Clean Water Portland and Healthy Kids Healthy Portland—the "No" and "Yes" campaigns on fluoride—held their first community meetings over the last two weeks as both sides geared up for battle over Measure 26-151, a city council-approved proposal to fluoridate Portland's water supply, which faces a referendum vote in May.
WW stopped by both events to eat both sides' food, drink both sides' booze and get both sides of an issue that has polarized the city.
Anti-fluoridation event: Clean Water Portland, the all-volunteer non-profit that got the referendum on the ballot
Where: Clean Water Portland's main office at 1125 SE Madison St., #112
When: 7 pm Wednesday, January 23
The scene: Clean Water Portland's event felt like a neighborhood discussion club's monthly get-together. The medium-sized group of volunteers—middle-aged, tie-dye and denim clad hippies, with a few tribally tattooed twentysomethings for variety—gathered in a small, spartan office and engaged in passionate discussion. These folks are true believers: The room was abuzz with denunciations of fluoridation as both a public health hazard and a violation of democracy, and every mention of Portland City Council, which approved the measure without a public vote, was booed soundly and loudly. Volunteer coordinators galvanized their would-be canvassers with a sense of mission while reminding them to "stick with the facts" about fluoridation when persuading likely voters in order to counter the "conspiracy theorist" label that has been associated with anti-fluoridation activists for years.
Big names: None.
Snacks: Pizza, wine and veggies with ranch dip.
Pro-fluoridation event: Healthy Kids Healthy Portland, the coalition group formed last month to support of Measure 26-151
Where: Campaign headquarters, 2419 SE Sandy
When: 5:30 pm January 29
The scene: If Clean Water Portland's event was a small-scale, underdog affair, Healthy Kids Healthy Portland's community kickoff had the feeling of an actual campaign rally. The campaign's expansive office was packed with supporters in business casual attire, and campaign representatives on hand to give out flyers. Supporters of the measure spoke of fluoridation as a matter of social justice, saying that fluoridated water would better serve the dental needs of the city's poor and communities of color; accordingly, civil rights groups such as the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) were there in full force to support the measure.
Big names: Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, City Commissioner Steve Novick, Metro Board Member Sam Chase and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) addressed the crowd in support of the fluoridation measure, to politely enthusiastic applause.
Snacks: Chips, pretzels and one lonely box of wine.