Brooksville City Council member Joe Bernardini now favors adding fluoride to the municipal water supply. The end of his equivocating is welcome, but Bernardini must go beyond public proclamations. He and council members Frankie Brunett and Joe Johnston must restore the fluoridated water program to protect city residents, particularly children, from dental decay.
A logical place to start is the upcoming budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The trio must ensure that, for a minimal investment of $7,000 in the utilities budget, the city can again provide optimal levels of fluoride in the city's drinking water.
It would reverse the September 2011 vote that killed the 25-year-old fluoridation program. That unanimous vote came, with no prior public notice, near the end of an evening budget hearing after just 78 seconds of discussion.
The public debate reopened earlier this year after the state Health Department discovered the fluoride program had been abandoned. Two months ago, the council spent three hours in a workshop discussing the merits of adding fluoride to drinking water and, at the conclusion, an undecided Bernardini emerged as the swing vote.
Earlier this month, Bernardini announced his new position supporting fluoride while also repeating his past suggestion to put the issue to a voter referendum. It brought an immediate challenge from the antifluoride mayor, Lara Bradburn, who inaccurately characterized Bernardini's past position as "steadfastly, without a doubt, 100 percent against fluoridation.''
Bradburn should refrain from the bullying and her disparaging commentary about those who disagree with her. Mischaracterizing a fellow council member's position on an imperative public health matter further erodes her own credibility.
Bernardini, meanwhile, should forget the referendum. He is elected to lead, and protecting the health, safety and welfare of his constituents shouldn't be a decision left to a ploy providing political cover. Besides, his new position endorsing fluoridated water puts him in good company that includes the federal Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The federal government recommends fluoride levels of 0.7 parts per million in a liter of water, while many of the studies condemning fluoridation focus on levels nearly six times higher. City utility department measurements showed levels within the safe range of the optimal amount before the council pulled the plug in 2011.
A three-person council majority now has the opportunity to made amends for that rash and ill-advised decision. This time they must consider the benefits of better oral hygiene and healthier children. For $7,000 annually, they shouldn't hesitate to again allow their constituents easy access to fluoridated drinking water.