The effort to stop fluoride from being added to Anchorage’s water supply is one of those fights that tends to elicit rolled eyes and a chorus of snickers in political circles and on local talk radio shows. In political circles, the alleged danger of fluoride in our drinking water ranks right up there with other perceived fringe theories like chemtrails and Muslim terrorist compounds in the Mat-Su. What, too soon on that last one? Sorry.
If you’re not familiar with the fluoride in the water supply issue here is a good recent article from KTOO.
The less-than-kind response from the political establishment to the anti-fluoride effort hasn’t stopped one earnest young candidate from making it his signature issue. Dustin Darden has run almost continuously the last two years for Anchorage Mayor, Assembly, and State House, and each of his campaigns has made fluoride one of his key issues.
While Darden isn’t currently registered as a candidate for any office, he is still campaigning against his old nemesis, fluoride. This time that campaign is taking the form of two voter initiatives. One would require the firms supplying Anchorage with fluoride for our drinking water to provide more detailed information on the contents of the product and certify its safety for human ingestion. The other initiative would stop the fluoridation of Anchorage’s water supply altogether.
You have to find it adorable the way Darden made the “t” in water into a cross.
Both initiatives have been approved by the Municipal attorney and the Clerk’s Office and are now supporters need to get the required 5,734 signatures of registered voters in order to see them appear on the Muni ballot April 4.
So far this is all a pretty straight forward story. A fringe candidate (Darden has not received more than 9.5% of the vote in any of his runs for office the last two years) is pushing what is commonly viewed as a fringe issue.
However, when the initiative applications are examined, some interesting, mainstream and newly powerful political names appear. Those applications require a sponsor to be listed, which as expected is Darden himself, along with a co-sponsor and the names and signatures of at least ten qualified voters, before the ballot language is reviewed and the larger round of signatures can be gathered.
Initiative proponents regularly use that list of voters is regularly to demonstrate who are the core group of supporters. For instance, with last year’s failed effort to repeal the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the Muni’s non-discrimination code, sponsors included only conservative women among the list of initial signatories as a way of showing it wasn’t just old, conservative, white men attacking the LGBT community.
The initial paperwork for this year’s two anti-fluoride initiatives includes the names of two ascending state house representatives. Incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck appears on both fluoride initiatives as the Co-sponsor and newly elected Rep-elect Jason Grenn is listed among the first ten signers for the initiative to discontinue the Muni’s use of fluoride entirely.
In an interview last week Grenn said his signature on the petition shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement: “As it states now, I would vote against it. I don’t believe we need to change our city code to remove fluoride.” So why did he sign? “I believe in putting things on the ballot to have people vote yes or no on them, so it could be pretty much anything and if someone stops me in front of REI or Carrs, I sign,” he said. It appears Darden passed his application around at a candidate forum the two attended and Grenn accommodated.
Tuck is a different story. “I am an anti-fluoride-in-the-water person” he said in an interview last week. He continued, “You can’t control how much of it you’re getting when it’s in your water supply. People are brushing their teeth with fluoride and getting fluoride treatment, it’s just really hard to maintain and control when some people are drinking more water and others less water.We have some of the best water in the world and I just don’t really want it contaminated with fluoride”
Tuck said after hearing a presentation on the arguments in favor and opposed to the fluoridation of water a few years ago, he did his own research on this issue and its history and came to the conclusion that sodium fluoride, as opposed to the naturally occurring calcium fluoride, is unhealthy.
Even so, don’t expect to see Tuck as the face of an anti-fluoride effort this year. Tuck said with recently moving from the legislative minority to the post of House Majority Leader is occupying his time these days: “I’d like to be more involved in the campaign, but I’ve got other things I’m working on.”
It is unknown if Darden will be able to muster the volunteer base needed to gather the 5,734 necessary signatures to get the two initiatives in front of voters. It’s an even bigger unknown if voters will have an appetite for either if Darden succeeds in getting them on the April 4 ballot. Having such a high-profile member of more mainstream politics as the House Majority Leader on board, however, should help move this issue from mockery worthy theory to a slightly more serious issue worthy of discussion.