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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

In Pinellas County races, it's all fluoride all the time



The first question posed to the candidates for Pinellas county commissioner at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s meeting today came from a man who wanted to know if he should start brushing his teeth differently

With fluoride, or without? He asked.

That question has been dogging the seven-member Pinellas County Commission since December, when they voted 4 to 3 to stop adding fluoride to the county’s water. And it is especially a problem for Commissioners Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, both Republicans who have served one four-year terms and are seeking another. Both voted to halt fluoridation and are being challenged by Democrats who are calling targeting them for that vote.

On Thursday, former state Sen. Charlie Justice, who is making a bid to unseat Bostock, called the fluoride vote “foolhardy.” Former state Rep. Janet Long, who is challenging Brickfield, said the vote had drawn national news coverage, embarrassing the county.

Even a question about Medicaid funding — a major issue for the county, which is contemplating raising the tax rate next year pay off a $58 million Medicaid bill from the state — came back to fluoride.

“One of the easiest ways you can help with preventative care is make sure low income people have fluoride in the water,” Justice suggested.

Bostock and Brickfield used most of their time to talk about their efforts over the last several years to shave down the county's budget without eroding service quality.  Both commissioners have already said they will not support a tax rate increase this year.

Other problems for the county such as the rising cost of Emergency Medical Services and concerns about library funding went unmentioned.

There is actually a third county commissioner who is running for election, but Ken Welch, who represents District 7, and his two challengers, were not asked to take part in the Tiger Club event.

Welch, a Democrat, was first elected in 2000 and is seeking a fourth term. In the August 14th primary, he is facing Maria L. Scruggs, a corrections supervisor in Orlando. And in the November election, William “Buck” Walz, an operations manager for Carroll’s Building Materials, is running for the seat on the Republican line.

Scruggs said she complained to the club on Tuesday after realizing she had not been invited. She said club President Gary Stempinski seemed surprised by the omission.

“He was shocked. He did not realize that I had qualified for the race,” she said.

“We can’t accommodate every race,” said Anne Drake McMullen, the club’s vice president. “We do the best we can.”

[Last modified: Thursday, July 19, 2012 4:39pm]


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