Measure N

RECENT POSTS

Locals React to Anti-Soda Tax Campaign in Richmond

By Andrew Stelzer

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

From the get-go, the face of Richmond’s proposed tax on sugar sweetened beverages has been city Councilmember Jeff Ritterman. “If we’re successful we’ll make history,” he tells me.

Ritterman is a retired cardiologist who got the council to put the penny-per-ounce tax on next month’s ballot. He says improving the health of the local community isn’t the only goal.

“Once the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes become ubiquitous — and I’m pretty sure they will, it’s just a question of when,” he says, “if we are victorious it will happen a lot sooner.”

But the health issues behind the tax have taken a back seat to questions about how the city will spend the money the tax would raise.

The main argument from Measure N opponents is that the tax proceeds won’t necessarily go to fight obesity. While there is an accompanying measure before voters to direct the money to obesity-fighting efforts, the money raised would go into the city’s general fund. Billboards and flyers all over town — paid for by the American Beverage Association, a soft drink lobbying group — drive that “general fund” message home.

Continue reading

Can a Penny-an-Ounce Soda Tax Curb Obesity?

Jorge Cota has lost more than 70 pounds since giving up soda and making other changes to his diet. (Mina Kim: KQED)

Jorge Cota, 17, has lost more than 70 pounds since giving up soda and making other changes to his diet. (Mina Kim: KQED)

Jorge Cota says he always gets a little nervous when he comes to Children’s Hospital in Oakland for his bi-monthly weigh-in.

“I’m wondering oh, did I lose this much weight, or did I not lose this much, if I gain weight I’m going to be mad,” says the 17-year-old high school football player from Tracy. “It’s just a lot of things going through my mind that I get nervous about when I come to the doctors, especially here.”

It was here at Children’s, about a year ago, that Jorge learned his health was in trouble.

“They told me that I was a pre-diabetic, that I also had high blood pressure, and they thought there was something wrong with my heart or my kidneys.”

“It was a scary moment,” Jorge’s mom Linda Ramos says. “When they were telling us, he started crying, he was scared, and that woke him up.”

At 16, Jorge was 5’11” and weighed 321 pounds.

“So I was a pretty big boy,” Jorge says with a smile.

His drink of choice was Dr. Pepper. Jorge says he’d drink two or three cans or bottles of soda a day. That added up to as much as 50 teaspoons of sugar.

“We just cut it out,” Linda Ramos says. “Not only the soda cut out, the way I cook at home for him, the junk food, the way we shop.” Continue reading