Pennsylvania Relief Map -- A Pennsylvania-based research, organizing and networking center for the grassroots environmental justice movement.
Spinning Earth
Activist TrainingAnti-CorporateEnergy JusticePennsylvania IssuesEnvironmental/Social JusticeStudent OrganizingPolitical Reform
 Home  Site Map 

Fluoridation Study Proposed, But Defeated

by BOB WITTMAN, The Morning Call

Tuesday, February 2, 1999

Two Allentown officials who have long opposed fluoridation will attempt to make an end run around City Council's Jan. 20 vote to add the cavity-fighting chemical to the municipal water supply.

City Controller Louis J. Hershman and Councilwoman Emma D. Tropiano both plan to call for the creation of a fluoridation study commission when council meets Wednesday.

Even though Allentown has been debating the merits of fluoridation for more than 40 years, Tropiano plans to introduce a bill establishing a three-month investigative panel to determine the costs and benefits of fluoridation.

In a separate move, Hershman collected the signatures of 35 registered Allentown voters to use a provision of the city's 1997 Home Rule Charter to secure time on council's agenda to plead for a fluoridation study similar to Tropiano's.

Both Tropiano and Hershman are running for office this year.

Hershman announced in January that he would leave his controller's job to run for one of this season's open council seats. Tropiano's fourth term expires at the end of 1999, and she has said she plans to seek a fifth term or run for the full-time controller's position Hershman is giving up.

But even as Hershman and Tropiano try to fan the flames of a long-smoldering political controversy, Council President David K. Bausch said he did not believe either proposal would generate more than a dampening response from council.

"I just think it's a lot of grandstanding," said Bausch.

Bausch said Tropiano's proposed ordinance would be referred to committee with little or no discussion Wednesday and doubted there will be enough support for passage if the bill is brought to council for a vote.

Hershman's move requires no council action, he noted.

"There will be a lot of noise, and that's about it," agreed Councilman Frank J. Concannon, chief sponsor of the fluoridation ordinance council approved two weeks ago.

Councilmen David M. Howells Sr. and Todd A. Stephens firmly support fluoridation, and council's newest member, Robert E. Smith Jr., said support for fluoride is a "no-brainer."

Councilman Ernest E. Toth agreed to be the second sponsor Tropiano needs to introduce her bill.

Tropiano and Toth provided the only no votes when council voted 5-2 last month to fluoridate the water.

Tropiano's proposal would establish not only one fluoridation study commission but two.

One would be an "investigative panel" and would comprise two members of council, two physicians, two dentists and four residents.

The other would be a three-member "evaluation committee" to review the findings of the investigative panel. It would be composed of persons "chosen on the basis of their dental and medical knowledge and research methods, with at least one person being chosen solely on their basis of understanding research techniques," according to the language of the bill.

"Council sat there and said they did their homework. I don't see where they did their homework," fumed Tropiano. "The bottom denominator on this is I feel a study should be done."

The Allentown Health Board has endorsed fluoridation since 1952. Before the vote on Jan. 20, council listened to statements from 30 fluoridation proponents whose number included some of the top practitioners of medicine and dentistry in the Lehigh Valley.

For months leading up to the vote, council members were inundated with articles and reports from constituents on fluoridation, several of the officials reported. The literature mailed and faxed to council overwhelmingly supported the safety of fluoride and recommended its use to fight tooth decay.

Hershman's agenda petition calls for council to amend the Jan. 20 ordinance to prevent it from taking effect until a committee appointed by council evaluates the costs and benefits of fluoridation and the impact on the community in terms of economic development.

On Jan. 20, Hershman raised the specter that Lucent Technologies, the city's biggest water customer, would move its giant manufacturing facility on Union Boulevard out of Allentown because fluoridated water would interfere with its microchip-making processes.

Hershman continued his drumbeat last week when he sent a series of memoranda on that subject to officials, even though Lucent has said it does not oppose the fluoridation of city water.

"It's a city issue," said Lucent spokesman Jack Molets the morning following council's vote. "If they decide to fluoridate, we'll deal with it. It's just adding another process."

