Port Angeles businesses get letter threatening blacklisting over fluoridation

PORT ANGELES — Businesses in Port Angeles that serve tap water to their customers have received an unsigned letter threatening them with being blacklisted if voters favor fluoridating the city’s municipal water supply in a Nov. 7 advisory ballot measure, and if the Port Angeles City Council follows through on its pledge to follow the voters’ will.

The city council, under intense community pressure, voted in August 2016 to stop water fluoridation and put forward the general election advisory ballot.

A sample flier titled “Port Angeles Water Contaminated” and ending with the statement, “For your safety, Concerned Citizens of Our Town” was sent to the businesses.

The recipients include H2O Waterfront Bistro, Young Johnson, the owner and Port Angeles Downtown Association board president, said Monday.

It was postmarked Oct. 26.

Other restaurants also received it, she said.

In the letter to Johnson, it begins with a typed out “Dear” and then has “OWNER H20” in handwriting.

“How much business can you afford to lose?” it asks.

“Are you ready to have your restaurant/hotel/store listed on a handout warning the public that your business serves, makes or treats food items with tainted water?”

“If Port Angeles returns to putting fluoride in the public water supply, your business will be identified as one serving its patrons beverages and foods containing fluoride.”

A sample flier that would be distributed to the public that was included in the mailing is labeled “Port Angeles Water Contaminated!”

“The water being delivered to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, motels and hotels in the Port Angeles area is being contaminated,” the flier says.

The flier that would be handed out to visitors and the general public would include a list of businesses that serve beverages with fluoridated water and use the “contaminated water” for such purposes as washing and misting food that is labeled organic.

“Protect yourself and the ones you love by avoiding these businesses,” the letter said.

“Nearby Sequim offers noncontaminated water, and offers everything you need.”

Johnson was taken aback by the mailing.

“What offended me and concerned me was that this group felt they could use a bully tactic against business owners to make their point,” she said.

“The sad part of this is, and the part I regret is, it’s methods like this that discredit the meaning behind it, the thought behind it, the purpose behind it.

“We businesses are just like any other person in this community.

“We have one vote, just like everyone else in this community.”

The mailing also was received by the downtown businesses Next Door Gastropub restaurant and Bada Bean espresso shop, Gastropub owner Jake Oppelt, said Monday.

Oppelt is a former city council candidate who opposes fluoridation.

“We’re not in control whether our water gets fluoridation or not,” Oppelt said, calling the letter “scare tactics.”

“I think the letter is just immature. Anyone who can’t even put their name on something has got no business in getting any attention, in my opinion.”

Johnson said she reported receiving the letter to Port Angeles Police Department on Monday.

Smuggler’s Landing Restaurant also filed a report with the department, according to police records.

“It’s really a form of extortion,” Smuggler’s Landing owner Rick Mathis said.

“It makes not difference if I am for it or against it, if the community itself does not support it, they are gonna slander the community to send business elsewhere?

“They are trying to extort my support if I don’t agree with this, don’t agree with that mind-set.”

Deputy Chief Jason Viada said Monday that the mailing did not rise to the level of harassment or a physical threat.

Concerned Citizens of Our Town is not listed as a political action committee by the state Public Disclosure Commission, PDC spokeswoman Kim Bradford said Monday.

Representatives from the antifluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! said they were not responsible for the letter.

“That’s not one of my flock, for sure,” group chair Eloise Kailin said Sunday. “I would hope not.”

The mailing “was really over the edge,” she added.

“I fight with the facts, not with threats.”

Kailin and Port Angeles resident Mike Libera, vice president of Our Water, Our Choice!, said they had never heard of Concerned Citizens of Our Town.

“I would hate to stoop to that level,” Libera said of the mailing.

“Having said that, I don’t see anything that’s not true about it.”

Libera said the public should be warned about restaurants and businesses that use fluoridated water if it’s put back into the municipal water supply.

“If they are taking their children out to dinner or a birthday party, why should their children be exposed to that sort of thing?

“Why should’t they protect themselves?”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.