne City decide the matter at the Nov. 6, 1973 election.
“Given the language of the … ordinance, putting the question of fluoridation to the voters constituted a referendum,” Murray and Stowers stated in the memo. “This manner of a referendum was permissible under Section 7.23 of the City Charter of 1960, which provides that ‘any ordinance may be adopted, amended or repealed at any time by appropriate referendum or initiatory procedure in accordance with provisions of this chapter or if submitted to the electorate by the commission on its own motion.’”
The memo continued, “The question was presented to the electorate as: ‘Shall the City of Boyne City fluoridate the city’s water supply system as provided for in Act 346 of Public Acts of the State of Michigan for 1968?’ The electorate voted 295 to 148 in favor of fluoridation, resulting in the repeal of Ordinance A-47 and the implementation of the state mandate to fluoridate the city’s water supply.”
According to the memo, a new Public Health Code was adopted in 1978 which repealed the state’s fluoride act.
“The new statutory provision concerning fluoridation of water supplies made the addition of fluoride optional, rather than mandatory,” they stated in the memo, adding that there are no provisions in the city’s charter which prohibits the city commission’s undoing of a referendum.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said the opinion seemed clear and that he was OK with it.
This matter arose when the commission voted, on May 13, 3-2 to stop the city’s practice of adding fluoride to the municipal water system.
Following several public comments and questions regarding the legality of vote, the commission—on May 27—directed its legal counsel to investigate the matter.
No further action was taken by the commission.