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With a soft drink tax on the ballot, Richmond stirs

on February 13, 2012

This fall, Richmond residents will vote whether or not to place a penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks. This past winter, the city council voted to put the measure on the November ballot, along with a proposal to use the funds the tax would raise to help pay for health programs. But the proposed soda tax has stirred debates in the city about health, poverty and race.


  1. Tapas on February 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm


  2. Felix Hunziker on February 13, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    I cannot support a regressive local tax that is concentrated in Richmond’s poorest communities. Our City needs education and alternatives to sodas, not elitist experiments.

    • Richard Montalvin on February 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

      This is a good measure and its really about the health of our kids.The soda companies do not care about the health of low-income people, if they did they would not market to them relentlessy. Research shows that many residents in low income neighborhoods support a soda tax. In California low income residents support the tax by almost two to one. Parents don’t stand a chance to keep our kids healthy when the soda companies insist in undermining us.Low income parents understand and support the Richmond soda tax…and it will mean more sports fields and more programs for the health of our kids. You are again on the wrong side of history, Felix.

      • Felix Hunziker on February 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm

        “Research shows that many residents in low income neighborhoods support a soda tax”

        Show me this research Richard. Show me how low income residents support a regressive local tax that lacks a guaranteed spending plan and that the more affluent members of our community can easily avoid by shopping outside Richmond (which they already do anyway). Show me that our low income residents understand that this tax, even if 100% successful at curbing the purchase of SSBs, has only a negligible impact on the overall causes of obesity. And last but not least, show me how the low income residents will have alternatives to SSBs at our corner liquor stores and not simply pay more for soda.

        Show me Richard, and then I might agree with you. Until then I will only support a regional or statewide tax that is placed on the supply side (manufacturers of SSBs), the revenue of which goes towards educating the public and providing retailers with incentives to offer alternatives.

        To hell with this elitist tax on our poorest communities. It’s an idea with good intentions but very bad planning.

  3. Jeff S on February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Vote Yes!

  4. Ben S on February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

    The tax makes sense to me. I just hope that the issue gets decided locally without ad money from soda manufacturers coming in to defeat the measure. I hope that Richmond Confidential will follow that issue. Where do the proceeds from the proposed tax go? It should support the goal of a health community.

    • Don Gosney on February 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

      This isn’t just about the kids and the issue of childhood obesity is not the subject here.

      The issue before us is whether we, as citizens, should have the right to decide what we eat and drink rather than having our elected representatives make that decision for us. Someone needs to tell these people that Communism is dead and the idea of their government dictating their every move doesn’t work in this country. The idea of Big Brother was bad in 1984 and it’s bad here in Richmond.

      Even last March one of our Council members, after shooting down an appeal to open a new Subway sandwich franchise in Point Richmond, told the audience that she wanted to expand on this and to only allow restaurants in Richmond to serve healthy food.

      Take a look at the business end of this proposition: We only have one major seller of sodas here in Richmond and that’s Costco. Our smaller mom and pop grocery stores don’t sell sodas in large quantities like Costco does and we have only one moderate sized grocery (FoodCo).

      Costco, though, services a larger community than just Richmond ranging from Port Costa to the north all the way down to Oakland in the south–perhaps three quarters of a million people.

      This tax doesn’t just affect the 105,000 Richmond residents. It imposes a tax on the other 650,000 potential shoppers who come to Richmond to shop at Costco that will also be charged this tax.

      If you buy a case of sodas at Costco, this would be a 46% tax on a can of soda above and beyond the sales tax and the CRV.

      Since this would be expected to have a major impact on the sales of sodas at Costco, why shouldn’t we expect our local business to jump into the fray and try to defeat this measure? And since the proponents of this measure want to put Coca-Cola, Pepsico and the other soda manufacturers out of business, why should we think they would sit idly by and allow this to be done to them?

      Instead of trying to outlaw what we eat and drink, why not try educating families so they can make the choice on their own? Why not leave this in the hands of the people instead of the select few who want to control the lives of those they feel are inferior to them and need supervision?

      Even the surveys distributed by the proponents of this tax show that children of color–primarily hispanic and to a lesser extent African American children–are the largest group suffering from childhood obesity. And while sodas may be a contributing factor, could the diets of these children also be contributing factors? Eating at fast food places, eating fried foods and not eating enough fruits and vegetables may be a factor as well.

      Study the demographics of Richmond and ask where these people tend to shop. People from the Annex and the Marina most likely shop in El Cerrito where the major grocery stores are located. The people in Carriage Hills and the El Sobrante Valley most likely shop in Pinole; North and East, East Richmond and North Richmond either in San Pablo or El Cerrito; and those living in Point Richmond most likely never step foot outside of their enclave. It’s the people living in central Richmond (the Southside and the Iron Triangle) who are least likely to leave town to do their shopping and will be the hardest hit by this tax.

      And why do you suppose it is that this tax excludes the drinks sold at Starbucks? Would it have anything to do with the potential negative feedback from the likely voters who would never allow a disruption to their morning routine?

      It was embarrassingly shameless the way the proponents of this tax packed the Council chambers with young soccer families with the promises of dozens of new soccer fields spread throughout Richmond with the proceeds from this tax–a tax aimed specifically at them. There’s nothing in the text of this ballot measure that would guarantee that even a single soccer field would be built. For that matter, it specifically says that the money would go into the General Fund which means that whomever sits on the Council at the time gets to decide whether this newfound wealth would go for pot holes, employee retirement benefits, social programs or a new Constitutional Amendment.

      And lastly, take a look at the Sunset Clause included in the text which, for all intents and purposes, is impossible to meet. EVERY child (from infants to 18 year olds) in Richmond would have to be tested to determine whether the Sunset Clause’s threshold has been met. [And who’s supposed to pay for this testing and what happens when a parent tells the City it’s none of their damned business how heavy their child is?]

      What this tax is trying to fix is something that needs to be addressed but this tax is a BAD idea.

  5. Tony Suggs on February 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Why stop at sodas? Why not cakes, candy bars, fried chicken, ham burgers, etc.

    Any and everything that is deemed unhealthy by the know it alls.

    Yes use the money for more parks or sports fields that are already under utilized here in Richmond.

    The funny thing is, the city doesn’t have a clue of how much money will be brought in and what “programs” they will spend it on.

    But of course the “people” need more education about what not to eat. They are too stupid to figure it out on their own.

    So tax it and make it more expensive to buy, that will make them lose weight and exercise more.

    Or maybe they will simple buy their “toxic” food in San Pablo or El Cerrito where it will be cheaper.

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