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Measure N

Richmond residents say goodbye to soda at Measure N campaign event

on October 22, 2012

A frozen bottle of Coca Cola rolled, fizzed and melted as it lay cold in a miniature casket mounted on a table at the corner of Richmond’s Macdonald Avenue and 37th Street. Residents, some in dark glasses, filed past and poured cans of soda into the cardboard casket, flooding the cold mass before dumping it into a trash can.

“We are saying goodbye to something unhealthy, something we don’t need,” said Jenny Wang, a public health worker and organizer of the ‘soda funeral’, a campaign event held to support the city’s measure to impose tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. “We are dumping soda, the message is one less can of soda for everyone.”

Around a dozen people showed up for the event, held in front of a newly unveiled 25-by-10 foot “Yes on N” mural that depicts Richmond as a city divided between powerful corporations, represented by Chevron and beverage manufacturers, and residents at farmers’ markets and in sports fields.

Mural depicts a city divided between corporate interests, represented by Chevron and beverage manufacturers, and residents. (Photo – Tawanda Kanhema)

“I am so angry we are getting all these mailers funded by people from out of town who care nothing about Richmond,” Wang said, as she washed her hands after dumping nearly three cases of soda. “We are calling on all Richmond residents who care about the health of our children to join us in making sure that we reduce the consumption of soda, it’s unhealthy.”

Outnumbered and outspent by a factor of nearly 100 to 1 by the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, funded by the American Beverage Association and Cinemark INC. USA, community groups and residents like Wang are grabbing at straws to sway public opinion in favor of Measure N.

”Just like the tobacco tax, it’s a tax to help people stay healthy,” said Brian Chiang, one of the residents who attended the event. “They are fighting against a tax that at most will raise $3 million a year in a very poor city.”

While the coalition against Measure N has spent more than $2.2 million, the Yes on N campaign spearheaded by Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman and supported by individuals like Wang and community groups has spent $29,000. Wang’s ‘soda funeral’ cost $100 to organize, she said.

Soda cans, part of artist Mike Rich’s “Dunk The Junk” mural on Macdonald Avenue. (Photo – Tawanda Kanhema)

“Even if [Measure N supporters] lose, it is good for the city of Richmond to start a fire that will spread to other cities,” Wang said. “They may have spent $2 million on this election, and they might even spend more next time, but we want to raise awareness, we will do it again and continue to push.”

At the end of the day, Wang and group of family friends and residents tossed the soda cans and handed out apples, peaches and bouquets of roses.



  1. Cochise Potts on October 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    A recent study conducted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) shows that children are consuming as much salt as adults and have a two to three time greater risk in having high blood pressure. Having elevated or high blood pressure in early childhood increases that person’s risk of hypertension during adulthood. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. There is increasing evidence that kids are consuming too much salt and it can have an adverse impact on the health. The study states that High Blood pressure is public health enemy No.2 behind tobacco. The direct cost related to High Blood pressure is estimated to be around 131 billion annually. Given the facts about salt my question to all the supporter’s of the Richmond Ca Soda Tax would you consider taxing products that contain sodium (salt) if not why not?? It is just as harmful to the health of our children as is too much fructose the ingredient in sugary drinks. There is a scripture that says be ye transform by the renewing of your mind. Taxing people for making poor choices about what they ingest into their bodies is not going to change their mindset. There may be a small amount of individuals who won’t buy soda because of the cost (mostly the poor) but if they haven’t changed their mind about what they eat they will find another substitute to fill the craving for sugar and salt that may be just as harmful to their body.

    • Jeff Ritterman on October 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      The data on salt is far from convincing and the data on sugar is very convincing. There is no comparison between the two in terms of the adverse health impacts. The problem at hand which we are trying to address is childhood obesity. There is no salt connection to childhood obesity. Everyone agrees that childhood obesity and the diabetes, early heart attacks, strokes and cancer which come with it are a public health crisis, All of the best medical minds agree that a Soda tax is the best approach.

  2. Tony Suggs on October 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Mr Chiang is right, it is a tax that city politicians will use anyway they want. He mentioned the cigarette tax.

    How about the settlement money from the tobacco compaines that was suppose to go to Teenage Smoking Prevention programs?

    Here is what the State politicians did with the money.

    So does anyone really believe that Richmond will use the money for “healthy kids programs?

  3. Charles T. Smith on October 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I will be voting no on Measure N. It was not a hard decision. I’ve never supported regressive taxes because they are taxes on the poor. The term, regressive tax, has a technical meaning. It means a tax that is not graduated according to the income of the person being taxed. Therefore, all sales taxes are regressive and hurt the poor more because they are taxed at a higher proportion of their income. Measure N is no different, regardless of what its proponents might say. What makes it even more odious is that it was created and promoted by what was once a progressive organization, the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). This tax will not pass in November because Richmond voters have demonstrated many times that we do not want regressive taxes. The tax proponents will blame the beverage manufacturers for their defeat. If fact, most residents had already made up their minds before the Beverage lobby ever showed up.

    • Jeff Ritterman on October 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Cigarette taxes by that definition are also regressive and they have been hugely successful in getting folks to quit smoking and in preventing new smokers from starting. We can do the same with Soda Taxes.

  4. Charles T. Smith on October 24, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Dr. Ritterman likes to suggest that his Measure N, a tax on sugar drinks, is comparable to taxes on cigarettes. The only thing comparable about the two taxes is that they are both regressive taxes. The three actions that resulted in the reduction of smoking in America are as follows: 1. prohibiting of smoking in public spaces which includes work sites, 2. Prohibition of advertising on radio and television, 3. The US Surgeon General’s report directly linking smoking with lung cancer. As for the cigarette taxes, they were earmarked for education and were extremely high in order to discourage teenagers from starting to smoke. Furthermore, the people who continue to smoke are, for the most part, from the lower economic bracket of the population. To insist the proposed sugar drink tax is comparable to the cigarette tax is ludicrous at best or deliberately misleading at worse.

    • William Haar on October 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      If you find yourself siding with Coca-Cola and R.J. Reynolds about social justice and regressive and progressive taxation, you might want to reevaluate your position.

      Let’s not lose sight of the principle issue here. What is REALLY regressive are the rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases directly caused by the over-consumption of soda.What we should really be asking ourselves is: Will this policy help or hurt the most vulnerable members of our community?

      The answer, as research, experience, and common sense inform us, is that Measure N will improve the health and well-being of Richmond’s residents. THAT is progressive.

      • Charles T. Smith on October 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

        When you are on the same side of an issue as the one percent you don’t need to ask which side you are on.

        Doctors weigh in against the soda tax-NY Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg For It

        • William Haar on October 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

          It is sad to see supposedly progressive activists parroting industry talking points and linking to quotes that advocate a free-market approach to health and wellness.

          Measure N = freedom from abusive corporate influence = better health = REAL social justice

          Real social justice is about

  5. Charles T. Smith on 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

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