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Community Schools

The following was an article recently published in the Burlington Free Press regarding the recent proposal to close down Barnes and Wheeler schools…

[begin article]

Old North Enders did not mince words Thursday when it came to telling Burlington school officials what they think about the subject of closing their neighborhood elementary schools.

Barnes and H.O. Wheeler must stay open, said many among the crowd of about 60 residents of Wards 2 and 3 during a meeting at the McClure Multigenerational Center. School Board officials, including interim Superintendent Jeanne Collins and board member Fred Lane, came to talk about next year’s gloomy budget scenario and asked for feedback from the community.

Lane cautioned that neither the board nor the administration has proposed closing either school. But the subject was broached earlier this summer by former Superintendent Lyman Amsden, who said low-income students in the Old North End who are being academically out-performed by low-income students in the rest of the district would benefit by being moved into other schools in the city.

Many residents who say the rumors of closing the schools are circulating in their neighborhood, said consolidation of Barnes and Wheeler can’t be the only solution to solving a looming $1 million budget deficit.

“Regardless of whether or not Barnes and Wheeler is on the table this very second, everyone in this room thinks they’re going to be on the table eventually,” said Ward 3 resident Jules Fishelman. “We need to be convinced that this School Board is actually interested in looking at the bigger picture. I remain unconvinced that we’re thinking outside the box when it comes to Barnes and Wheeler.”

Lane said the only concrete discussion by the board about school buildings has involved potentially closing the Ira Allen administrative building on Colchester Avenue, the Taft building on South Williams Street and a maintenance facility behind Champlain Elementary School.

“We have 19 building and a declining enrollment,” Lane said. “We do not need that much infrastructure.”

“There is absolutely no decision whatsoever that anyone has made about any facility at this point,” Lane continued. “We’ve only said that we have a series of issues we need to look at.”

Based on administrative projections, the 2006-07 budget will increase by $3.1 million if costs are not contained, school officials have said. Burlington homeowners could face a tax increase of 12 cents per $100 of assessed value based on school district spending alone. Yet to be factored into the increase is the common level of appraisal, which could raise the tax rate increase further.

Ward 3 City Councilor Tim Ashe said Old North Enders are frustrated by a perceived lack of communication between them and school officials.

“Why not come to the community first before throwing out these ideas,” Ashe said. “Many people are frustrated because it always comes out by little hints and rumors and everyone is left asking what’s going on.”

School district officials plan to discuss the budget challenges and its plan for meeting district needs during meetings this month in all the city’s wards.

[end of article]

I don’t believe closing Barnes and HO Wheeler is good idea. By having these schools, it helps promote competition among the 6 elementary schools of Burlington. Students may transfer within the 6 schools. This allows the children and parents to have some choice in their education. It would be even better to allow the choice of private schools as well.

Regarding the costs. The biggest cost for our schools is the staff salaries and huge benefits packages. If enrollment is declined, why not reduce the staff in proportion to the enrollment. If there is extra space in the schools, it would make an excellent opportunity to rent out the extra space to child care providers, homeschoolers or even private teachers to help subsidize the schools. Just a thought.

Also, a lot of people want to go to school with people like them, where they might fit in. The reasoning suggested for closing the two schools say they are under-performing because they are in low-income areas and by relocating the students to “higher-income” school they will perform better.

I do not believe this to be completely true. It’s possible that grades may improve, but at a major cost to self-esteem. Speaking as a low-income person myself, I know what it was like to go to school in a high-income school. I always felt different, out-of-place, and I hated going to school as a result. I’ve talked to others with similar experiences. I also know some parents that practically bankrupt themselves so that their children appear to be wealthier so that they fit it, so not to be made fun of.

I would often hear other students and teachers make fun of Milton for the supposed “backwards-ness”. I remember thinking to myself, I wish I could go to school there, where I might be accepted. Therefore, I do not believe in forced-integration of classes… it just doesn’t work.

Commercial Free Schools

There a new group called Citizens for Commercial-Free Schools (CCFS), which is a group of Burlington parents and community members working since Spring 2005 to remove corporate and military advertising from our public schools.

