This off-year election—held in a season when voters might be understandably more interested in road-tripping than ballot-marking—has instead been as nasty as any in recent memory.
That’s thanks to one issue: fluoride.
It’s not the first time the city has been yanked to the ballot box by the question of an enamel-strengthening chemical in the Bull Run water supply. Portland rejected fluoride in 1956, 1962 and 1980.
But this most recent try has touched a nerve in our citizenry, a civic root canal minus the Novocain. The pro- and anti-fluoridation campaigns are drilling down to tender spots: racial inequity in unassailably liberal Portland, a growing cynicism about scientific or any other authority, and the balance between the good of the commonwealth and the petty tyranny of a nanny state.
Maybe the furor over fluoride is just one more quirk in a city full of them—a symptom of the iconoclasm that makes Portland both sincere and infuriating.
But we’d like to think it speaks to something better in the city, a willingness to engage in fierce debate where other places mindlessly check a box.
So we invite you to consider not just fluoride but other issues that call for your attention in the May 21 vote: how the city helps its children, how regional government maintains its open spaces, and who should lead our public education system.
Please read our suggestions, do your civic duty, and don’t forget to floss.