When I moved to Gilbert in 1992, the 120-foot water tower situated right in the heart of Gilbert’s Heritage District gave me the first clue.
This community has something about water.
It wasn’t long before I became aware the water tower was not only an iconic landmark in the city, it was also a point of contention. It seemed, by the time I got there, the battle had been brewing for some time as to whether the tower should be trashed or treasured.
Ultimately, the war of the water tower ended in a preservation project, one that included the creation of a complete plaza of water features — some whimsical, some awesome and wonderful, some simply wet. To the chagrin of the naysayers, who otherwise may have taken their licks and actually liked the results, the project ended up taking many more years and millions of dollars more than originally discussed. Still, it is done, finished; the tower and the plaza are there in permanent — albeit ever flowing — glory for citizens and tourists to enjoy. (I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t been there.)
So, that’s one down when it comes to water. And, one to go.
Still raging — as it has for 10 years at least, is another debate about water. This one hits much closer to home — in fact, it comes right into your home, in the drinking and bathing water supplied by the Town of Gilbert.
It’s the feud about fluoride.
This one is interesting. It seems to heat to the boiling point from time to time until someone gently pushes it to the back burner and things simmer down. At least for a while.
One group, a political action committee called Gilbert Safe Water Coalition, is determined to keep the heat up — at least high enough to keep the issue in the spotlight and to educate people about it.
With a Facebook page — facebook.com/Gilbert-Safe-Water-Coalition — and a focus on “freedom,” they take the fluoride issue seriously.
“When it comes to personal freedom, is it acceptable that our government medicate us by way of the water supply? Whether fluoride is safe or not, are we willing to give up this freedom?” said PAC chairman, Sam Azar.
“People all around the country are … learning about the dangers of fluoride. Our group is intent on educating Gilbert residents about fluoride’s negative effects on the thyroid, brain, etc. Fluoride is not an element but a toxin,” Azar added. “I believe each one of us should be able to buy city water that is clean and devoid of additives or chemicals. If a person needs medicine, then they should visit a doctor. We should not be forced to consume a medicine without consent.”
Added Lina Hatch, another Gilbert resident and member of the PAC: “In my opinion, it is not the responsibility of government to take care of my teeth.”
That may be so. Yet, in 2000, Gilbert voters approved fluoride by 54 percent with a vote of 14,983 to 12,623.
So, for the time begin, fluoride is flowing freely in Gilbert … well, except for the time it wasn’t. Seems a controversy erupted when officials learned that the cavity-preventing drip had been discontinued for nearly a year. The public works director and water manager both were on permanent leave as a result and the pro-fluoride side won another foray.
Gilbert Safe Water Coalition members hope the issue will come to the forefront yet again. They invite all Gilbert residents to visit their Facebook page to learn more. Then, while you’re at it, just to see which side you’re on, you may want to check the Town of Gilbert site as well, where you can search “fluoridation” for more information.
After all, now we wouldn’t want there to be no waves at all when it comes to water in Gilbert, would we?
Cecily Markland has more than 20 years experience as an editor, writer, project manager and journalist. A Mesa resident, she is the managing editor for The Beehive newspaper, serving Arizona’s LDS community, and a regular contributor to the East Valley Tribune.