Anti-Fluoride Campaigners Relish Their Victory

Clean Water Portland

At the election night victory party—held at On Deck Sports Bar and Grill in the Pearl District—a small crowd swells to more than 150 as the first results come in. The bar's microphone isn't working, so organizer KC Hanson just yells over the crowd's whooping. "You guys are magnificent," she says. "I have never been so proud." 

Campaign organizers say hundreds of volunteers have shown up at their headquarters each day—from as far as San Francisco and San Diego.  

One of them, Justin Holt, who moved to Portland from North Carolina, is wearing a blue campaign T-shirt and a necklace of meditation beads. He says he wrote two songs and posted them on YouTube to support the campaign. One of them is called "How Will We Forgive?

"It's basically about how, if this is wrong, how will I forgive myself if I don't do anything?" he says. "I knew that fluoride is poison to ingest." 

Former City Commissioner Mike Lindberg also attended the event—he's the only big political name the anti-fluoride camp attracted. He says he's already talking with political figures on both sides of the vote about launching a soda tax to pay for free dental clinics. 

"I'm thrilled," Lindberg says. "It's really a reflection of the way that Portlanders treasure our Bull Run water. Portlanders have a special connection with nature, let's put it that way." 

At the bar, a quartet of campaign supporters clink Champagne glasses with beer pints.

"Here's to unfluoridated beer!" says a man in a blue beret. "I was going to have to switch to drinking nothing but Ninkasi."

Denis Theriault

As the margin climbs to 22 points, a tap-dancing saxophone player entertains the crowd with a rendition of "'Tea for Two,' with no fluoride." 

Hanson returns to shout, without a microphone, "No is at 61 percent! You do the math!" 

Still, the campaign refuses to give a victory speech, even after Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland has conceded. 

Clean Water Portland director Kimberly Kaminski is in fact momentarily speechless. "The citizens of Portland have voted 'no' three times already to fluoridation chemicals," she says. "Tonight we voted four times. We don't need more chemicals. We have better alternatives. People deserve a choice." 

Dandy Warhols keyboardist Zia McCabe arrives to receive hugs and photos. "I got all the rock and rollers!" she says.

The room cheers for a full 30 seconds. 

One organizer on the podium compares the win to the U.S. hockey team's "Miracle on Ice" win over the Soviets—"the biggest upset I have ever seen until tonight." 

One by one, the anti-fluoridation activists take their turn at the microphone (which Zia McCabe has swiftly fixed). Perhaps the most enthusiastic cheer goes to Cliff Walker, a board member of the NAACP's Portland chapter. The African-American organization was the only significant minority organization to endorse against fluoride. 

"You guys didn't get compensated," yells an activist as Walker takes the stage, "but I'll buy you a beer!"

"We are so proud of an organization that trusted us to do the right thing," Walker says. "Now we can focus on solutions—solutions that actually work."

Hiram Asmuth, a Clean Water Portland volunteer coordinator, closes the speeches by leading a chant of "Clean!" and "Water!" He says he's a socialist who now counts Republicans and Occupiers as his allies. 

"This is what it sounds like when an avalanche rains down on City Hall," Asmuth tells the cheering crowd. "You all are the snow that crushed 'em! No means no!"

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