City Hall Hustle: Fluoride, Firewalls, and Fusion
The paranoid style in Austin politics
However, the staff report on the popular periodic table mainstay seems to have left members of the city's Environmental Board out of their element. The controversy stems from a recommendation the board issued this summer, asking for a task force to examine fluoride policies. As board members serve in only an advisory role, their entreaty to the City Council went apparently unacted upon – until the board learned of the report's existence. Some were dismayed, to say the least, about not being further consulted or even told of city staff taking the council directive into their own hands.
"I too am very disappointed at the lack of communication regarding this important health matter," Environmental Board Secretary Phil Moncada wrote in an e-mail to Garza and others, calling the breakdown "another disappointment in regard to open communication and transparency." For his part, Garza says the board's city staff liaison had previously contacted the Water Utility for a briefing on the staff report, thereby implying some familiarity with its findings.
That briefing on the staff report was scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2, as we go to press. Several of the principals cited in the study, including Health and Human Resources Department Medical Director Philip Huang and Austin Water Utility Assistant Treatment Director Jane Burazer, will be on hand to defend their findings. Specifically, it sounds like Moncada is concerned about Austin's fluoride additive – hydrofluorosilicic acid, which is created by phosphate fertilizer manufacturers and is essentially leftovers from the refinement process. "No portion of the report mentions that they are taking a waste product and referring to it as fluoride that is being added to our drinking water," Moncada writes.
Put that in your margarita and drink it.
Elsewhere in the Hustle threat report: As a newspaperman, I'm acutely cognizant of the fact the Internet will one day eat us alive. But what of a Web shutdown? It clearly threatens government functions, international commerce, and the latest pornography technology. But rest assured: Your City Council is on the case. Council Member Laura Morrison will take part in a "cyber security table top exercise" on Thursday, Dec. 3. The goals are "to encourage group discussion about vulnerabilities, policies and procedures, and mitigation strategies" and to "maximize cyber security awareness," writes Otis J. Latin, director of Austin's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Oh, and lunch will be provided too.
Sure, the Hustle's having some LOLs at the overheated security rhetoric, but our hat's off to Morrison for taking part. We should also note her newest office hire, Reagan Hackleman. News 8 Austin's former City Hall reporter, Hackleman is the latest in the long line of media professionals to switch from reporting on City Hall to working in it: previous Chron scribe Rachel Proctor May, first in Brewster McCracken's former council office, now at Austin Energy; former National Public Radio reporter Larry Schooler, now a Community Engagement Coordinator at the city; and of course, former Chronicle Politics Editor Daryl Slusher, now tasked with the thankless gig of environmental affairs at Austin Water Utility after his City Council stint. The city is a popular destination – where else would you expect policy wonks to land?
Fluoride, cyber-terror, fusion centers: It sure beats writing about zoning variances.
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