They have circulated a petition (signed so far by over 100 Burlingtonians) and presented it to the school board. They have proposed a donations policy that the school board is now considering. About twenty supporters have attended one or more school board meetings since this effort began.

CCFS supports and encourages corporate donations to our schools (including donations from General Dynamics), and believes donor generosity should be acknowledged on school Web sites, in school district newsletters, and in press releases.

The following is statement pulled from a recent letter to the editor from the Burlington Free Press submitted by Eric Hart, representing CCFS…

[Letter begins]

CCFS opposes in-school advertising. Three times a year, every elementary school child is required to walk to a desk and shake hands with a General Dynamics representative in thanks for a book, a pencil, and a bookmark all labeled “Compliments of General Dynamics.” (When I asked my son Daniel how he knows who they are, he said “their badges say “General Dynamics!”) Many parents I’ve talked with say they are “uncomfortable” or “uneasy” with this, regardless of what they think of General Dynamics as a company.

CCFS opposes in-school advertising because it brings politics into the classroom, stifles open communication, and sends confusing messages to our children and educators alike. Laurie Essig, a Burlington parent, reports that her third-grader repeatedly asked this spring “why are we treating these people (General Dynamics) like heroes, when they make bombs?” She was left in the classroom while her classmates and the teacher went to receive Reading is Fundamental books. According to Essig, “My child came home in tears, believing she had been punished.” Our children should not be placed in this situation.

[Letter ends]

I believe that the teacher’s act was wrong and should not be allowed in the future. The teacher should not have held the girl back. She should have been able to go with everyone else and ask her question. Now, it’s obvious to me that her parents most likely put her up to this because they are most likely anti-war and they express it to their daughter.

The main issue now is the “compliments of General Dynamics” stickers and free bookmarks and pencils with their name on it and the fact that General Dynamics Reps have General Dynamics name badges on it while handing out the books.

I believe the real issue is political. Politics is in the classroom already, it’s unavoidable. If you have schools that are largely democrat and left-leaning, you are going to have those values expressed in the teaching, just as it would be if the schools were run by Republicans, Greens or Libertarians. I don’t believe it can be avoided. People can not change who they are.

If it were representatives from Ben & Jerry stamping books, which is a corporation, I do not believe we would be having this discussion as they are more democrat-friendly and anti-war.

We have all kinds of public events here in Burlington where we have company sponsors with their banners proudly displayed at the event such as Hannafords, which I know sponsored our Ethan Allen Tower event here this summer as well as the city’s fireworks show. I didn’t hear of anyone complaining about that. These companies are giving back to the community, why shouldn’t they be recognized and if we don’t like the terms… don’t participate.

Now, let me state for the record. I did not and do not support the continued war in Iraq. However, I believe that in the case of the books from General Dynamics the children should be allowed to go get the books if they wish. If they or their parents don’t like the terms, then don’t participate. I do not like that fact that some people are putting their political beliefs ahead of the children’s interest.

The real tragedy here is that many of the poorest children are lacking good books to read… why rob them of this great opportunity to get the books they want to read for free or get a chance to meet their favorite authors, which General Dynamics also organizes for the children. It’s really easy for well to do people to just turn General Dynamics away and say it’s worth it to further your personal politics, but for the poorest children, pushing General Dynamics out of the program could be a huge lost opportunity.

76-78 Cherry Street

One of the major topics discussed at the last city council meeting was the 76-78 Cherry Street building which is owned by the Catholic diocese. The Catholic diocese decided they wanted the building to be torn down so they could do something else with the property. However, councilor’s Shannon, Montrell and Perry along with Preservation Burlington wanted to not allow the Catholic Diocese the permit to take down their own building because they believe it has some historic and architectural value.

Councilor Shannon particularly fought the hardest for the now allowing the permit as she herself has purchased and restored an older building as her home and she felt that this building was quite a find architecturally and historically. It’s one of the few surviving homes from the urban renewal.

The following issue arose during the discussion:


  1. The city’s legal department has already spent $25,000 in legal costs and there is no idea of how much more to continue as experts will need to be called in to figure out the options. I could not believe that it $25,000 has already been spent just in the initial stages of this deal. That’s enough to buy our home or what Heavenly and I make in nearly two years. It’s just plain reckless to me.


