Amid populist explosion, Hunter weighs killing fluoride

Rebecca Hunter of the Hixson Utility District, left, speaks with Harriet Cash, a proponent of flouride-free water.

Rebecca Hunter of the Hixson Utility District, left, speaks with Harriet Cash, a proponent of flouride-free water. (Photo  David Tulis)

The board of the Hixson Utility District in northern Chattanooga is “seeking public input” on the fluoride issue, since it has been brought to its attention by activists encouraged by the  booting of fluoride in north Hamilton County.

It has a meeting Friday at which it will hear public objections to the use of an industrial waste product that is said to toughen tooth enamel in children.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM

The three-person board’s is top heavy, with a leading member also on the state payroll as head of Gov. Bill Haslam’s department of human resources. A second member, also on the state payroll, is an attorney trained in risk assessment.

Rebecca Hunter has a long record of public service. She oversees the personnel office of Tennessee’s largest employer, state government, with about 40,000 souls.

A political appointee wants to adhere to loyalties and state policies. She has an interest in maintaining and sustaining them, their high strength being her own. She has a fiduciary duty under her local utility board charter to look out for the benefit of the customers of the quasi-governmental entity. But she feels the same sense of obligation to her higher-level master.

Maybe not a fiduciary duty, but a state one — less specific, less legal one, but of greater import.

A bureaucrat in a high state office and also a lowly water district one cannot help but ask herself how her master in state government might perceive her vote in the home district.

If popular sentiment is flowing against fluoride, she votes to keep it only it with a prick of disregard for Gov. Haslam. How would he view it? How does my vote affect his standing? Is my vote to keep it favorable to him? She will avoid that sense of violation that would come to her if she went against him, so she will try to align her sense of the popular will and the governor’s political fortunes.  

Internal calculus: public will vs. public policy

Such calculations are inevitable. No part of her professional career is hermetically sealed from any other part. In the official’s mind, connections and loyalties work together, more or less in harmony. That keeps personal stress at a minimum.

The fewer extended commitments the official has, perhaps the fewer such occasions where conflicting claims cause internal dissonance and anxiety. If the mob clamors for clean water and she understands “policy” to favor fluoride, she will steel herself against the public and side with the what she’ll call “leadership.” She will exercise that virtue of the leader (as dimwitted reporters on TV and in the newspaper are like to call elected and appointed state officers).

Despite claims of being independent in the local district board, the high-borne official will not relinquish the larger contexts most rewarding for her and enriching of her career and calling. That’s why a headline about board activity rightly says “Haslam appointee Hunter faces fluoride flap in Hixson” rather than “Soddy-Daisy woman faces fluoride flap.”

Decisions with personal flavor

If Mrs. Hunter believes Mr. Haslam, her state colleagues and to a lesser extent her HUD board colleagues favor the status quo, she will reject public pleas for change. She will maintain fluoride, even though clean water advocates point out fluoridation is a form of mass medication apart from any doctor’s prescription for care for an individual.

If Mrs. Hunter thinks that voting for clean water makes her stand out too much, she will vote against the promise of change. She will be able to rationalize a decision to keep the chemical additive by resting on settled science, the interest of the people, the care of young children’s dental problems and the long innocency of earlier board members who left things as they were since World War II. Again, leadership.

Why reject fluoride

But Mrs. Hunter and her water guardians are aware of the fierce public sentiment that shoved Donald Trump into the federal presidency. Mr. Trump is riding a growing wave of public discontent with government and the elites of cartelized and corporatized national economy.

Fluoridation is not a best practice, but certainly it is a legacy practice, a custom that ignores much of the science against hydrofluorocilicic acid injections. (see “Fluoridation may not prevent cavities, scientific review shows,” June 2015)

Against legacy practices that enrich industrialists and shareholders is the populism that reared its head in the election.

As Charles Hugh Smith explains in his free market blog, follow the money to see how deep anti-establishment thinking goes among Americans.

“The current era of populism is perhaps best typified by Bernie Sanders, who raised a phenomenal $234 million from individuals, with Political Action Committees contributing a thin sliver of $6.3 million to his campaign.

“There is no better proof that today’s populism is deep-rooted and broad-based than Sanders’ astounding $234 million contributions from individuals, not elites. Please name me another presidential candidate who raised 97% of their funding from small donors.

“Hillary Clinton raised a gargantuan $1.3 billion,of which $188 million came from Super-PACs. A tiny percentage of her total funds came from small donors; her campaign raised $556 million and the Democratic Party’s (elitist) fund-raising committees ponied up another $544 million. (source)

Fiduciary duties

Donald Trump won on the basis of popular anger against the way things are, the way things are always done, against the political establishment represented by big industrial and financial interests that backed Mrs. Clinton and the two main parties.

If Mrs. Hunter on the Hixson water board recognizes the political advantage in joining in the popular sentiment of the election and the longstanding popular feeling against this industrial waste recycling program with its pretense of public health benefit, she will favor abolition. She’s do it noisily, I hope.

That will be risky for her politically and in standing among her colleagues. But it will be exhilarating for her and she will eventually resolve herself to having made a bold step, and her colleagues later will agree she did the right thing.

She will also vote to reject fluoride if she takes her job seriously and then narrow confines of the three-person board of Hixson Utility District. If she takes her fiduciary responsibilities seriously, and consults the corporate charter, she will see that there are plenty of grounds upon which to stand to end the legacy practice.

Good faith steps to protect public

She will also vote in favor of abolition if she acts in good faith in hearing the details of the protest, the scientific papers that will be coming the board’s way, as well as attending to the general arguments against fluoride.

The general argument in favor of clean water are these, in a jiffy.

➤Fluoridation is a mass medical practice with no dosage control.

➤It is entirely voluntary on the utility’s part and is done without any indemnity from the chemical suppliers.

➤ It is an act of courage, boldness and daring to keep it, and a conservative step of caution, reserve to ditch it.

➤ It is best to respect the interests of customers individually rather than as a mass of humanity. The personal interest, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, pet dog by pet dog.  That’s a good business practice.


Charles  Hugh Smith, “Populism in America: ‘Follow the Money,’”, Dec. 8, 2016,

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