Return to top of page

by BOB WITTMAN, The Morning Call

Thursday, February 4, 1999

Now that Allentown City Council has ordered the fluoridation of the city's water supply, Councilwoman Emma D. Tropiano wants to know what it will cost and who will benefit.

On Wednesday, council introduced an ordinance sponsored by Tropiano and Councilman Ernest E. Toth to authorize a two-phase, three-month study ending with a written evaluation of the costs and benefits of fluoridation.

Longtime opponents of fluoridation, Tropiano and Toth provided the only dissenting votes when council voted 5-2 on Jan. 20 to add the cavity-fighting chemical to Allentown's water.

Tropiano's proposed ordinance establishing a 10-member investigative panel and a three-member evaluation committee was referred by Council President David K. Bausch to council's Public Works Committee. Tropiano is chairwoman of the committee.

Once the committee has reviewed the merits of the bill, the measure will come back to council for debate and a vote.

The bill was referred to the committee without discussion, which is customary for newly introduced legislation.

But during the courtesy-of-the-floor portion of the agenda at the start of the meeting, council heard a plea for a similar study from City Controller Louis J. Hershman Sr.

Hershman collected the signatures of 35 registered city voters to get a place on the meeting agenda as allowed by Allentown's charter. But Bausch short-circuited any plan Hershman might have had to re-debate the issue, which many thought was settled two weeks earlier, when he informed the Democratic council candidate that Tropiano's bill addressed his concerns.

Although Bausch was quick to dispense with the kind of protracted debate that stretched council's Jan. 20 consideration of fluoridation into a three-hour exercise, Councilman Todd A. Stephens managed to take a swipe at Tropiano.

Reacting to Tropiano's comment of a week ago that council had failed to do its homework on the fluoridation issue, Stephens stood behind the dais and hoisted aloft a large cardboard box filled with documents and notebooks.

"This is my homework," announced Stephens. "I may not have come up with conclusions you like, but I did my homework. If you accuse me of not doing my homework, you're way out of bounds."

Bausch asked Stephens to take his seat and cut off all other debate. Fluoridation proponent Jack Karabasz tried to step up to the podium to rebut Hershman, but Bausch said council's rules do not permit public discussion during courtesy-of-the-floor on issues that will come up later during the meeting.

But council does not permit public comment on newly introduced legislation either, so Karabasz did not get a chance to speak.

But after the meeting, Karabasz called Tropiano's proposal to study the issue "a waste of time."

Noting that the people of Allentown have been studying fluoridation for 50 years, Karabasz called Tropiano's proposal "a stalling tactic."

"There's no point in paying for a study for people who don't want to listen," said Karabasz.

Return to top of page

The Morning Call

Monday, February 8, 1999

Allentown might have to put on hold the plan to add fluoride to its drinking water that City Council approved Jan. 20. The delay -- which could add to the project's cost and could put at risk two grants that will help pay for it -- arises because two members of council, Emma D. Tropiano and Ernest E. Toth Jr., want it.

Mrs. Tropiano and Mr. Toth were on the short end of the 5-2 vote taken that night.
They now are the sponsors of a bill that would require a three-month cost-benefit study. It was introduced and sent to Mrs. Tropiano's Public Works Committee on Feb. 3. Their bill says the study would be performed by a 10-member investigative group. Its findings then would go to a three-member evaluation committee. Both the Public Works Committee and council itself would have to approve first. The bill says the investigation is to be carried out by two members of City Council, four citizens, two physicians and two dentists. The evaluators are to have knowledge of research methods and the dental and medical sciences. The bill does not spell out methodology or a field of investigation. It does not mention costs or the source of funds needed to cover them.

The cost, by the way, is more than trivia. Rules for conducting a City Council investigation are stipulated in the Home Rule Charter, and they say that Council is to pay for the investigation.

