Tensions mounted between Buda city leaders Aug. 15 as they were unable to unanimously agree on the ballot language for a Nov. 7 referenda item on water fluoridation.
Buda City Council members were asked to choose between three different legally accepted options regarding the ballot language for a fluoride vote.
Option 1 asked residents if the city should pass an ordinance resuming the use of fluoride additives in the municipal potable water supply.
Option 2, which was ultimately approved by a narrow 4-3 vote, asked the same question, but added “within the allowable level as recommended and regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).” Council members George Haehn, Lee Urbanovsky and David Nuckels all voted against the second option.
The third option changed the wording entirely, and asked voters, “Shall the city of Buda pass an ordinance preventing the introduction of fluoride additives to the municipal potable water supply?”
Buda Mayor Todd Ruge was quick to choose Option 2 because it gave the voter more detail on what they were being asked to cast their vote for.
“I’m in favor of Option 2. I think it gives more detail on what people will be voting on,” Ruge said.
Council member Urbanovsky countered with his preference for Option 1 because he felt the latter two seemed to be “leading”voters.
“Option 2 includes TCEQ information, and seems to be in favor of it (fluoridation), and number 3 seems to be against it,” Urbanovsky said.
Council member David Nuckels agreed with Urbanovsky and also voted for the first option.
Council members Eileen Altmiller and Wiley Hopkins sided with Ruge and also voted similarly.
“To me Option 2, it’s important to let voters know that the state has approved a certain level and they will be in charge of regulation of it,” Altmiller said.
During the course of discussion, Ruge denied a motion by Haehn to strike language pertaining to TCEQ.
Ruge said he declined to accept any amendments to his motion due to the legal implications of changing the wording in the already approved options.
“The language of all of our propositions has to pass legal scrutiny,” Ruge said. He added that an abrupt change in wording might have proved to be a “legal gray area.”
“My thought process was to give the voters the most information possible,” Ruge said.
The ballot item will appear on the November election voting ballot asking voters to adopt or reject a proposed initiative ordinance relating to the use of fluoride in the municipal potable water supply.
“We want to be as transparent as possible (in the ballot language) and let voters know that this has been a provable method for over 70 years,” Ruge said.