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.