  2. If the city wins, the city would need to study code requirements and the fact remains that the Catholic diocese does not want to the sell or donate the land to the city. They city would need to take it from them!


  3. The resolution is not economically viable for the city… there is too much public cost, opportunity costs, and there are no limits to the expenses… the resolution calls for whatever funds are necessary, no budget or anything. The money involved could buy 100s of affordable housing units, which are much needed.

It was because of these issues that I believe the resolution was voted down by the majority of the councilors. I congratulate them on a good decision. What place does the city have to be trying to take land from a church… what’s next sending cops to take candy from a baby? Really.

I think that problem governmental people have is that whenever they see something that they like or dislike going on in the city the first thought is to write a resolution… create a law. What about a voluntary discussion without force… what about getting together with others that feel the same way to try to work something out. It seems to me that if the building was really valuable, people would want to get together to save it without having to take it by force and forcing the tax payers to pay for the seizure. I’d also like to mention that at one point the city council kicked the audience out so that they could talk in secret about the issue. This was kind of unusual as usually they do that at the end of the city council meeting for other various legal stuff the city is involved in that they don’t want us to know about. They call these “executive sessions”. I think the city council really abuses this power. It’s supposed to be used for the most sensitive of issues not every meeting so that councilors can protect their reputations from the public. They are simply abusing the power and it’s not right to me.

Resolution regarding property tax burden facing Burlington residents

Coucilors Bushor and Fiermonte introduced a resolution to help with the heavy property tax burden facing Burlington residents. The resolution states that the current procedure that pays much of education costs statewide is “convoluted and not well understood by taxpayers” and asks that the city’s representatives to that state Legislature work to revise the property tax system. The resolution calls for:


  • Having the state – instead of the individual cities and towns – collect the statewide property tax and billing homeowners based on their income.

  • Increasing the income threshold to expand the renter rebate program.

  • Giving Vermont municipalities the authority to impose local sales taxes.

Hmm… I wonder why the city is looking to push the taxing responsibility to the state. Here are my thoughts… first, they would rather have the residents blame the state than them, the city councilors… they don’t want the responsibility and of course they want the state to force the Burlington residents to accept a local sales tax as they know very well the voters voted it down last town meeting day. Interesting indeed.

Resolutions to lower the cost to the city of the retirement system for city employees

The Board of Finance proposed a resolution to lower the cost to the city of the retirement system for city employees. The resolution, noting that city contributions to the retirement fund jumped from about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2002 to $4.6 million this year and are “still not sufficient to meet the actuarially projected future costs.”

This part was a bit confusing to me… when city employees spoke out about this during the public forums at the city council meeting, they were under the impression that they were promised a certain level of benefits in exchange for lower wages. If the city did in fact promise them these benefits then they do owe it to them… they should weasel out of it. However, as we all should should know that retirement funds to have fluctuation and the economy is still not performing as well as it has in the past, so investments are still generally lower. This is the problem for the city’s retirement fund. However, I believe it’s only temporary. Besides, the retirement fund should generally be invested in safe investments such as bonds… maybe they messed up… and now they want to pass on their promises. It’s seems that the city had plenty of money to give the YMCA last year and they have enough money to go after churches to take their property… you can’t trust a politian I guess.

Bar smokers shown the door

It’s now official… no smoking in any public or private bars, restaurants and clubs in the whole state of Vermont. It’s unbelievable to me… The businesses along with their employees and customers cannot even decide on their own whether they want to allow smoking or not. The smokers cannot have one place to go to hang out and smoke… not one. I find this so offensive. It’s oppression of a minority by the majority. As the article states, it’s a different crowd. The state has essentially kicked out the minority and replaced them with the majority. Whether you believe smoking is bad for you or not, you should be upset by this decision. It really attacks the essence of our freedoms. By allowing a nanny-state to prohibit risky behaviors gives the state far more power than they should have over us. I will end with a quote from Marilyn Ferguson…

So long as we need to control other people, however benign our motives, we are captive to that need. In giving them freedom, we free ourselves.

