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Anti-fluoride activist Pressley to run for undetermined Council seat

Monday, December 12, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

Political gadfly Laura Pressley has announced that she is running for City Council. A longtime anti-fluoridation activist and member of the Texans for Accountable Government steering committee, Pressley told In Fact Daily that she is running because the current City Council has not made Austinites their top priority. As a consequence, she said, citizens’ individual health, environmental health, and economic health are all suffering.

“(City Council members) don’t pay attention to the Austinites, what our needs are,” Pressley said. “I’ve been presenting at City Council for the last year and a half, and I’ve had it with them. They don’t respond. They don’t pay attention to anybody.”

Pressley, who announced Saturday at Scholz’s Garden, hasn’t decided yet which Council seat she’ll be running for – Mike Martinez’s Place 2, Bill Spelman’s Place 5, and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole’s Place 6 are all on the ballot – but said she plans on making her decision by late January/early February. At the moment, she said, even places 2 and 6 — which are generally set aside for a Hispanic and African-American Council member, respectively, under the city’s “gentlemen’s agreement” – are under consideration.

“We’re getting a lot of feedback from organizations and people to see where my skill set fits the best,” said Pressley. “We know people are concerned about the gentleman’s agreement, but that’s all open for us.”

Pressley earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Texas before spending 17 years working as an engineer in the semiconductor industry, focusing on contamination control. In 1997 she co-founded purified bottled rain water company Pure Rain, which she now runs, and she is a member of the Fluoride Free Austin steering committee. Pressley believes her scientific background would be invaluable on the Council. 

“There is no one with a technology background on the Council,” said Pressley. “From a problem-solving standpoint, you need a cross-functional team to attack issues. This city is a very technical city; there are a lot of technical problems that the Council has to deal with. You need someone with a technical background and there’s no one on Council who has it. That’s the piece I can bring.”

As a Council member, Pressley said she would focus on what she calls the “health of Austin” – economic health, environmental health, and physical health.

On the economic front, Pressley said she would focus on giving city contracts to city companies.

“If you look at the contracts Council awards to different companies, they need to buy local,” said Pressley. “Millions of dollars go to companies outside of Austin. I’m not sure what’s broken, but something’s broken. Why are they not buying local with our tax dollars?”

Environmentally, Pressley said she would develop a strategy for detaching Austin from the Fayette Power Plant and end the city’s practice of purchasing nuclear energy from the South Texas Project facility.

“That’s a big environmental disaster waiting to happen. We don’t want another Fukushima here in Texas,” Pressley said.

The individual health issue might just be the most significant for Pressley, particularly as it relates to the fluoridation of the city’s water supply and the possible use of controversial TSA body scanners at Austin-Bergstrom Airport.

“I’m the anti-fluoride candidate,” she said. “We pushed for a warning on city utility bills but the Council turned us down. Even the city on the Web site warns about the impacts of fluoridated water on infants. But a lot of people don’t have access to the Internet. When I buy a box of vanilla wafers it tells me what’s in it; how come my water bill doesn’t tell me what’s in my water?”

Pressley went on to argue that the TSA full-body scanners going in at the airport use microwave radiation that could be harmful to people’s health. According to the TSA, the Austin scanners, AITs, use millimeter waves that are safe for all passengers, including children and pregnant women.

“Let us make the decision: Not everyone is going to be sensitive to fluoride, not everyone is going to be sensitive to scanners, but you need to have the information so that you have the choice,” said Pressley.

At present, Pressley’s campaign team is made up of only person – Treasurer Jason Wahoski – but if the crowd at Saturday’s event is any indication, she can count on the support of some of the most motivated, and consistently anti-incumbent, political activists in the city, including Texans for Accountable Government Executive Director Heather Fazio, former Assistant City Manager (and Council candidate) Roger Chan, and longtime Council critic John Bush.

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