Berkeley becomes nation's first city to pass soda tax

פורסם: 8 בנוב׳ 2014, 9:05 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 8 בנוב׳ 2014, 9:05 ]

By Tom Lochner , Contra Costa Times, 5 November 2014

BERKELEY -- Berkeley, long identified as a birthplace of national progressive movements, on Tuesday became the nation's first city to tax sugar-sweetened beverages to combat diabetes and other ailments.

With a simple majority required for passage, Measure D surged to victory with 75 percent of the vote.
A soda tax measure in San Francisco, meanwhile, fell far short of the two-thirds majority it required for passage.
"We think it's going to be a historic moment for our kids' health," said Martin Bourque, executive director of the nonprofit Ecology Center in Berkeley and a spokesman for the Yes on D campaign, reacting to the early vote count. "It shows that a community can organize for its own interests in spite of the outrageous amount of money spent against its interests.
"The tides have turned on Big Soda."
Measure D will impose a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of most sugar-sweetened beverages, raising an estimated $1 million to $2 million annually for the city's general fund. As a general tax, it needed a simple majority to pass.
Earlier in the night, No on D campaign spokesman Roger Salazar said that while the tax was winning in Berkeley, it would be wrong to make too much of it.
"The soda tax activists have been venue-shopping for more than five years, and over that time, more than 30 cities and states have rejected similar taxes," he said. "Berkeley is low-hanging fruit. It doesn't look like mainstream America."

Salazar noted that San Francisco voters were rejecting Measure E, the soda tax measure in that city.

"The voters there have made it clear that they can decide for themselves what they can eat and drink," Salazar said.

San Francisco's Measure E would have imposed a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on most sweetened beverages. But unlike Berkeley's Measure D, San Francisco's Measure E is a special tax, earmarked for nutrition, physical activity and health programs, and so needed a two-thirds majority of votes. With most votes counted, it had garnered less than 55 percent.

Supporters of Berkeley's Measure D hope that a tax on sweetened beverages, assuming it will be passed along from the distributor to the consumer, will reduce consumption of products they describe as a public health menace that leads to alarming rates of obesity and diabetes. Detractors say the tax would be regressive, that it would be applied inconsistently to some sweetened beverages but not to others such as chocolate milk, and that poor customers and small-business owners would bear the brunt of its impact.

As of last week, the No on D campaign, financed virtually entirely by the American Beverage Association, which includes the three largest soda manufacturers Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, had spent $2.1 million to fight the tax through full-page newspaper ads, television and radio spots, and telephone and door-to-door canvassing.

The Yes on D campaign, meanwhile, had spent $273,000 as of last week, mostly on door-to-door and phone canvassing and campaign signs. The Yes campaign got a late boost from an $85,000 contribution from billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also bought television ads that ran during the World Series that highlighted the number of obese children in the Bay Area, and pledged another $200,000 for ads on Berkeley cable TV.

Proponents of Measure D predicted that if it passed, it will forge a path for similar taxes all over the country.

In the closing days, the No campaign, in what appeared to be a tacit acknowledgment that the tax stood a good chance of passing, said that Berkeley is too much of a political and cultural oddity to become a national trendsetter.