Burlington LP News – September 2005

Burlington LP NEWS

September 2005

Sponsored by
The Burlington Libertarian Party
www.burlingtonlp.org

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. From the Chair
2. Property Assessments and Property Taxes
3. Police Beholden to Enforce Vermont Constitution and Vermont Laws
4. Fluoride Update
5. Health Care Choice Act
6. Ethan Allen Radio Podcast for Burlington
7. Burlington Libertarians in Action
8. Libertarian Humor
9. Quote of the Month
10. Letters to the Editor/ Submit an Article

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From the chair…


This is our fourth newsletter. We will to provide you notice of current issues facing Burlingtonians, views of other Burlington Libertarians, notices of events of interest, and more.

In this issue will be covering the recent property tax assessments and property taxes, Ethan Allen Radio launch, Fluoride update, Burlington LP Caucus, Health Care Choice Act, and the recent medical marijuana bustl. I hope you enjoy the newsletter. Please feel free to send me your comments, suggestions and your own letters and articles to be included in future issues.

In Liberty,

Jeremy Ryan, Chair
Burlington Libertarian Party
contact me

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Affordable HousingProperty Re-Assessments and Property Taxes
By Jeremy Ryan

Recent re-assessments and property tax bills have many Burlingtonians talking. Many people are confused including the city council on what has happened. I will offer my take on this

Many people believe that the re-assessments are far too high. Much higher than they would be able to sell their home for. I believe this is due to two factors. First, the recent low interest rates enabled people to get far cheaper loans, which allowed people to be more willing to pay more for homes. This has been a problem nation-wide. Then, we have more and more new-comers to Vermont from states where homes cost more, so they are willing to pay more than market-value for a home here, thus raising the market-value of homes in Vermont.

Now, the city has said that this shouldn’t mean anything because the re-assessments are supposed to be revenue neutral, meaning that the city cannot benefit, tax-wise, from a re-assessment. So, why the increased tax burden?? This is because the rates a split between the commercial and residential. While both types of properties increased in value, residential increased more. I believe this is because of the increasing stigma of doing business in Burlington as Burlington has developed a reputation of being hostile towards business when compared to towns like Williston. Another factor, which actually doesn’t make the re-assessments revenue neutral is that city services such as Police and Fire have separate fixed tax rates which are not automatically adjusted for re-assessments. So, whenever there’s a re-assessment, some municipal services receive a windfall in their budgets without even asking for it or needing it, which of course means that the re-assessments are not revenue neutral and this means that property taxes are indeed increasing for the majority of Burlingtonians, including those who rent. It should be remembered that a good portion of the rent you pay is for property taxes.

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Police Beholden to Enforce Vermont Constitution and Vermont Laws
By Hardy Machia

The 5th Article of the Vermont Constitution states: “That the people of this state by their legal representatives, have the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.”

This means Vermont’s police are bound to enforce only Vermont laws, and the federal government can’t make our police enforce their laws. This was put into the Vermont Constitution at a time when slavery was legal in much of America, and Vermonters banned slavery in our Constitution at the same time. If we didn’t have the 5th Article in our state constitution, then the federal government might have made our internal police capture and return slaves to the southern states. We can all see the wisdom of our forefathers in protecting our individual rights.

But, police recently violated the Vermont Constitution when they confiscated multiple sclerosis patient Shayne Higgins’ marijuana that he was using to help ease the chronic pain associated with this debilitating disease.

Vermont’s legislature passed a medical marijuana law to protect sick Vermonters’ right to use marijuana as a medicine. Now our state and local police must protect our individual rights and serve our sick Vermonters by upholding Vermont law and our State Constitution.

