• Illustration by alex despain
In the minutes after this year's water fluoridation push went down in flames, both sides—even the victorious forces of Clean Water Portland—were gingerly extending olive branches in a bid to move the city past a sometimes ugly political debate pitting kinfolk against kinfolk, neighbor against neighbor.

Surely, the entreaties went, we can all agree on our shared passion for dental health, for the health of our children (always the children), that both sides had the best interests of their city at heart.

"There are good people who believe perfectly the opposite of what we did," volunteer KC Hanson said to some fanfare at the Clean Water Portland party. "As a community, as Portland, we need to come together. I know you guys will."

Today, Portland City Club has announced it's taking the first step toward turning those salving sentiments into some kind of direct action.

Backers of the well-funded fluoridation push will work with the opposition movement's biggest local funder, Daniel Deutsch (a notable qualifier, given the out-of-state money that fueled the campaign) on a task force devoted to finding other solutions to our kids' lackluster dental health.

From City Club's statement:

“What excited us most about the campaign was the enthusiasm on all sides of the issue for a solution to Portland’s dental health problems,” said Nichole Maher, President Northwest Health Foundation. “After the election it was clear there were many areas in which the anti-side was actually an ally. It just made sense to reach out and combine forces.”

The task force will study the most workable solutions for improving dental health outcomes for children in Multnomah County. It will examine proven community-based strategies that have improved dental health in other cities. Following the findings of the report, the task force will develop a set of recommendations.

"I truly appreciate the willingness to come together, and find a common purpose, in spite of our being on opposite sides of the debate,” said Deutsch. “In the end, we are working toward the same goal, a healthier Portland. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be part of this collaboration."

Fluoridation foes made much of data, released late in the campaign, that showed modest improvement in Multnomah County cavity rates in the past few years—improvements that came without fluoridation. But all the same, cavity rates here are worse than the national average and also worse among lower-income children and people of color.

City Club has information on its task force here, and is accepting applications from interested potential members until next Wednesday, October 16.