The Commission voted 6-1 in favor of fluoride, not a surprise at all after the board members expressed their views at a workshop last week. Commissioner Norm Roche, who at one point after the election had said that he had seen the light and would support fluoride, again went back to where he says he's been since 2003, when the county initially voted to add the chemical into the county's water supply.
"The science is not crystal clear," Roche said at the end of the three and a half hour meeting, again calling for a referendum to allow the citizenry to decide for themselves. Sensitive to charges that he is carrying the Tea Party's water on the board, Roche insisted that his thinking was "not ideological, not partisan," adding sarcastically that there had been no "super secret right-wing Tea Party meeting" that allowed him to come to his decision.
The hearing by citizens speaking either in support of or against fluoride. Actually, the vast majority spoke against it, and some speakers were visceral in their anger towards the commission.
Several dentists or dental assistants did come out to voice their support for the board's decision, fueled by this month's election that saw two County Commission candidates - Democrats Charlie Justice and Janet Long - defeat their Republican opponents who supported removing fluoride last year. That's led to claims by the media that their elections were a referendum on fluoride, a statement fiercely contested by opponents.
71-year-old fluoride critic Marge Baker was the first of three speakers to break out the Hitler card, saying that the former German leader put the chemical into the drinking water supply for prisoners to make them calm. She ended her time at the dais by claiming the board was trying to kill her.
Vonabell Sherman said she was "dumbfounded" that the board would put a "toxin" in the water, and said she had her "momma bear claws" out to protect herself and her family. "You have no right to medicate the people of Pinellas County," she averred.
One of the Tea Party activists who has become a regular over the years at the BOCC, Hamilton Hanson, came through with another Nazi reference, suggesting that perhaps the next step from the government would be to release "gas out of the chamber."
And so it went.
County officials said that they would be able to put inserts in the water bills of all citizens in either January or February, meaning fluoride will be back in the water supply by March 1, 2013.
Some cities in the county like St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Belleair never took fluoride out of their water supply. Other communities voted to add fluoridation in the wake of the 2011 vote.