All of these procedural problems aside, it's appropriate to question tactics. First, since fluoridation has been under consideration off and on in Allentown for 46 years, it is hard to argue that more study is needed. Similarly, this investigation apparently is to be conducted with no budget and over a short time period. Do its advocates believe it will uncover sound information that disproves the conclusions of the body of peer-reviewed, published research: that fluoridation is efficient and safe? And finally, if it is information that Mrs. Tropiano wants, why has she refused to meet with the group of doctors, dentists and civic leaders who persuaded the majority of City Council to vote for fluoridation? The only reason would be that with or without the health professionals' data, her mind already had been made up. That would leave obstruction as the real reason for her bill.

We also must puzzle over what Louis J. Hershman Sr., the city controller who is a candidate for City Council this year, is up to. Mr. Hershman brought a petition to council asking for the same study that the two council members did. But he is making much of whether fluoridation will harm Lucent Technologies, a major employer, even after Lucent has said it will not. If Mr. Hershman wishes to second-guess matters of chemical engineering with Lucent, let him do it on his own time -- or at least leave the rest of us out of it.

The Tropiano-Toth-Hershman study will happen only if a majority of City Council supports it. Council voted wisely on Jan. 20 to protect the dental health of Allentonians. And without delay or further study, City Council can exercise the usual due diligence in making sure the fluoridation project is carried out efficiently. Don't waste any more time on this.

Return to top of page

by JOE McDERMOTT, The Morning Call

Thursday, February 18, 1999

In a meeting dominated by discussion of council rules and privileges, four Allentown City Council members used parliamentary procedure Wednesday night to kill a proposed study of fluoridation.

But opponents vowed to continue the fight by pushing for a voter referendum.

The study, proposed by council members Emma Tropiano and Ernest Toth, was brought out of committee and defeated by Councilmen Todd Stephens, David M. Howells Sr., Frank J. Concannon and Robert E. Smith Jr.

"To me, this is repetitive legislation. It is paralysis by analysis and we have to move on to other legislation," said Stephens, arguing that Tropiano's questions about costs were answered Tuesday when the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust agreed to pay up to $500,000 for start-up costs connected to fluoridating city water.

Start-up costs for design and installation of the equipment are estimated at $340,000, but the trust has agreed to pay for any consulting or technical advice the city needs.

Council approved fluoridation Jan. 20 by a 5-2 vote, but Tropiano and other opponents say more study is needed. Stephens and fluoride supporters said the issue has been studied in Allentown since 1961.

"The Jan. 20 meeting was one-sided," said Tropiano, chairwoman of council's Public Works Committee. The bill was on the committee's March 12 agenda, and Tropiano said she will proceed.

Her bill would have created a 10-member study commission composed of two council members, four residents, two physicians and two dentists. Tropiano said she plans to fly in a toxicologist and chemist to explain the effects of fluoridation.

"This is not going to stop me. I am going to hold a meeting. I am an elected official, and I will have a meeting whether it is in my basement or here in City Hall."

Tropiano said opponents would seek the 2,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot this spring, and predicted they would collect 4,000 names.

Howells disputed her opinion on the Jan. 20 meeting, saying that while the majority of speakers favored fluoridation, people on both sides of the issue had plenty of advance notice to prepare their arguments.

In other business, council asserted its veto power over name changes for city parks. The issue arose last month when rumors circulated that the city would change the name of Earl F. Hunsicker Bicentennial Park to accommodate a corporate sponsor for the Allentown Ambassadors baseball team.

Mayor William L. Heydt did not oppose the unanimous vote and said he believed council always had input on any name changes.

Heydt and the administration opposed Tropiano's resolution giving elected officials the right to use city cars for official travel. Heydt has traditionally rejected council requests to use city cars. The bill passed 5-2. It gives the mayor discretion but requires him to provide a reason if a request is denied.

Tropiano was the lone dissenter on a resolution dubbed the "Be Nice" bill by other council members. Sponsored by Toth, it gives the council president more authority to cut off personal insults or abusive language by council members, city employees or the public during debates.

Several council members expressed problems with the bill, and most agreed the president's role will be critical in maintaining order.

Tropiano, Toth, Bausch and Smith prevailed to reject a measure that would have made it more difficult to bring back failed legislation. The bill would have required support from four council members instead of three to return legislation.

Return to top of page

Last modified: 6 August 2001

 Home  Site Map