If City Council members Luis Alejo and Manuel Bersamin believe that they can forcibly turn a falsehood into reality, they are mistaken.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting was another romp through Never Never Land for the two as they vehemently denied the public’s accusations that they are trying to fluoridate Watsonville’s water against the wishes of the voters.
Sure, Bersamin can read a letter from the state that calls on the city to fluoridate and Alejo can say the issue predates his term on the council, but they can’t deny the reality that they have tried to push this issue through, and even in a reckless manner.
I am disposed to let the issue lie where it is, but the two council members’ actions and words on Tuesday deserve a response. Reality, the truth, should not be so easily rubbed out.
After local residents, during public comment, made another plea with the council to not follow the state’s mandate to fluoridate, the two castigated the speakers for spreading misinformation. Both council members forcefully argued that they were only acting in compliance with state law, and to act any differently would subject the city to unnecessary costs and fines.
But their actions in the open, combined with huge political donations from fluoridation advocates, rightly lead people to wonder what they are doing outside the public’s view.
The reality is that both wanted to approve a proposed contract from the California Dental Association Foundation, granting the city up to $200,000 to construct a fluoridation system, but would have left the city with serious liability issues. It was a contract that City Attorney Al Smith said he wouldn’t recommend, but both Alejo and Bersamin voted for it anyway. Luckily, they couldn’t get the four votes needed and Alejo’s motion to approve the proposed contract failed.
At that January City Council meeting, Smith warned the council of several issues with the contract. Most notably, the city could have to pay construction costs if they exceeded $200,000, and the city would have to foot the bill in case it were sued. Also, there were major penalties to the city if the project were not completed on deadline, regardless of the reason.
“What if we have the plant three-quarters of the way constructed and three-quarters paid for? The law changes — or something changes I can’t predict — if this happens, they can declare that money immediately due and payable and it will be a loan due back at 10 percent interest. That causes me concern,” Smith told the council.
Issues like this made the contract a major liability to the city. That is why our attorney said he wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately, Alejo and Bersamin couldn’t get fluoride in our water fast enough and voted to approve the contract anyway. It was a reckless move and it exposed their true intent.
They can deny their intent. They can say they are just looking out for the city’s financial interests. Alejo can say that the tens of thousands donated to his campaign by the California Dental Association Foundation at roughly the same time this issue suddenly came up again is just a coincidence.
And we can expect that they will continue to denigrate anybody who questions them about this issue, but they shouldn’t expect to be believed.
Jon Chown is the editor of the Register-Pajaronian.
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