After covering the City Council vote with a story on May 17, the SF Chronicle rushed to editorialize against it this morning. Sugar lobby must have gotten to them. See these and other media coverage below.
At this point, it’s in the hands of the voters.
Vote no on Richmond soda tax
Friday, May 18, 2012
The Richmond City Council seems to have taken a cue from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in voting 5-2 to put a penny-an-ounce "soda tax" on the November ballot.
Then again, the idea of singling out sugary beverages for a surtax proved too much even for San Francisco when it was raised by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom a few years ago. And San Francisco hasn't been shy about leading the way in taxation innovation or invoking the powers of government to get its citizens to eat right. It is, after all, the city that banned Happy Meals and required nutritional labels on restaurant menus.
The Richmond proposal is not limited to the empty-calorie sodas. It also would include Snapple and other beverages with added sugar. It would not apply to fruit juices or diet sodas.
There might be a temptation by some to compare the soda tax to cigarette taxes - such as the $1-a-pack statewide proposal on the June ballot.
But a penny-an-ounce tax in Richmond is not likely to cause many residents to stop drinking sodas - it might cause them to buy in bulk in neighboring towns. It also will not deter anyone from gorging on other goodies that contribute to obesity - unless, of course, someone on the city council comes up with a fat-gram tax on chips, Cheetos, kettle corn and other junk food.
Perhaps we should not suggest it, even in jest.
Richmond soda tax to fight obesity makes ballot
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Richmond voters will decide this fall whether to impose what could be the nation's first municipal tax on soda and other sugary beverages - a penny-per-ounce surcharge intended to fight childhood obesity.
The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to place the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, despite impassioned protests from grocers and soda drinkers.
The tax would go into the city's general fund, raising between $2 million and $8 million annually for soccer fields, school gardens, diabetes treatment and other antiobesity projects.
"Even a Twinkie has some nutritional value. But soft drinks have none. They're poisonous," said City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a longtime Richmond doctor who proposed the measure. "I think other cities are going to follow our lead."
The tax would apply to soft drinks as well as Snapple and other beverages with added sugar. Most juice would be exempt, as would diet sodas.
The council's decision came after several hours of heated discussion. Councilmen Corky Boozé and Nathaniel Bates were the dissenting votes.
Tax on the poor
Boozé argued that the tax is unfair because it falls disproportionately on Richmond merchants and soda drinkers who have no means of shopping in neighboring cities.
"This is a tax on poor people. That's all it is," he said. "People are going to drink soda anyway. But people who can't afford cars are going to end up paying more."
Rosa Lara, a Richmond resident who delivered 900 signatures to the council opposing the measure, said an economic downturn is not the time to introduce new taxes, particularly in a city with a high poverty rate. Nearly 20 percent of Richmond residents live below the poverty line, according to federal data.
"People are already struggling to pay their bills," she said. "If the city really wants to fight obesity, why not make the streets safer so kids can play outside?"
Cities throughout the country, including San Francisco and San Pablo, have considered soda taxes as a way to reduce obesity and its related health effects. But no city has gotten as far as Richmond, said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
"If these products are causing damage to the community, the community has a right to recoup those damages," he said. "I think Richmond's action is quite forward-looking. The science is solid linking soda to obesity."
A nationwide soda tax, similar to Richmond's, would prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 deaths over the next decade, according to a January study by UCSF, San Francisco General Hospital and Columbia University.
In Richmond, about a third of African American and Latino sixth- and seventh-graders are obese, and an additional 20 percent are overweight, said Ritterman, who worked as a cardiologist at Kaiser Richmond for 30 years.
Soda is a prime culprit behind obesity because it's consumed far more widely than candy, ice cream or other sweets and has virtually no nutritional value, Ritterman said.
And if city residents can improve their health, and therefore feel better, they'll be more likely to become better students, parents, neighbors and citizens, said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
Ultimately, a healthier city will lead to less crime and be a boon for merchants, she said.
"Instead of hurting business, we think this will help business," she said. "People will see us as an innovative city. We'll be a national model."
Juan Cerritos isn't so sure. He drinks four or five Cokes a day and sells several dozen at the taqueria he owns at 27th Street and Barrett Avenue.
"I know it's unhealthy, but I like it," he said. "It tastes good. I don't know why they want to make it more expensive."
Carolyn Jones is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. email@example.com
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Richmond to place 'soda tax' on November ballot
By Robert Rogers
For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/16/2012 09:01:24 AM PDT
Updated: 05/16/2012 09:01:25 AM PDT
Richmond voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to tax merchants on sales of sugar-sweetened drinks.
The Richmond City Council voted Tuesday to put tandem ballot measures to local voters. One would impose a business license fee of 1 cent per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverages sold by local businesses.
The other ballot item is an advisory measure imploring the council to use the tax's proceeds for sports and health education programs aimed at local youths.
