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No on 14-23 Well-intentioned idea, too drastic

By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA

Hood River News Editor

May 7, 2005

Though its backers are well-intentioned, we firmly recommend a “no” vote on Ballot Measure 14-23 on the May 17 ballot. Our review of the proposal draws down to the following four points:

* It is unnecessary, given that existing state and federal regulations help ensure clean water — and Hood River water is already renowned for its high quality. The ballot summary itself states, “Addition of substances is currently subject to state and federal standards,” then goes on to say, “but these standards do not contain a prohibition on addition of industrial waste byproducts and do not apply the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Levels Goals.”

This is somewhat circular reasoning; until it can be shown that existing regulations are insufficient to protect the water, new standards should not be placed upon a healthy water system.

* It is too broad: The proposal would amend the city charter. This is a little extreme; changing the charter is tantamount to changing the Constitution. Again, there are already safeguards in place to protect our city’s water.

* It is too drastic: Measure 14-23 draws too hard and deep a line in the future policy-making flexibility for the city. In a prescriptive fashion, Measure 14-23 micro-manages the charter, the city’s basic policy framework.

Measure 14-23 proponents also note that the science on fluoride is still under research. There seem to be as many arguments vaunting the safety of fluoride as those that frame it as toxic. Closing the door on water additives at the city charter level goes farther than this community ought to go.

* It is unrealistic: The goals it sets for the city are ones that may not be necessary, given the healthy state of the water, and that there is no certainty any future fluoride vote would pass.

Some have said Measure 14-23 “is not about fluoride.” It is but it isn’t. Its supporters are well-educated on the issue, and they deserve credit for raising the community’s awareness of the issue. The debate in the past six weeks, while fervent, has at least helped prepare voters for the actual vote on fluoridation, set for the November ballot.

Nowhere in the proposal does it specifically mention fluoride, but that has been the debate. The vote on whether or not to add fluoride to the water supply will be in November. The question before the voters will be one issue, clear and simple.

A stance against 14-23 does not, and should not, be considered to be a stance for or against water fluoridation. Any such position will have its time and place. Nor is this the time or place for Measure 14-23.

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