Group says it has needed signatures to put fluoride to a vote

Group says it has needed signatures to put fluoride to a vote
Opponents of fluoride in Portland drinking water have until Oct. 12 to gather nearly 20,000 signatures and put the issue to a public vote.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The group pushing to let the residents of Portland decide whether they want fluoride in their water said Thursday they’ve gathered the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot.

Clean Water Portland needs about 20,000 signatures to put the issue to a public vote. In a press release, referendum supporters said they had surpassed that number but are aiming for 30,000 as a buffer to ensure they have enough verified signatures. The group has until next Friday, Oct. 12 to gather the signatures.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Portland city commissioners unanimously voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water, saying it will help protect the health of the public’s teeth, especially among children.

The issue has been contentious and city council meetings have been intense – several unruly protesters were removed by police during the final vote after they yelled, cursed and hissed.

Opponents of fluoridation of the city’s drinking water say fluoride is poisonous. But city leaders say the science is clear that it is beneficial and safe.

But those who want a public vote say their success in gathering the signatures is an indication that the public is concerned about putting fluoride in the water.

“It’s obvious that Portlanders are very passionate about their drinking water and when you have people literally running up to us to sign the referendum petition it makes signature gathering a lot easier, said an active signature gatherer, Frances Quaempts-Miller, in Clean Water Portland’s press release.”

A recent KATU News/SurveyUSA poll found that 45 percent of Portland voters oppose the fluoridation of the water while 43 percent are OK with it. But 12 percent were undecided and the result was within the poll’s margin of error of 4.1 percent.

But significantly the poll found that 79 percent of the respondents wanted a public vote on the issue. One of the complaints about the issue has been that the public, and even other cities served by Portland water, has been left out of the process.

If found to qualify for the ballot, the earliest Portlanders would be able to vote on the issue would be in May of 2014, which is two months after fluoridation is scheduled to begin, unless a special election is called.

Both Portland mayoral candidates, Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales, say they're in support of fluoridation.