BROOKSVILLE — The much ballyhooed "presidential-style" debate on fluoridated drinking water, scheduled to take place Tuesday evening at a Brooksville City Council budget workshop, won't come off as advertised.
Instead, attendees will be treated to a presentation condemning the practice by Dr. Paul Connett, co-author of The Case Against Fluoride.
Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn, a strong opponent of fluoridation, said that no one from the pro-fluoride side accepted her invitation to take part in the debate with Connett.
However, Dr. Johnny Johnson, who has addressed the council on the matter on two separate occasions, most recently at an informational workshop in May, said he refused to debate Connett, whose opinions he labeled "fringe and disreputable" and lacking in scientific credibility.
"There is nothing to debate here," Johnson said. "All Connett wants is yet another forum for his stilted viewpoint. A person that cares more for their own opinions than the pain, suffering and diseases that others will endure because of their actions is someone with whom I will not share a room."
Bradburn thinks otherwise and said that Connett is agreeing to come to "set the record straight" on the chemical additive that is routinely added to the water supplies serving nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population.
"We've heard plenty from their side, and now it's our turn," Bradburn said. "If they don't want to take part in the debate, that's their choice."
Bradburn has been at the center of the fluoride debate, which stemmed from the council's decision two years ago to eliminate funding for water fluoridation from the city budget. Since then, advocates from the county's Health Department have lobbied to have the practice reinstated, saying that fluoridation provides essential protection to lower-income people and children who may not have access to regular professional dental care.
For the past several weeks, Bradburn and Johnson have carried on their own debate on the matter through back-and-forth emails that have often become caustic. Johnson has also exchanged emails with Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn, who also opposes fluoridation.
Johnson said that although Bradburn denied his request to present individual testimony at Tuesday's workshop, he intends to show up "just in case someone wants to give me equal time."
Health Department spokeswoman Ann-Gayle Ellis said that county dental staff will also attend the workshop, but no one plans to address fluoridation.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.