Hardy Machia
President, Vermont NORML
Grand Isle, VT

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Fluoride in Burlington WaterFluoride Update
By Jeremy Ryan

The Safe Water Advocates of Burlington (SWAB) has initiated the campaign to get fluoride out of the drinking water. Many members spoke up against it at the last city council meeting, including Jeremy and Heavenly Ryan. A few simply stated that the city doesn’t have their permission to medicate them with fluoride. The petition drive to get 2000 signatures to put the issue to a vote on the next ballot has begun with great success. 95% of people talked to agree that putting it on the ballot is a good idea and are willing to sign up. There are already over 183 signatures. Below is a copy of what Jeremy Ryan stated to the city council at the last city council meeting…

“I do not support the fluoridation of our public water. Many people I talk to also do not support it. Many did not even know about it. Whether Fluoride is dangerous or not is not the issue. The issue is about force medicating people, which is something we shouldn’t be doing as a city. A lot of people believe in taking vitamin c to prevent colds. Some people believe taking aspirin regularly is good for you. Should we add aspirin and vitamin c to the water next? The city needs to start respecting individual’s rights to decide these things for themselves. From what I understand, Fluoride is the only substance in the water that doesn’t actually treat the water to make it safe for drinking… it is completely unnecessary… take it out and let the individual decide.”

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Health Care Choice Act
Vermont Libertarian Party Press Release

Vermont Libertarian Party urges Vermont Congressional Delegation to Support H.R. 4662

With the passage of Health Care Choice Act (H.R.4662) out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congress has moved one step closer to giving many Vermonters dramatically less expensive health insurance.

State Chair Scott Berkey said, “We urge Representative Sanders, Senator Jeffords, and Senator Leahy to help push this legislation through so that uninsured and priced-gouged Vermonters will be able to access the lower cost health insurance available in other states.”

A poll conducted by Zogby International found that 72 percent of respondents support allowing an individual in one state to buy health insurance from another state. The poll also found that 82 percent of Americans would be likely to purchase such a health insurance plan. The idea has broad bipartisan support.

A 2005 study of the 50 largest cities by http://www.eHealthInsurance.com found that a typical insurance policy ($1,000 deductible, 20% co-insurance) for an individual could be had for as little as $58 per month in a reasonably-regulated locality like San Francisco, CA, and $67.88 in Kansas City, MO. The most expensive cities, however, were Miami, Fl at $151.20; Boston, MA at $267.57; and New York, NY at $334.09. Boston and New York are the only cities within the top 50 with mandated guaranteed issue and community rating laws.

In a 2004 study, http://www.eHealthInsurance.com found an almost seven-fold difference between typical family policies in Kansas City, Missouri ($172/month) and those in New Jersey (a whopping $1,200-plus). Again, the difference was due far more to regulation than the cost of living differences.

Vermont also has community ratings, which drive away insurers and drive up prices. An individual policy here is over $370 — even higher than New York’s — according to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and a policy for a family of four ($3,500 deductible, $30 per office visit) is $999.

Berkey said, “The eHealth Insurance studies show the cost saving benefit that open markets provide. Removing the prohibition on interstate purchasing and giving consumers more choice will increase the general welfare of our society.”

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Ethan Allen RadioEthan Allen Radio Podcast for Burlington
By Jeremy Ryan

The Ethan Allen Radio show is hosted by Jeremy and Heavenly Ryan, who are residents of Burlington. Topics include issues and events which they are involved in. If you have issues you would like to be discussed or would like to be a guest on the show, please let us know.

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Burlington Libertarians in Action… (upcoming events)

  • September 6th 2005, 7PM
    Burlington City Council Meeting
    Will be held at City Hall’s Contois Auditorium.
  • September 13th 2005, 5PM
    Burlington Libertarian Party Caucus Meeting
    We are having our annual caucus at the Fletcher Free Library in the Pickering Room. Election of the Town Committee Officers will held and afterwards there will be time for discussion of issues and getting to know everyone! Please RSVP if you intend to come and contact Jeremy or Heavenly if you have any questions.
  • September 19th 2005, 7PM
    Burlington City Council Meeting
    Will be held at City Hall’s Contois Auditorium.

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Libertarian Humor…

Russmo Libertarian Cartoons

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Quote of the Month…

“The average family pays more in taxes than it spends on food, clothing, and shelter combined.”

Congressman Dick Armey

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Letters to the editor/ submit an article

For information or to submit news, letters, or articles, contact us .

