Advocates made passionate pleas for preserving and removing fluoride from the city’s water Thursday at a League of Women forum at Durango City Hall.
Jim Forleo with Clean Water Durango and Sherrod Beall with the No on 1A Campaign answered an array of questions about fluoride from the audience about its effects.
Residents will be asked whether they would like to end water fluoridation within the city of Durango during the April 4 election.
A “yes” vote on ballot question 1A will remove fluoride from the water and a “no” vote will preserve the city’s practice of adding fluoride.
Residents will also choose between five Durango City Council candidates to fill three seats. Melissa Youssef, Dave McHenry, Tom Eskew, Chris Bettin and incumbent Councilor Dean Brookie also outlined their opinions during the televised forum on issues such as secondary housing units, paying for new infrastructure and the future of the Mason Center on Third Avenue and 12th Street.
During the fluoride debate, Forleo and Beall described contrasting versions of the same additive.
Forleo described fluoride as a toxic drug responsible for causing lower IQs, thyroid disease, bone cancer and many other side effects, while not improving oral health.
Tooth decay has been declining in both communities that fluoridate and those that don’t, he argued.
“Durango residents want a choice of whether to receive a drug every day in our water,” he said.
For low-income children, fluoridated water may be the only form of dental care they receive, and it is especially important for those under 5 years old, Beall said.
Living in a community with fluoridated water is one of the top factors that contribute to oral health, and the naturally occurring fluoride in the water is not sufficient, she said.
“Once fluoride is taken out of the water, the rate of dental decay increases,” she said.
The council candidate discussion was less divisive, with the candidates finding common ground on several issues. Secondary housing units, once divisive in the community, drew general approval from the candidates as long as they are regulated.
If residents in additional neighborhoods would like secondary units legalized, they would need to ask council to change the land-use code, Brookie said.
The councilors also generally agreed that they would talk with the neighborhood about how to develop the Mason Center, but they would like to see it be used as a park. Youssef suggested using part of the space for parking to alleviate the pressure on the neighborhood and McHenry agreed.
“Parking is a huge issue in that area,” she said.
The group presented various ideas to pay for infrastructure projects.
Bettin and McHenry suggested asking voters to reallocate half of the 2005 half-cent sales tax for infrastructure projects. Half of this revenue must be used to pay off debt on Durango Public Library and Florida Road until 2026.
Youssef would like to see the new council take a comprehensive look at all of the city’s needs. Once all those needs are understood, she would consider asking voters to reallocate the tax and increase the lodgers tax to fund infrastructure.
Brookie explained most of the city’s projects, such as water, sewer and roads, are prioritized as part of a five-year plan. But the city has some unfunded needs like stormwater drainage projects, and future city councilors will have to struggle with those.
Eskew said the city has money for projects, but they need to be prioritized.
Recorded copies of the forum are available at the Durango Public Library.