Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sue Carlton: Roche's fluoride flip-flop smells like politics

There are many things in the world I do not understand: uberpowerful men (like the one currently making headlines) willing to risk family, career and reputation for the sake of … what? Risk, maybe?

And also the Kardashians, famous for no good reason I can figure out.

But politics I get — particularly in the never-thought-you'd-see-it post-election fluoride flip-flop by Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche.

Two years ago, the Democrat-turned-Republican Roche won the office on his fourth try and, from the start, was not boring. At one point he acknowledged posting online comments on news stories under the name "Reality" (which is kind of funny if you think about it.) He called St. Petersburg "unique" in the county for "thug shootings," "prostitute beatings" and "social services recipients." Reality had also made insightful comments on gays and blacks.

Roche apologized and said, "The only perfect person I know was nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago." So, no — his tenure has not been dull.

Then came the kind of issue that can, pardon the expression, come back to bite you. Last year, commissioners talked about cavity-fighting fluoride and whether it belongs in the county's drinking water.

From dentists and experts: an exasperated "Of course it does."

From suspicious tea party types: "Horrors, no."

The tea party movement at its height has been a fascination in itself, that group waving around the Constitution, pushing antitax and anticompromise causes and opposing politicians considering anything as forward-thinking as, say, light rail.

Fluoride, though? That battle you might have thought was won long ago, but no. Four commissioners including Roche jumped aboard the tea party bus and voted to quit putting fluoride in the water.

Unfortunately for two of them, Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock, they were up for re-election this time around, and an educated electorate promptly voted them out. Both commissioners blamed fluoride.

And already, people are rumbling about running against Roche two years into his term.

So here was Roche two days after the election with a change of tune and a plan to support a proposal to add fluoride back to the water.

Hey, might this mean a change of heart on light rail, another tea party scourge?

Via email this week, Roche said only: "Voters can continue to expect exactly what they've come to expect of me: consistency, truth, fact-based decision making, hard work, and strong stewardship of their tax dollars and county services." I'm pretty sure that's a no.

Roche denies politics plays a part in his fluoride stance. He insisted he doesn't base his positions "on campaign donations, special interest endorsements, or newspaper editorial opinions."

But switch he did.

I'm guessing he also doesn't see himself as a canary in a coal mine when it comes to the tea party's waning influence here, but there's that, too.

So I may not understand a lot of things in the world, like powerful men who risk everything or our fascination with the vapidly rich, but I know politics when I see them.

I'm guessing a controversial county commissioner hoping to hold on to his seat does, too.

Sue Carlton: Roche's fluoride flip-flop smells like politics 11/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senate Obamacare effort dies; Rubio in favor of repeal, Nelson against

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - The Senate Republican effort to Obamacare failed early Friday, with John McCain providing a decisive vote.

    The Senate vote
  2. Senate ponders health care bill it doesn't want to be law

    National

    Buoyed by a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a pared-down health care bill late Thursday that he hoped would keep alive Republican ambitions to repeal Obamacare.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concerns about passing the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare without assurances of further negotiations.
  3. Arrest made in shooting death of 19-year-old found in lot

    News

    A 20-year-old Tampa man was arrested Thursday night for the shooting death of a 19-year-old whose body was discovered in a vacant lot on Tuesday.

  4. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  5. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda