7:51 pm - The party for Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland and their affiliated fluoride supporters is slowly building to a buzz here at Curious Comedy Theater. The bar is well-patronized, the hors d'oeuvres look delightful, and everyone I've spoken with is holding out hope for a positive result, despite bleak polling data.
The polls could be wrong, they say. And who knows who will turn out for the election?
One sizable critique: No music! We're listening to the tabloid show Extra, which is playing on a large screen. The bustle of the fast-filling room is drowning it out now, thank god.
8:02 pm - Sounds of concern, as the first glimpse we get at the results shows fluoride opponents with a sizable lead—more than 20,000 votes at the moment.
"Not as bad as they thought," one woman says, referring to polls.
8:10 pm - The line for the bar is running deep, most of the snacks have been devoured and the effort is well-behind, but there's an air of joviality, still, among pro-fluoride folks.
I'm talking with Alejandro Queral, a program officer with major fluoride supporter Northwest Health Foundation, about a hypothetical loss. "If fluoride loses tonight," I ask, "is it a lost cause in Portland?"
Queral says no. Even if Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland, with it's sizable war chest, loses, Queral tells me it's only a matter of time before Portlanders approve fluoridation.
Some potential factors he offers for fluoride's underdog status: He says voters might have been put off by the way a fluoride ordinance came before council without much discussion. And fluoride opponents, Queral says, had an easy message to get across: "Don't mess it our water."
"They did a good job," he says.
Commissioner Steve Novick is in the house!
8:29 pm - Novick, sipping on a cocktail, blames fluoride's potential downfall on Lyndon Johnson.
Since the Vietnam War, he says, public trust of experts and government has waned considerably. And, he notes, "I don't think it's all that hard to get people to doubt. People got the idea that this was an assault on their way of life."
Novick, who was not yet a commissioner when the fight over fluoride began, appears to be the only denizen of city hall here. And there's no sign of former Commissioner Randy Leonard, who helped begin the fluoride push. Sam Adams, too, is missing.
Novick's got enough wry quotes to go around, though.
"I want this to make me realize that Republicans are not bad people," he says, noting that many friends disagreed with him on the fluoride issue. "That people who don't believe in global warming aren't bad people."
8:57 pm - The stage lights go up, and Queral addresses a cheering crowd.
“We really took it to them,” he says. “Obviously we will leave here a bit dissatisfied, and I hope we do. Because the work is not done yet.”
The event is clearly winding down, and NOW they turn on the music?! Shaking. My. Head.