Aside from an ongoing debate over the legal validity of its red-light camera program, the most provocative political issue of 2013 in the city of Brooksville was also a well-worn issue that had come before the municipality's governing body on other occasions.
The debate over whether to add fluoride to the city's drinking water dated back to the early 1980s, and although the city had been using the tooth decay-fighting chemical for more than two decades, the practice was abruptly halted during a 2011 budget hearing when the council axed the program in an effort to save tax dollars.
When the Hernando County Health Department urged the council in January to reinstate the program, sparks flew. Throughout much of the summer, pundits on both sides of the issue battled during the council's public comment period in the hope of swaying council votes. The issue drew several dental professionals who spoke in favor of fluoridation. The most notable opponent was well known anti-fluoridation author and activist Paul Connett, who was invited by council member Lara Bradburn to take part in a debate before the council in September.
That debate never happened because the council was unable to entice an expert from the pro-fluoride side. Connett instead delivered an hourlong presentation that many in the dental community later refuted.
In October, when council members finally brought the issue up for a vote, the measure sailed through on a 4-1 decision. The majority included Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn, who previously had opposed putting fluoride into the water supply as a "matter of public policy."
Brooksville began its fluoridation program in 1985 at the urging of several dental professionals, who said it would be particularly beneficial to children of low-income residents who lacked access to regular professional dental care.
Logan Neill, Times staff writer