The passionate campaigns around fluoride in city water have sparked big spending.
Durango voters are being asked April 4 to decide whether to remove fluoride from the city’s drinking water. Most-recent campaign filings show the pro-fluoride campaign has outraised and outspent its rival committee.
The campaign to preserve fluoride in the water, Healthy Kids Healthy Durango, collected $22,465 in cash and in-kind donations through March 16. The campaign spent $8,769.
Clean Water Durango, the group fighting against water fluoridation, collected $1,045 in cash through March 16 from three people. The group disclosed spending $2,641 through March 16. Much of the spending – $2,462 – was part of an addendum that was not formally added to the donation total.
Bob Lieb, who filed the report and donated to the campaign, said the anti-fluoride campaign plans to raise and spend a total of $5,000, mostly for signage, advertising and informational brochures. He said most of those donations are coming through the campaign’s website.
Lieb said the campaign relies on volunteers, as opposed to the pro-fluoride side, which has hired people to advocate.
“It’s a David and Goliath campaign, no doubt about it,” Lieb said. “And we’re the David. They’ve brought a lot of out-of-town money.”
Most of the donations to the pro-flouride campaign came from Healthier Colorado, a Denver-based nonprofit that contributed $17,340 of in-kind support such as mailings, web marketing and other contributions. The campaign also collected $5,125 in cash donations from 30 individuals – including 11 dentists.
Healthier Colorado is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to improve public health through public policy.
Kate Stigberg, director of activism for Healthier Colorado, said an email from concerned residents in Durango, including oral health professionals, asked the group for help.
The group has been supporting water fluoridation since January 2016 in partnership with Colorado Children’s Campaign, Delta Dental and the Colorado Dental Association.
“Efforts to rollback this healthy practice, like in Hayden and now in Durango, are always on our radar,” Stigberg said.
Before getting involved with any campaign, the group evaluates a number of factors, including whether the campaign is winnable.
Sherrod Beall, who is leading the fluoride campaign locally, said she became involved after attending a meeting at San Juan Basin Public Health with representatives from Colorado Dental Association and Healthier Colorado.
Health department officials had been involved with educating the public about fluoride, but once it became a ballot issue, they withdrew, she said.
Beall volunteered to lead the campaign for fluoride, and both the dental association and Healthier Colorado representatives offered to help her, she said.
“They are just worried that Durango will set a bad precedent,” she said.
firstname.lastname@example.orgHerald Staff Writer Jonathan Romeo contributed to this report.