Richmond Soda Tax

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Soda Industry Spending Big to Defeat Richmond Beverage Tax

Rosa Lara talks with Alejandra Nava at La Raza market. Lara is a paid organizer for the community coalition against beverage taxes.

Rosa Lara talks with Alejandra Nava at La Raza market in Richmond. Lara is a paid organizer for the community coalition against beverage taxes.

Earlier this week, KQED’s Mina Kim looked at the ongoing soda tax campaign in Richmond. In November, voters there will decide whether to impose a penny-an-ounce fee on sweetened drinks. Today, William Harless at California Watch drilled down into newly-released campaign finance disclosures and learned that — not surprisingly — tax opponents are outspending tax supporters.

What might be more surprising is that the margin is 10 to 1. Harless reports that the American Beverage Association, based in Washington and representing Coca Cola, PepsiCo et. al. has spent $150,000 since June. (Note that the City Council voted to put the tax on the ballot on May 15.)

Harless earlier reported that the beverage association is funding the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes. To date, that organization has spent an additional $200,000, again according to campaign finance records.

While dramatically outspent, more organizations are also joining the campaign to support the tax. Continue reading

Richmond Soda Tax Campaign in Full Swing

By Mina Kim

Jeff Ritterman, Richmond city councilman who is championing the soda tax, on the campaign trail. (Photo: Mina Kim)

On MacDonald Avenue, the city of Richmond’s main drag, Jeff Ritterman is pulling a little red wagon that holds a plastic water cooler jug filled with forty pounds of sugar. Ritterman says that’s the average amount a child in Richmond consumes each year, just from drinking sodas. “The child gets overweight,” he says, “and the arteries of the heart fill up with bad fat. And that’s a real health problem.”

Ritterman is a retired cardiologist who likes to wear his graying hair in a ponytail. He’s also a city councilman and the man behind a November ballot measure that would make Richmond one of the first cities in the nation to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

According to a report from Contra Costa Health Services [PDF], more than half of Richmond’s children are overweight or obese.

At a shopping plaza, Ritterman’s wagon catches the attention of passerby Michael Bracey. Continue reading