East Bay News

Soda tax will appear on Richmond ballot

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In Richmond on Tuesday night city leaders voted 5-2 to put a special tax proposal on sodas on the November ballot. They are trying to take a hard-line on soft drinks. They may become the first city in the nation to put a special tax on sodas and sugary drinks.

The fight over a soda tax boiled down to two main arguments: health versus higher taxes. Leading the charge for the increase is Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, M.D.

"This is the amount of sugar that your child or you eat when you drink one can of soda a day for a year," said Ritterman. "I'm a cardiologist. I spent 30 years taking care of this problem. This is a major killer and it will kill these young children, unless we do something."

His plan is to put a tax on soda and other sugar drinks that would cost an extra one penny per ounce. He says, like the cigarette tax, that would be a deterrent and reduce the consumption of sugar he says leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart attacks. Opponents don't like the idea of another tax.

"I agree that soda is not good for us, it's just that only us will suffer in Richmond and everybody else will be good. And I mean suffering by spending the money that we don't have because we don't have jobs," said Naomi Williams, a Richmond resident.

"Because it's a tax on poor people. Let's not just call it a sugar tax, let's call it what it is, a tax on poor people," said Richmond City councilman Corky Booze.

The American Beverage Association set up shop before the meeting to fight the tax. The owner of Nelson's Market, Danny Alemayehu, thinks it's not a good idea.

"It's bad. It's a very bad idea to the consumers. People are broke as it is," said Alemayehu.

Supporters say the tax would generate between $2 and $8 million a year and the money would go toward after school sports programs, health care for children with diabetes, and healthier school meals.

"I don't drink that much soda because my mom doesn't let me because you get fat," said Juan Hernandez, 11 years old.

The final city council vote was taken Tuesday night and the tax proposal will go before voters in November.

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richmond, taxes, obesity, east bay news
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