Richmond doctors square off on sugar-sweetened beverage Measure N

The CCABT has spent $2.4 million on efforts to defeat Measure N since January. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)

The CCABT has spent $2.4 million on efforts to defeat Measure N since January. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)

The debate surrounding Richmond’s proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages intensified this week, with a prominent Richmond doctor, Brazell Carter, speaking out against the measure in fliers distributed by the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes.

Carter said although sugar is addictive, it is unfair to single it out as the sole culprit behind obesity. Carter said he would be more likely to support the measure if it had been crafted in a way that binds Council to use the revenue for building health clinics, and offering health education courses.

“I understand the problems, but I think we need to have a fair and balanced approach to say that sugar is not the only thing that makes you fat,” Carter said. “There are other things that go along with it – the fat and the salt.  It’s a combination of the three.”

Mailers showing a picture of Carter in medical attire, complete with a stethoscope, were recently sent out to residents, imploring them to join Carter in opposing the measure. Campaign contributions show that Carter received $500 from the CCABT.

Filings obtained from the Richmond City Clerk’s office on October 25 show that Carter, who runs a medical practice at 2600 Macdonald Avenue in Richmond, received $500 in payments classified as “T.V. or cable airtime and production costs” from the American Beverage Association through the CCABT.

Carter said the money he had received from the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes was for the use of his office to produce campaign literature against the measure.

In the mailer, Carter denounces Measure N as “bad medicine” saying “attitudes about making healthy food choices cannot be made through political mandates.” Measure N architect Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who is a cardiologist, dismissed Carter’s position on the measure as being influenced by his relationship with the CCABT.

“I just left a medical school in San Francisco, where I spoke to more than 100 medical professionals and they disagree with him,” Ritterman said, “You may have one doctor like Carter who is influenced by other people, but the whole medical society agrees that this is the way to go.”

Ritterman said the city of Richmond had been working on solutions to childhood obesity for at least three years before bringing it to the vote.

“We are not getting help from the federal government on this and we are not going to let our children die young,” Ritterman said, “I don’t know where he (Carter) is getting his assumption that sugar is not a major cause, he is 100 percent wrong. I think he’s doing somebody a favor and doing the community a disservice, he is a doctor and shouldn’t be doing that.”

The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes has spent $2.4 million in its campaign against the measure since January 2012, while the Yes on N Richmond Children Fit for Life campaign has spent $42,000 over the same period.

“We expect to spend everything that we have and we have raised a total of $69,000,” Ritterman said, “We have another $17,000. We have seen the billboards against the measure, and thats the environment in which we have to push this campaign, corporations basically try to control elections. We can beat them anyway.”

Carter, who has been practicing medicine for more than 30 years and is planning to retire soon, said Richmond needed to provide more comprehensive healthcare facilities and solutions to its residents.

“When I first went into medicine, there were no fewer than about 12 doctors [in Richmond]. And as time moved on, they died or retired,” he said. Now, he said there are about three private practice doctors in the city.

“And when I do retire, I want to see something left in Richmond that’s going to make a difference in terms of health care,” Carter said.

7 Comments

  1. Charles T. Smith

    Charles T. Smith
    October 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm
    “A generation ago, Sir Michael Marmot and colleagues [Whitehall Study] showed convincingly that social class was a far more important determinant of health outcome than cholesterol level, blood pressure, diet, and smoking behavior combined. The message was clear. The social environment is the major determinant of health outcome.”
    Dr. Jeff Ritterman, 3-28-2011

    http://www.healthycal.org/archives/3864

    • Jeff Ritterman

      Charles, The fact that stress remains a major factor in adverse health outcomes dose not negate the fact that sugar is causing the obesity/diabetes/heart disease and cancer epidemics. The stress adds to the problem. The combination of excess stress and poor diet are a large part of the reason there are health inequities and health disparities. A poor diet only adds to the stress.

  2. Bob

    Anyone saying sugar is alright is wanting to please their patient group or they’re simply ignorant and need to read more. Fact: Sugar has absolutely NO nutritional value, none. This is irrefutable. Fact: Sugar increases the risk for obesity significantly in adults and children in America.
    (MS in Health\MBA here)

  3. Andres Soto

    Dr. Carter is just another part of the crowd here in Richmond that have historically put themselves up for sale cheap, regardless of who is writing the check or its impact on the community.

    So sad that he would put himself up for sale for a mere $500. But what the heck he is retiring and it doesn’t matter what his colleagues will think of him at that point.

    This is what the Progressive Movement here in Richmond is up against. Talk about Plantation Politics!

    • Cochise Potts

      Adnres, bro I had a lot more repect for you than what you display with your remark about Dr. Carter. I doubt very seriously that 500.00 would make or brake him. It seems to me that anyone who does not agree with the principles of the RPA is either bought off by Corporate America or just plain wrong in their views. The fact of the matter as I see it measure N was in my view poorly written there are no guarantee that the funds generated from this would be used for its intended purpose. In the same light that the RPA wants Cheveron to enter into a community benefit agreement I think it is prudent that the backer of measure N would do the same. What I see here is a money grab and it is being fostered by the RPA whose hopeing to get its candidates in office that will ultimately control these funds to implement whatever project they see fit. I would encourage you and the supporters of
      measure N the read the study conducted by the CDC regarding the excessive amount of Salt intake by our youths and the detrimental affects it has on their health. Would you purpose taxing Salt to reduce the consumption of it?? If not, how can you justify taxing products containing fructose because of the damaging affects it has on our youths health as well. Sounds a bit hypocritical to me, There is a scripture that says be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. If we don’t change the mindset of people about makeing health choices then we gain nothing. And Thats Real Talk For You

      • JS

        Cochise:

        1) No one RPA member speaks for the entire RPA definitively. Statements made by the RPA proper are included in the newsletter and when specifically noted by members making public statements.

        2) Personally, as one RPA member, I believe that is completely transparent that Chuck Finney and the American Beverage Association have every reason to be deceptive on this issue and have no concern whatsoever about the health of this community. They have shown a willingness to blatantly mislead the voters of Richmond.

        3) I am hesitant to make board claims about the motivations of some of N’s opponents. Certainly, there are many who, in my estimation, have shown a pattern of supporting big businesses ahead over the best interests of the people of Richmond. Moreover, this in contrast to supporters of Measure N who have not seen a need to charge money for a cause they support.

        4) Finally, it is unfortunate that you feel it is unfair to make definitive statements about the motivations of Dr. Carter (who has taken a position in contrast to broad consensus among the larger medical community) while you seem perfectly content to make equally definitive statements about the RPA that are completely out of line with anything the RPA has ever done. The most obvious response is that it makes no sense for a group seeking to “grab power” to do so by picking fights with the most powerful, well-funded, and ruthless political players in Richmond.

        • TonySuggs

          Real “Plantation Politics” is when a group, whether its government or otherwise think they know what is best for everyone else. And they call that “progressive?”

          Of course to them, corporations are big evil entities that only want to “enslave” the public and get them to mindlessly buy or use their products.

          They have an attitude that you are too stupid to know what is good or is bad for you.

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