Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the Pinellas County Commission's 4-3 vote to stop adding fluoride to the water supply.
In the understated words of Nancy Bostock, one of the four commissioners who supported that change, the vote was "controversial." And the controversy is still being played out on the campaign trail.
Tuesday night in Gulfport, at the Pasadena Golf Club Estates candidate forum at the Most Holy Name Catholic Church, all six candidates running for commissioner were asked to weigh in on the issue. For the three incumbents on the ballot, it was a matter of reiterating why they voted the way they did a year ago. For their challengers, it was an opportunity to express where they stand on taking fluoride out of the water system.
Janet Long and Charlie Justice, the Democrats challenging the two Republican incumbents, are using their opponents' support of that measure as a key talking point.
Republican incumbent Neil Brickfield, who's being challenged by Long, had this to say on the subject:
"I voted to stop supplementing our water with fluoride," said Brickfield. "I think that we the citizens of Pinellas County should be able to choose for ourselves what goes in our body. I put a proposal to our County Commission that we put this out for citizen referendum, so we, all of us, could decide for ourselves. That wasn’t accepted. if I’m reelected I’m willing to put that back before the county commission. Fundamentally I think we should be able to decide for ourselves what we do or don’t like."
Janet Long responded, "I would vote to put fluoride back in the water. Part of the question was, what background or what expertise do you have to make that decision? If there’s one thing that I learned from serving in the Florida Legislature, is that when you’re an elected official, you cannot possibly know and be an expert on every single thing that comes before you, so therefore, if you’re smart and a thoughtful leader, you’re going to reach out to the people who are the experts — the medical professionals and the scientists who make it their life’s work to understand all of these particular issues.."