BY DONNA WESTFALL
What does Portland, Oregon have that Crescent City, California lacks? Let’s take a look at what’s going on in Portland.
Portland, Ore., is betting on its appeal to a young creative class of workers to build a 21st-century clean economy. The city expects its workforce to grow by 2.4% a year over the next decade—six times as fast as the U.S. average rate. What’s more, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds there grew 12% from 1990 to 2000. Across the U.S., that age group shrank 8%. A third of Portland’s young adults have college degrees.
The city already has a strong technology bent. It’s home to large operations for Intel and Hewlett-Packard, 40-odd solar power firms and two big wind energy firms. Oregon is also nurturing more clean tech—green construction, ocean energy and nanotechnology. The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute has helped 22 nanotech start-ups raise $96 million. The Oregon Wave Energy Trust aims to make the state a clean energy leader, eventually generating 500 megawatts of electricity and thousands of jobs with technology to harness the oceans’ wave power. Oregon doesn’t have to contend with a governmental group like California Coastal Commission.
And, In September 2012, their city council unanimously voted to add fluoride to their drinking water. Within an hour, a referendum was lodged with the city. The CleanWaterPortland group had 30 days to turn in just shy of 20,000 signatures. Instead, they turned in 43,236 signatures on the 29th day.
These people are organized, determined and they are furious. They are taking their anger and transforming it in defense of their water and their democracy.
Water fluoridation will be on the ballot in Portland. “Public Water, Public Vote.” Unlike an initiative; which is the process that Crescent City used, a referendum has the potential to suspend the city’s ordinance, which technically takes effect in 30 days even though Portland officials don’t plan to add fluoride to the region’s water until 2014.
In Crescent City, the ballot measure calls for a moratorium on adding any futher HFSA until the supplier provides toxicological studies, listing of contaminants, and proof that their product is safe and effective for all water consumers. Will the Crescent City public be as bold as Portlanders to educate themselves to the hazards and expense of consuming HFSA, a toxic industrial waste? That remains to be seen.
Portland voters have rejected fluoride at the ballot box three times, most recently in 1980. I predict that this will be the fourth and final time that Portlanders will reject fluoridation with the hope that those sneaky, back room deal brokers slink away to do their dirty work someplace else.