The measure's author, Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a former chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center, said he will campaign to build local support for the November vote.
"I'm in this to win this," Ritterman said, adding that modern science has convinced him that sugar-sweetened beverages impair public health, particularly in poorer minority communities.
The vote for both measures was 5-2, with Councilmen Nat Bates and Corky Booze dissenting.
"I can't see this ballot measure passing," Bates said. "People are fed up with the taxes."
Taxing sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages has been a hot-button issue in the city since November, when the council directed city staff to craft a ballot measure aimed at reducing soda consumption and generating revenues for public health programs.
Opponents, including local restaurant owners, grocers and market owners, have argued that the tax will put them at a disadvantage against competitors in nearby cities.
Opponents also say the tax won't reduce consumption, will fall disproportionately on the working poor and dissuade prospective investors from opening restaurants and grocery stores in the city.
"This is not going to fly here," Booze said. "This is a regressive tax."
About 50 residents spoke during the public comment period, with roughly equal numbers supporting and opposing the ballot measure.
Proponents, led by Ritterman, say the tax will generate up to $8 million in annual tax revenue and reduce consumption of sugary drinks.
City staff said merchants would be expected to calculate their tax liabilities by monitoring inventory records, which would show how much of the affected products they sold.
During opening remarks at Tuesday's meeting, Ritterman hoisted a five-gallon water jug full of white sugar, saying that some kids consume that much added sugar per year.
"The product is toxic," Ritterman said. "I didn't know that as a doctor for a lot of years, this is new science."
Although the tax would include all beverages that have added sugar or sugar equivalents, the bulk of sugar-sweetened beverage sales remains soda.
Although no data exist for Richmond residents' soda-drinking habits, the national trend is down. The average American drinks fewer than two sodas per day, a drop of about 16 percent since 1998, according to Beverage Digest, a trade publication.
Tuesday's vote also paves the way to continue the city's recent run of firsts. Last June, Richmond became the first city in Contra Costa County to approve municipal identification cards. Earlier this year, Richmond became the first city in California to endorse a statewide "millionaire's tax" ballot measure.
The beverage tax would be the first of its kind in the nation if it passes in November, Ritterman said.
The tax could be a significant cost to local businesses. For example, sale of a 2-liter bottle of soda, a popular item in markets, would incur a new tax of about 67 cents.
Several business owners spoke out Tuesday against the tax, saying it would shave their already thin profit margins and push customers to nearby cities.
Ritterman and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said they hoped to persuade leaders in surrounding cities to consider similar measures.
"There's no reason why we can't do this in the entire East Bay," Ritterman said.
Councilmen Tom Butt and Jim Rogers said they would prefer a coalition of cities or a statewide measure but still supported putting it on the ballot.
Both measures require simple majorities of voters in November.
The council majority left no doubt they were prepared to be out in front with the tax, at least initially.
"The best way to adopt these taxes is statewide and nationwide, but that's not always going to happen," Butt said. "This will be a wave that can sweep California and sweep the country."
Soda Tax approved for Richmond Ballot
Richmond Resident Juan Reardon shows his support for the soda tax during the city council meeting.
City council leaders In Richmond voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to put a special soda tax proposal on the November 6 ballot. The soda tax would add a one cent per ounce surcharge to soda and other sugary fruit drinks that contain less than ten percent juice.
Under this ordinance, grocery stores, markets, and other vendors that sell beverages would pay the business license fee and monitor ounces sold per year. If residents approve the measure, Richmond would be the first city in the country to tax soda in the fight against obesity.
“I would like us to use the tax revenue in programs that prevent childhood obesity, like healthy school gardens and nutrition classes and cooking classes in the schools,” said Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who led the push for the tax and is also a doctor. “We’d also like to provide adequate sports fields and teams for our children as well as programs that fight against childhood obesity.”
With over 200 Richmond residents in attendance, the city council meeting was filled to capacity. Tensions flared as advocates and opponents of the soda tax alike brought signs and petitions with them and made their presence known with cheering and booing throughout the meeting. Nearly 60 speakers came up to address the council on their positions on the soda tax.
Local business owners in the audience, however, expressed concern that the soda tax would make it difficult to monitor how many ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages are sold per year and how much tax should be paid to the city. The measure could generate between $2 million to $8 million in additional annual revenue, according to a city staff report.
“The increased costs of soft drinks would adversely affect employment in Richmond,” said Tim James, a representative of California Grocers Association. ”Research has shown that the additional tax on soft drinks will not lower consumption, and force residents to seek grocery stores and markets outside of Richmond.”
Council members Corky Booze and Nat Bates, opponents of the soda tax, argued that it will have little effect on consumption and will primarily target African American and Latino communities.
“It’s clear that African Americans are being used as a stepping stool to get this tax approved,” Booze said. “Are we going to start taxing Twinkies and cakes too because they aren’t good for us?”
