Referendum: Fluoride fans seek sigs for ballot prop

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Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

Frustrated over a recent 3-2 decision to rescind the 1973 voter-approved fluoridation of Boyne City’s drinking water, some citizens are pushing back.
Several residents addressed the Boyne City Commission during the board’s July 8 meeting over the commission’s earlier decisions to stop the practice of adding fluoride to Boyne City’s municipal water supply and to prevent the matter from going to a vote of the people without use of a referendum.
“We are forming a committee and we are going to petition to put the issue of fluoridation on the fall ballot,” said Carl VanDomelen… “We are confident that we’ve got 600-plus signatures … and we will repudiate the votes of (Boyne City Commissioners) Laura (Sansom) of Derek (Gaylord) and of Gene (Delbert Towne) in the fall election.”
The group working to get the fluoride vote on the November ballot calls itself “Citizens United for Dental Health.” The group will hold a petition drive for registered voters only from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday July 21 and Tuesday July 22 at the Boyne District Library’s community room, located at 201 East Main St. in Boyne City.
The proposed ordinance language on VanDomelen’s petition is as follows: “For the purpose of promoting public health through prevention of dental disease, the city manager is hereby directed to establish and maintain fluoride levels in the city’s waterworks system as prescribed by the State of Michigan. The city manager shall establish a testing program that accurately show fluoride levels in the public water supply on a monthly basis and those results shall be posted on the city website within 30 days after the test results have been obtained.”
Retired dentist Richard Fish said he left the last city commission meeting confused because the commissioners in opposition to hydro-fluoridation said they were in favor of giving the citizens more power to make choices—by allowing them to decide whether to buy fluoridated products as opposed to having their drinking water fluoridated for them—but then refused to allow the matter to go to a vote of the people.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Fish said.
Fish said he moved to Boyne City in the mid-1960s and spent many years trying to provide good dental care and that the city was taking a step backward and squashing the Democratic process by its decision.
Toward the end of the meeting, Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said he fully supported the public’s right to work to put the matter up for a vote in November.
He also said the commission represented all the citizens of the city, even those who make their comments outside of public meetings.
Local boat-builder Ben VanDam also opined on the matter.
“I can’t claim to be educated in this matter—I’m an engineer by training—but in my field I have had the opportunity to see, many times, well-intentioned people fail because they don’t understand the fundamentals and principles of engineering,” he said. “We have a similar situation here, where a well-intentioned group of people have gone against the experts and professionals and made a decision that, if unchanged, would have a serious negative consequence to our community … and all of this based on not one single substantiated fact.”
VanDam added, “The fact that three of you could sit in front of this room and act on fear and rumor and make an emotional decision in one night to remove that which was put in place based on science and logic and fact is very difficult for me to accept.”
VanDam said the simple fact is that the three commissioners and the small group of residents who supported their move to stop the city’s practice of adding fluoride to the water are not educated or misinformed in the matter.
“Unfortunately, what we witnessed here was a decision based on emotions rather than a logical thought process,” VanDam said. “For the past few months you have heard from people who are truly educated in this subject, people who have dedicated their lives to this very thing—all of them promoting fluoride’s safe use.”
In order to get this matter to a vote of the public, the petition must contain a minimum of 558 signatures, and be submitted to Boyne City Clerk Cindy Grice by July 29.
“I have to verify they have the appropriate number of signatures and make sure it wasn’t signed twice and that the signatures match their voter registration,” she said.
The ballot proposal’s wording has to be certified by Grice’s office by Aug. 12 and by the Charlevoix County Clerk by Aug. 14 in order for it to appear on the Nov. 4 general election.
“We want to make sure we’re doing it right so we’re getting clarification,” said Grice, who added that the process can be quite confusing since referendums do not happen often. The last one in Boyne City was the 2008 referendum to create a parking ordinance.