Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Norm Roche doesn't believe there was a mandate in Pinellas County on fluoride

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Norm Roche
  • Norm Roche
Last year, the Pinellas County Commission voted 4-3 to remove fluoride from the county's water supply. The vote was one of the most controversial decisions mad by a local government in Tampa Bay politics in the past decade. It came eight years after Pinellas finally opted to add the chemical into the water supply, and the intense pressure from Tea Party activists who presented their ideas at County Commission meetings played no small part.

But the blowback to that vote has been tremendous. Democrats Charlie Justice and Janet Long used the issue front and center in their recent campaign to get elected to the board, defeating two of the four commissioners who voted to ban fluoride — Republicans Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield.

The two other commissioners who voted to ban flouride — John Morroni and Norm Roche — publicly said they would back away from their opposition when it comes back for a vote next week.

But on Tuesday morning as Justice and Long took their seats on the newly composed board, Roche indicated that he wasn't done fighting the issue. In a six and a half minute statement that concluded with an admonition that he didn't care if it made him sound like a "right-wing Tea Party extremist," Roche said the issue should go before the public in the form of a referendum.

Not surprisingly, he didn't get a second vote supporting his motion.

In his prepared statement, Roche said the year long furor over the issue "has manifested into ... an attempt at creating an editorially manufactured public hysteria," adding that there was the "deliberate politicization by supporters" that may have resulted in an "egregious disservice against our community as well."

Saying the issue was far bigger than Pinellas County, he later boasted about interviews he has conducted from across the country about fluoride, with personalities such as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. He also questioned any "mandate" that Justice and Long received in their victories, asking if that meant the Democrats' victory earlier this month was also somehow a reflection of their views on a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays or light rail.

Justice replied that while he wouldn't call his victory over Nancy Bostock a mandate for anything per se, he thought it was "a little ridiculous" to discount the notion that it didn't have anything to do with the fluoride issue.

Commission Chair Morroni has gone back and forth in terms of his public support for fluoride. On Tuesday, he called it an "unbelievable issue," and said that nothing in his public life, which includes eight years in Tallahassee, had ever created the buzz that fluoride has in the past year.

Newly elected Commissioner Janet Long disagreed with Roche's idea for a referendum, saying "at some point in time we are required to make a thoughtful decision in the best interests of all of our citizens." She scoffed at his comment that the issue was "politicized by the media," saying it was the public who weighed in and called out the commission for its vote to remove the chemical.

In a replay of several meetings in 2011 (with many of the same cast of characters), a number of health professionals spoke out in support of the new board's sentiment, while others disputed the positive attributes of the chemical on the citizenry.

Today's meeting was the first hearing. The board will vote on restoring fluoride to the water supply on Nov. 27.

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