Read the full soda tax story on Richmond Confidential.
Connect with Richmond Confidential on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.
Soda Tax Hits Richmond Ballot
A tax on soda is headed to the ballot in Richmond.
By Chris Roberts
| Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Updated 3:03 PM PDT
A tax on sugary drinks -- which leads children to consume the equivalent of a five-gallon water jug's worth of sugar every year -- is headed to the ballot in Richmond for voters' consideration.
A business license fee of 1 cent per ounce of "sugar-sweetened beverages sold by local businesses" will be on the Nov. 6 ballot in Richmond, according to the Contra Costa Times. This would impose a tax of 67 cents on two-liter bottles of soda, according to the newspaper.
A tandem ballot measure urging the proceeds to be spent on educational programs for local youths will also appear on the ballot, according to the newspaper.
Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a doctor and former head of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center, said that science convinced him that sugar is toxic and that the city needs to be healthy. Too much soda leads to obesity as well as other issues, he said.
"The product is toxic," Ritterman said, in comments recorded by the newspaper. "I didn't know that as a doctor for a lot of years, this is new science."
Both measures headed to the ballot with 5-2 votes. Councilmen Nat Bates and Corky Booze dissented, the newspaper reported.
The tax could generate as much as $8 million in extra revenue for the city, according to Ritterman.
Business owners and opponents said that the tax could force shoppers to buy soda in nearby cities. Ritterman and supporters said they hope nearby cities follow Richmond's example.
Copyright NBC Owned Television Stations
Soda tax will appear on Richmond ballot
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
By John Alston
RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- In Richmond on Tuesday night city leaders voted 5-2 to put a special tax proposal on sodas on the November ballot. They are trying to take a hard-line on soft drinks. They may become the first city in the nation to put a special tax on sodas and sugary drinks.
The fight over a soda tax boiled down to two main arguments: health versus higher taxes. Leading the charge for the increase is Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, M.D.
"This is the amount of sugar that your child or you eat when you drink one can of soda a day for a year," said Ritterman. "I'm a cardiologist. I spent 30 years taking care of this problem. This is a major killer and it will kill these young children, unless we do something."
His plan is to put a tax on soda and other sugar drinks that would cost an extra one penny per ounce. He says, like the cigarette tax, that would be a deterrent and reduce the consumption of sugar he says leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart attacks. Opponents don't like the idea of another tax.
"I agree that soda is not good for us, it's just that only us will suffer in Richmond and everybody else will be good. And I mean suffering by spending the money that we don't have because we don't have jobs," said Naomi Williams, a Richmond resident.
"Because it's a tax on poor people. Let's not just call it a sugar tax, let's call it what it is, a tax on poor people," said Richmond City councilman Corky Booze.
The American Beverage Association set up shop before the meeting to fight the tax. The owner of Nelson's Market, Danny Alemayehu, thinks it's not a good idea.
"It's bad. It's a very bad idea to the consumers. People are broke as it is," said Alemayehu.
Supporters say the tax would generate between $2 and $8 million a year and the money would go toward after school sports programs, health care for children with diabetes, and healthier school meals.
"I don't drink that much soda because my mom doesn't let me because you get fat," said Juan Hernandez, 11 years old.
The final city council vote was taken Tuesday night and the tax proposal will go before voters in November.
(Copyright ©2012 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
Richmond debates tax measure for sodas and other sugery drinks
RICHMOND, Calif. —
A full house was in attendance at the Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday night as the members considered a ballot measure to levy a tax on the sale of soda and other sugary beverages.
The idea is to tax the drinks one penny per ounce. The tax would make a can soda cost 12 cents more, while a movie theater coke could cost 44 cents more.
Supporters of the measure said the tax would help Richmond's kids.
Richmond resident Marvin Willis argued that soda may taste good, but its not good for you.
"We do have a lot of overweight and obese children walking our cities and soda is contributing to it," said Willis.
Officials said the tax could generate between two to eight million dollars a year. The money could be used to support sports and nutrition programs for children.
Danny Alemayehu, who manages a market in Richmond, said the tax would be ineffectual.
"They're not going to stop [drinking soda] by raising the penny tax on them," said Alemayehu.
Century Theater manager Ben Suller had much more serious concerns about the measure. He told KTVU sodas are the number one seller at his business.
"It's gonna hit my bottom line big time and the cost of operating the business is probably going to be in question," said Suller.
Councilman Corky Booze is opposed to the tax.
"It's a tax on poor people," said Booze. "Let's just not call it a sugar tax. Let's call it what it is. A tax on poor people."
But resident Liduvina Ochoa said the tax makes sense to her.
"I think if you're poor and you don't have that much money I think it would be better not to buy the sodas and start eating healthy."
With the volume of people slated to speak, no decision on the measure had been announced as of late Tuesday evening.