MARCH 22, 2011: A BIG DAY FOR FLUORIDE FREE AUSTIN
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. The best, because our two and a half years of tireless advocacy had finally forced the Austin City Council to recognize our cause in an official venue: the Council's Committee of Public Health and Human Services. Because, despite the inconvenient time (2 p.m. on a weekday) and a major competing political event at the Capitol, the 154-seat Council chambers was filled to near-capacity with our supporters. Because after three weeks of intensive planning, meetings and general blood, sweat and tears, our team of expert professionals had pulled together a seamless presentation of the highest quality - and our drop-in signups were just as impressive. Because the event was live-streamed and viewed by people all over the country - and the world.
The worst, because committee chair Randi Shade, who requested the "briefing" and could have moved to place water fluoridation on the agenda for consideration by the full Council or called for the independent investigation we've been waiting for so long did nothing. Because the Committee, comprising Shade, Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez, engaged in lively dialog with the City's official fluoridation apologists (Dr. Philip Huang, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Medical Director and Jane Burazer Assistant Director of the Austin Water Utility Treatment Division) but received our own information in polite silence. Because the media was largely absent.
Still, all in all it was a great day for Fluoride Free Austin. Although the Council members and Dr. Huang didn't appreciate our poster-sized blowups of bygone ads showing doctors and dentists shamelessly promoting cigarettes, the crowd loved them. Our badges, too, proved quite popular:
KVUE did give us some - albeit backhanded - coverage. Best of all, it's now clear even to the Council that we have very substantial support throughout the Austin community, and that the subject will be a significant campaign issue in the future.
View the entire meeting here::
You can also watch the segments pertaining to water fluoridation (Item 3 and Item 9, pts. 1 and 2)
Following are three 15-minute You Tube exerpts:.
The candidates forum later that evening in the Windsor Park neighborhood confirmed my earlier observation that water fluoridation as a serious campaign issue is here to stay. The three incumbents up for May re-election: Shade, Morrison and Chris Riley, were there - along with several of their challengers - to introduce themselves, set forth their platforms, and take questions from the voters. Being a damn fool (at least in this instance), I failed to record the exchanges and won't attempt to recreate them here. But the moderators, who had discretion about what written questions to put to the panelists in a very limited time frame, allowed questions about water fluoridation to be asked of both Shade and Morrison, while we had a brief conversation with Riley on the subject later on. All the incumbents responded in the politicianly language of "glad to be finally entering into a dialogue on this important subject..." or words to that effect. The challengers all either opposed fluoridation or were open-minded on the subject.
It's obvious that Shade is in political difficulty, her bid for a second term threatened by two high profile challengers. One is Max Nofziger, 3-term icon of the 1990's Council. The other is Planning Commissioner Kathie Tovo. Clearly, Shade has to at least pretend to listen to the citizens, at least for now.
I'm hoping to attend another candidates forum and record their answers - if I can find one. The candidates don't exactly broadcast those schedules: apparently they're not crazy about such opportunities to interact peraonally with the everyday folks whose votes can put them in the catbird seat.
I commented on this to a helper at Morrison's campaign headquarters the night the office opened. "Yeah...someone really ought to keep track of that, but nobody does," I was told. My informant went on to suggest that the events are usually sponsored by neighborhood associations, and maybe they just don't want too big a meeting, with too many outsiders. However, since the Council members are prone to boast that their "at large" status makes them "everybody's" representative, the argument seems odd to me.
And that's all I have for now. The saga continues.