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Burlington LP News is a publication of the Burlington Libertarian Party, 53 Avenue C, Burlington, VT 05401. All Rights Reserved. Copyright (C) 2005.

Moran Plant, a Historical Landmark?

It was recently announced that the Moran Plant will be considered for historical landmark status. It seems to me that the plan behind this is to make it harder for many of the ideas that the people want for the Moran Plant to happen.

It is very obvious that when asked the majority of people want a public park where the moran plant stands however, Mayor Clavelle and CEDO obviously still want their YMCA deal to go through or something similar. I still hear people pushing for it. This is a way to get it back on the ballot.

I remember when we were asked for suggestions, the comment card itself said that the most popular ideas would not necessarily be the ones put on the ballot. This sent an obvious signal that the board and the mayor will be choosing the choices we vote on. Hopefully, they do not intend to put the YMCA and then list a bunch of unpopular choices so that the YMCA becomes the most logical choice and pushing for the moran plant to be declared a historical landmark would make it that much easier for them.

Healthcare Choice Act

My comments regarding the article at: http://www.freedomworks.org/newsroom/press_template.php?press_id=1393

This sounds great to me… who wouldn’t want more choices and to force the insurance companies to compete against each while designing insurance packages to meet the needs of each individual. I read about a study in 2005 by ehealthinsurance.com that found the typical insurance policy ($1,000 deductible, 20% co-insurance) for an individual could be had for as little as $58 per month in a reasonably-regulated locality like San Francisco, CA, and $67.88 in Kansas City, MO. The most expensive cities, however, were Miami, Fl at $151.20; Boston, MA at $267.57; and New York, NY at $334.09. Boston and New York are the only cities within the top 50 with mandated guaranteed issue and community rating laws.

In a 2004 study, eHealthInsurance.com found an almost seven-fold difference between typical family policies in Kansas City, Missouri ($172/month) and those in New Jersey (a whopping $1,200-plus). Again, the difference was due far more to regulation than the cost of living differences.

Vermont also has community ratings, which drive away insurers and drive up prices. An individual policy here is over $370 — even higher than New York’s — according to Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s website http://www.bcbsvt.com/pages/contact/freedomplandirect.html, and a policy for a family of four ($3,500 deductible, $30 per office visit) is $999.

When Heavenly and I first got health insurance here I was surprised at how restrictive the policies are. The state requires people to have insurance for things I know I won’t need or would use. It seems that the state would rather have individuals without insurance than allowing them to have an affordable insurance package that meets their needs. It’s seems crazy to me… they should get out of the business and let the people have the right to choose.

Letter Regarding Fluoride

I recently received an email from Joanna Cole, a neighbor of mine here in Ward 7 of Burlington. We met her at our ward 4 and 7 NPA meeting. For those who don’t know this, Burlington has regular NPA meetings NPA stands for Neighborhood Planning Assembly. These are meetings where citizens and elected officials get together to discuss different issues usually related to their specific wards and sometimes larger city issues. They are great way to interact with your neighbors and talk to your officials in far more inviting environment than the city council meetings as you can often have direct contact with your elected officials rather than just speaking to them from the podium and not getting a response. I certainly recommend anyone interested in being more involved in city and neighborhood issues to come to a meeting. You can go to cedoburlington.org to find our where you local npa meets, the dates and times. We will post the link at our web site at ethanallenradio.com.

OK, back to Joanna’s letter. She told me her thoughts on the fluoridation of our drinking water. Joanna told me she believed that fluoride in the water helped keep her kids from having cavities and she went on to explain why she believes that Fluoride is safe for people to drink and she states that she considers water fluoridation a miracle public health measure.

I don’t know if she was clear on my position, so I responded with the following…

I understand what you are saying, but for me it’s not an issue of whether it’s good or not. It’s about the right to choose. I’m pro-choice. I think that the city should provide safe water to drink and let the individual decide what they want to put in it.

Personally, I’m not sure if fluoridating water does anything one way or the other. I grew up drinking fluoridated water all the time and I still have cavities… the problem with me is that I didn’t brush and floss. Therefore, it would seem that only way to prevent tooth decay is to brush and floss.