In the contentious run-up to Tuesday night's vote on Measure 26-151, which would have fluoridated Portland's water supply, one of the most interesting rumors was the speculation about a possible legislative Plan B, should fluoridation go down to a narrow defeat.
The rumor went like this: Many Portland lawmakers, including House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), contributed to the pro-fluoridation campaign. There is also a bill, House Bill 3082, which contains broad enabling language—the bill says "relating to dental care for children."
As currently written, the bill directs the state Board of Education to make fluoride rinses available to all students after meals served at schools and to promote dental care in other ways. So the theory was that in the event of a narrow defeat, lawmakers could do simply amend the bill to apply only to Portland and to require fluoridating the city's water supply. Salem's history is replete with substantial amendments transforming otherwise innocuous bills into powerful forces for change.
But of course, the result Tuesday night was a blowout, as Clean Water Portland, the anti-fluoride campaign, triumphed 61 percent to 39 percent.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), who sponsored HB 3082 and who gave $1,000 to Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland from his campaign account, says speculation about amending the bill to fluoridate Portland's water is "crazy talk."
"I haven't heard anything about that," Greenlick says. "And I would have because it's my bill."
Meanwhile, Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland, which outspent its opponents by more than three-to-one and will end up spending nearly $1 million when all the reports come in, sent out a post-election email to supporters declaring a moral victory:
Tuesday night was not the outcome we had hoped for after months of working to raise awareness about our community's dental health crisis and the benefits of water fluoridation.
But we hope that each of you hold your heads high.
This is one the broadest and most diverse community coalition that Portland has seen in a ballot measure campaign. Every volunteer, every coalition member, every staff person worked incredibly hard and should feel proud.
We knew this effort would be difficult, but it is the difficult fights that are most worth fighting.
Together, we stayed the course, and did our best to ensure voters knew the truth about fluoridation – that it is safe, effective and affordable.
We knocked on over 20,000 doors and called over 50,000 voters, and had countless conversations with our friends, colleagues and neighbors.
We drew attention to Portland's dental crisis, and hopefully we've created many activists who will continue to fight for better access to dental care.
The effort to bring fluoridation to our community does not end here. But for today, hold your head high and know that you fought the fight worth fighting, and you fought it with honest and integrity.
On behalf of the entire campaign coalition, we want to thank you for you hard work, your dedication.