Oct. 26, 2000
WHEN TOM LEWIS BEGAN PRACTICING dentistry in Willow Creek three years ago, he was appalled at the number of people with serious dental problems.
"I volunteered in Nicaragua and in my opinion the teeth are as bad here," he told the Journal last week.
Lewis came up with what he thought was a reasonable solution, add fluoride to the public water system. But in doing so, he ignited a debate that has pitted the county's public health community against some old-fashioned, small-town distrust of outsiders.
"Fluoride probably is good for the teeth," John Donahue said, "but we are more than just teeth."
Donahue has emerged as a sort anti-fluoride crusader for the town, spreading his concerns about the harm he feels fluoride might cause -- diseases he heard that could be fluoride-related, including thyroid disorders, kidney failure, arthritis, attention deficit disorder and Alzheimer's disease.
"If there's a doubt -- and there's definitely a doubt -- and we don't have to fluoridate, then why do we? People who want it should get tablets," he said.
"That's misinformation that's been put out for many years," Lewis said. He said there had been "many, many scientific double-blind studies showing the effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation," starting with experiments undertaken in the 1950s involving towns in the Midwest.
Donahue admits that he isn't sure what diseases are caused by fluoride -- he said he gets his information from the Internet and is aware of its subjective nature. He is not a spokesman for any organized anti-fluoridation group, but many in the community seem to share his concerns.
In early summer the Willow Creek Community Services District, which administers the town's water supply, sent out surveys with the water bills asking whether residents were in favor of or opposed to fluoridation. Of the 800 sent out, 200 were returned. Of those, 150 were opposed, according to district manger Marc Rowley.
Lewis claimed the survey was unscientific in its methodology and of little use.
"I don't think it's known what the users in this district want," he said.
But Donahue is "absolutely convinced" that the survey's results were correct, even if it was unscientific.
"I'll tell you right now if they have another survey it'll still fail."
At the district board's August meeting, the survey results were discussed and the board decided not to take any action. It meets again Oct. 25 (after press time) and Lewis will again press for fluoridation, but Rowley remains skeptical the board will impose fluoridation unless residents favor it.
Lewis held an informational town meeting Oct. 18 to try to convince residents of the advantages of fluoridation, but Rowley said he wasn't sure many minds were changed.
"He [Lewis] brought along experts, they talked for several hours, the meeting ended and everybody walked out the door. They certainly didn't come to any conclusion."
Lewis said that he believes in the democratic process, but that he isn't sure this should be a political issue. "I'll continue to advocate for fluoride," he said.
As for Donahue, the situation is much simpler:
"The whole thing is that we live in a little community and these are outsiders coming in and telling us to put fluoride in. And we don't want it.
-- story by Arno Holschuh
Tourism in Humboldt County is up and local governments have the money to prove it. A report on last year's bed tax shows tourism up 9 percent during the year ending June 30, the largest single-year increase during the 1990s.
The total bed tax revenue was $2.8 million -- that's in addition to the approximately $2.7 million that comes from taxes on sales to tourists.
It's another sign of a tourist boom, said Don Leonard, executive director of the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Phone calls to us asking for information about vacations here are up 25 percent," Leonard said. "It's just been a really good year."
On Nov. 7 some 2,200 unregistered voters will wander into Humboldt County polling stations and cast their votes, all in the name of civic education.
Teen Vote 2000, organized by the League of Women Voters and KEET-TV, is a county-wide event that encourages teens to cast votes in a separate election. While teens' votes won't count, their election has been designed to be in every other way identical to that of regular voters. They vote on a ballot identical to their parents, which includes bond measures and propositions. Students are required to go to regular polling places and they had to register a month in advance of the election.
Karen Barnes, a spokesperson for Teen Vote, said that she hoped the event would train young people to care about elections -- but also to remind their parents to vote.
"We hope it causes discussions around the dinner table and brings adults to the polls as well," she said. The results of Teen Vote will be announced and analyzed on a live television program which will air from 10 to 11 p.m. election night on KEET-TV.
When a Fieldbrook resident noticed her asthmatic daughter was having trouble with the smoke from wood stoves, she went to the Northcoast Environmental Center and asked for advice. What she received was a mass mailing sent to the 560 households in Fieldbrook giving advice on how to burn wood efficiently with minimal air pollution.
The pamphlet explains how residents should use seasoned firewood, not green wood, four to six inches thick. The fire should burn hot, especially in the first 30 minutes, allowing plenty of air to enter the stove. Airtight stoves actually increase air pollution.
Tim McKay, executive director of the center, said the NEC action was not unique.
"We're very much community based and responsive to the person walking through the door."
Tammi Callahan says she has a hard time making it to the gym.
"When you're picking clay or shoveling gravel, it gets to be workout in itself," she said. "And then you drive in your car for half an hour to get home. That's when the mental game starts: Go to the gym or go home?"
It looks like Callahan, a construction worker and competitive weightlifter, made it to the gym often enough: She won the national championship in St. Louis earlier this month and is headed to the world championship in the Czech Republic in December. Callahan won the bench press in her weight class, 132.5 to 148 pounds, by lifting 209 pounds.
"I did not in my wildest dreams expect to win it," Callahan said. She was so sure that she wouldn't, she never made arrangements for travel to the world championships and is now involved in last-minute fund raising.
But that's OK. Callahan's used to doing things the hard way. Despite her grueling workdays, she spends 15 hours a week working out. It's a work ethic she developed when was severely injured on the job a few years ago. A deck fell on her during construction of the county jail, broke her back in two places and ruptured a disk.
After that, she knew she would have to be in perfect shape to get hired again.
"I had a double whammy being a woman with a broken back. I knew I'd have to make myself marketable and prove myself all over again. But I have that type of personality where I don't like being told what I can or cannot do." Obviously.
If you'd like to help get Callahan to Prague, call 445-5974 and ask for Maggie Kraft, who is organizing fund raising for Callahan.
Do you get the shivers when you look at the small size of your woodpile?
The Redwood Community Action agency is offering energy rebates to income-qualified households. The rebates, ranging from $116 to $180 depending on household income and size, can be used to buy firewood or propane or to pay a home heating utility bill.
Funding is limited. Call 444-3834 for information.
Wine connoisseurs from throughout Northern California will meet at the Eureka Inn for the College of the Redwoods' first Autumn Vintage Wine Auction Gala Saturday, Oct. 28.
The event's organizers come from the A-list of the wine world. Honorary chair is Dan Duckhorn, president of Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena. Co-chairs are Michael Fielding, retired senior partner of Price Waterhouse Coopers and cofounder of the Detroit International Wine Auction, and Mark Carter, proprietor of Carter House Victorians and Restaurant 301 in Eureka.
Carter has just returned from New York City where, for the third year running, Wine Spectator magazine gave his voluminous wine collection its "Grand Award," declaring it among "the greatest in the world."
Carter promises the CR gala "is going to be a great event with some fabulous wines, great prizes and some of the best vintners in the world."
Auctioneer Fred Schrader of Calistoga's Schrader will offer case lots and single bottles including valuable big bottles, commemorative magnums, collectible vintages and cult-status wines.
The event begins at 5 p.m. with a silent auction of wine and North Coast art, an auction preview, wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres. A dinner, prepared by the Inn's Chef Jean-Louis Hamiche, follows at 7 p.m. The live auction begins at 7:15 and is followed by dancing to music by Donna Landry and CR instructor John Raczka.
And it's all for a good cause.
"The proceeds from this event will allow us to launch a high-tech, career-support service throughout the CR district, linking students to the best-paying, most rewarding opportunities available," said CR President Casey Crabill.
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