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Q&A: Portland Rejects Fluoride; Timber Counties Split On Levies

Dentist Jay Levy, organizer Kim Kaminski, and volunteers with Clean Water Portland

Dentist Jay Levy, organizer Kim Kaminski, and volunteers with Clean Water Portland

April Baer/Oregon Public Broadcasting

Portland voters have rejected a fluoride measure, and in three timber counties with public safety levies on the ballot, there are three different results.

April Baer spoke live with OPB’s Geoff Norcross Wednesday morning.

GN: In some parts of Oregon today, voters broke long-standing electoral trends. In others, long traditions held firm. OPB’s April Baer joins us now for a quick survey of last night’s election results. Good morning, April.

AB: Hi Geoff.

GN: Let’s start with some of the public safety levies that were on the ballot in the southern half of Oregon last night.

AB: Right. Folks might remember there were three counties with long histories the in timber business who’ve come to the end of federal subsidies. These three in particular have had big problems maintaining their public safety budgets.

GN: We had stories last week on the lack of patrol in much of Josephine County, and Lane County’s inability to keep people in its jail, for lack of staffing.

Lane County Corrections

Lane County Corrections

April Baer/OPB

AB: Yes. But Lane County voters approved their jail levy last night. Early returns had it passing 56 to 43 percent. Keep in mind, it’s been almost a quarter of a century since Lane County passed a public safety levy. Sheriff Tom Turner presided over this win. He says he can get the jail expanded in about two months.

GN: How about the other two O&C Counties with public safety levies?

AB: It looks as though both Josephine and Curry County voters are saying no, according to returns so far. The unofficial returns have the Josephine County levy failing by 539 votes. We’ll keep an eye on that one later today. In Curry County, the levy was getting 56% no votes, 43% yes.

GN: What’s going to happen now?

AB: The Oregon Senate Rules Committee has been considering a bill that would give the state certain powers. The Governor was involved drafting it. Under its terms, the state could declare a public safety emergency, and impose a temporary tax to shore up the jail and other safety services for up to 18 months.

GN: What else happened last night?

AB: Well, Portland’s fluoridation measure failed. Early results put it at a 60% no vote, and 40% in favor. Consider that the supporters spent $671,000 dollars - twice what the opposition spent.

GN: Isn’t this the fourth time Portlanders have rejected fluoride.

AB: Yes. I spoke with Alejandro Queral with the Northwest Health Foundation, one of the key groups with the campaign. He said fluoride supporters believed the city’s electorate had changed. But he acknowledged that turned out to be incorrect.

Queral said, “At the end of the day, it all comes down to messaging and what resonates with voters. And I think there’s a sort of common sense in Portland that we have to fight for natural resources that all of us subscribe to. Trying to distinguish between their message and our message was complicated.”

As for Clean Water Portland, the group that lead the opposition to the measure, they had quite the celebration last night.

Mike Lindberg is a former city Councilman who opposes fluoridation. He says he felt voters responded to how last year’s council got the measure on the ballot, trying to head off an anti-fluoride referendum.

Lindberg said, “If there’s anything that upset Portlanders, it’s a sense of injustice.”

Here’s Kim Kaminski, one of the chief organizers:

Kaminski said, “We all want to find real solutions to the problem of children’s‘ tooth decay. Programs of dental sealants, programs of dental rinses, they are effective in preventing children’s dental decay. There are so many better alternatives than fluoridating 100% of our water.”

Supporters of the measure raised $800K. Kaminski’s group raised $300K to oppose it.

April Baer/OPB

GN: So the long campaign season is over.

AB: Yes, but as some wag put it on Facebook last night, bets on when the first fluoridated cocktail hits the menu at your local watering hole.

GN: Thanks, April.

AB: Anytime.

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