This morning, I voted in favor of fluoridating Portland's water. I wish to thank everyone who called or emailed their opinion and to share information with me on flouridation. To the nearly 300 people who testified at the public hearing, I stand in awe of your civility and respect for one another, and to the City Council—through seven hours of testimony.
As the city's children's commissioner, I oversee nearly $100 million in taxpayer funds to protect and care for children through the Portland Children's Levy. When I make those investment decisions I look for proven means to maximize the health, safety and welfare of our kids.
For a relatively small public expenditure to flouridate our drinking water, our community will reap tremendous long-term dividends in the form of the improved health of Portland's kids. In addition, the public testimony documents the benefits to the dental health of older adults.
Some opponents argue we should not flouridate our water because dental health is an individual's responsibility. While this is a nice concept in theory, the reality is a three-year old child cannot be expected to take responsibility for their own dental health.
A child in foster care who has been in a dozen foster homes cannot be expected to ensure that the adults looking after her get her proper dental care or even have access to her dental records. I believe it is particularly important to protect the health of young children but I also believe we need to help ensure their future success in life.
The dental health of a child during their formative years will affect him for his entire life. It is extremely hard to concentrate in school when your mouth hurts all the time. Later in life, the self-consciousness that results from poor dental care can become a major barrier to finding a job.
The single most effective, safest, and affordable way to extend life-long dental health to our youngest Portlanders is to fluoridate our drinking water. This is the right thing to do.