City council sends fluoride debate to ballot box in November

By: 

Assistant News Editor

Residents of San Marcos will vote on two propositions Nov. 3 regarding the fluoridation of municipal water after the council voted 5-1 to send the propositions to the ballot box.

The council vote on the propositions came after a court battle regarding the validity of an anti-fluoride petition submitted by the Communities for Thriving Water Fluoride-Free San Marcos. City attorney Michael Cosentino asked the court to declare the petition invalid of its 1,634 signatures, according to court documents of a lawsuit filed June 17.

Cosentino argued for the nullification of the anti-fluoride petition under the city’s home-rule city charter. According to the charter adopted in 1967, an amendment petition must be accompanied by “an oath or affirmation” that each signature belongs to the person whose name it is signed under.

The city’s refusal to validate the petition backfired after 22nd State District Judge Bruce Boyer ruled on Aug. 14 that San Marcos officials were wrong in their refusal to ratify an organization’s petition to prohibit artificial fluoridation of the municipal water supply.

Several anti-fluoride citizens coined the catchphrase, “justice delayed is justice denied,” before the Aug. 18 city council meeting after the court ruling.

“I have signed thousands of petitions in my life and never had to sign a second petition confirming my signature was legitimate,” said Samuel Montoya, San Marcos resident, speaking in favor of the anti-fluoride petition at the Aug. 18 council meeting. “Shame on the city council for using this loophole to take power away from the voters.”

Under the Texas Local Government Code, the amendment is given a spot on the ballot if at least 60 percent of the petition’s signatures were from registered San Marcos voters.

Boyer ruled in favor of the Communities For Thriving Water Fluoride-Free San Marcos on three of four of the counts the city brought against the anti-fluoride coalition in a “taxpayer funded lawsuit,” Montoya said.

Proposition 1 will allow for voters to decide at the polls whether they are in favor of adding fluoride to the municipal water supply. The second proposition clarifies the home-rule city charter requiring a verification petition to validate a citizen’s petition.

Kathleen O’Connell, coordinator for the Communities for Thriving Water Fluoride-Free San Marcos, said in a press release that the organization is filing a writ of mandamus to the Texas Supreme Court in fight to secure Hays County residents their constitutional rights.

“We have a duty to the petitioners and the people of San Marcos to actually fulfill on the language that will end fluoridation here,” O’Connell said in the press release.

City officials had no comment on the issue due to pending litigation.

Follow Anna Herod on Twitter at @annaleemurphy.

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