Richmond to vote on soda tax
By Hannah Dreier
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/06/2011 11:05:20 PM PST
Updated: 12/06/2011 11:05:20 PM PST
RICHMOND -- Richmond voters will get a chance to weigh in on a penny-per-ounce soda tax next year.
The City Council directed staffers Tuesday to prepare a measure for the November 2012 ballot that would impose a sales tax on "sweetened beverages."
Councilman Jeff Ritterman invited Contra Costa Public Health Director Wendel Brunner to make a presentation on the health effects of sugary beverages ahead of the vote.
Ritterman, former Chief of Cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center, called the city's childhood obesity rates "frightening."
"We will be sentencing these kids to lives of early illness and early death if we don't do something," he said.
Residents began debating the proposed tax on listservs over the weekend, and many spoke on both sides of the issue Tuesday.
Some residents condemned the soda price hike as an "obesity tax," and noted that in moderation, sugary drinks can be part of a healthy diet.
Others argued that the revenue generated by a sales tax could be put toward vital anti-obesity programs.
Councilman Tom Butt said that the council was not endorsing the tax, but rather deciding whether to put it before voters.
Before voting to put the tax on the ballot, he held up a can of soda that Councilman Nat Bates had brought him earlier in the evening.
"He tried to kill me," Butt said, shaking the can menacingly. "Look at this--150 calories of certain death."
Councilman Corky Booze voted against the ballot measure, and Councilman Bates abstained.