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Issues | Healthy Richmond

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Fit For Life

Why We are Certain

Tax money will fight Child Obesity


Yes on N The Big Soda companies are desperate.  Everyone now recognizes and admits that excessive amounts of sugary drinks are dangerous. Sugary drinks are not just another source of calories-they are toxic. The body cannot handle the quantities of sugar that flood the system each time a sugary soda is consumed.

(see Fit-for-Life for the latest health information

Since they have already lost the science and health argument, Big Soda is now resorting to raising cynical, unfounded doubts about how the money raised by taxing these drinks will be spent.  Proponents of the tax say that the money will go to improving child health by paying for sports programs, nutrition education, and numerous other health programs. But spokesmen from Big Soda assert " Not one thin dime" will be used for these purposes.

We reject this cynicism and are convinced that the money will be used to further the health of our citizens:

  • Five of seven current council members have pledged that they will spend the money for these purposes (Booze and Bates have refused to sign this pledge).
  • When passed, Measure O on the ballot will put Richmond voters on record as supporting that tax money collected be spent on health initiatives. Any elected official who would divert the money or try to make behind the scenes adjustments after this clear mandate, would simply make a fool of him/herself.  
  • Because of Measure O and the pledges the public will be watching closely to see that funds are spent as designated.

 Republican/Tea Party arguments

The campaign against Measure N has become a Richmond version of Republican/ Tea Party propaganda that says that all government is bad. You can never trust elected officials to do what they say they will do so we should get rid of all government programs.  This kind of thinking is destroying all of our social safety nets from Medicare and social security to jobs programs.  Our answer is that it depends who the elected officials represent -the corporations, wealthy,  and lobbyists  or the interests of working people and their communities.    

And who should you trust on these issues--the paid spokespeople for the beverage companies who are earning big bucks by taking the cynical view of our Richmond City council? Or Richmond residents who have a record of working for the community and have no financial interest in this issue?


Why doesn't Measure N designate the tax directly to child health programs? Why do we need two separate measures?

Conservative forces pushed through a state regulation that requires a 2/3 vote if a ballot measure  designates specifically where the money is to be spent.  This is an undemocratic rule designed to prevent the majority from making decisions about funding (and explains why although over 65% of voters in the WCCUSD approved more money for the schools in June, yet the measure failed and our schools are suffering). The only way for the voters to designate money for a specific purpose with a simple majority vote is as we are doing here-pass one measure by majority vote to set a the tax and then pass a second advisory measure to specify how the money is to be spent.  


But isn't this a regressive tax?

In one sense it is. We generally oppose sales taxes-which hit the poor disproportionately harder. But in this case at least all the proceeds from the tax will go to helping those in the community who need the help most. The rich do not need public athletic fields-they can go to private clubs. The wealthy have insurance and can pay for doctors. This tax will provide health facilities and programs and pay for diabetes treatment for kids that don't have them now. It is not a tax on a necessity. As long as the wealthy don't pay their fair share of taxes we will be in the position of having to use an unfair tax system to fund worthwhile, important programs.

--Mike Parker 


Yes on N back


Blacks, Mobilizing, Organizing and Educating Richmond 



B-MOER The Richmond-based organization, Blacks, Mobilizing, Organizing and Educating Richmond (B-MOER), endorses the FIT for LIFE Sugary Drinks TAX ballot measures.

Every year obesity kills more people in Richmond than those killed by homicides. Sugary Drinks are responsible for 20% of all the excessive weight gain by the US population between 1997 and 2007.

Nicole Valentino a member of B-MOER stated: "These ballot measures are part of the community's response to the serious health challenges facing our youth - including the childhood obesity epidemic we are suffering in Richmond. More than half of our African American children in Richmond are obese or overweight and they are carrying the dire consequences of obesity into adulthood. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma are rampant diseases in our community and we must do something to start saving the children now"

B-MOER believes that as taxes on cigarettes succeeded in reducing consumption of tobacco the 'sugary drinks' ballot measures will begin the process of reduction of excessive consumption of sugary drinks.

"We have turned our face away from the problem and ignored it for too long. It is time to act" added Richard Boyd, another member of B-MOER.

B-MOER endorses the ballot measures in part because they support the shared desire to get our children moving. When passed by the voters, it will provide funds to create increased opportunities for youth organized sports.

Jovanka Beckles
Councilmember Jovanka Beckles

Jovanka Beckles, a councilmember and a founding member of B-MOER said "Only a relatively small portion of our Richmond African American children practice organized sports. We need to reverse that and we need to have the funds to create more sport fields to offer support to the clubs, to subsidize registration fees and to expand the educational services offered to those practicing sports."

Ultimately, this is a great opportunity to educate the African American community about healthy living and the consequences of unhealthy living - childhood obesity being one of them. It is a great opportunity to mobilize in defense of our community, and our children in particular. They are after all, the victims who are under attack by those pushing BIG SODA for profit and disregarding our rights to a healthy future.

We invite the community to support the sugary drinks ballot measures and to VOTE Yes! this November to give our kids a healthy chance.

American Association of Retired Persons

AARP  Endorses Sugar Tax 


AARP"Now it's sugar's turn. Look at the expanding national waistline and it's clear that it's well past time for a tax on the source of most of the sugar we consume - soft drinks and candy. One-third of American adults and nearly a fifth of children are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider the consequences of the obesity epidemic - diabetes, heart disease and a host of other maladies - and the health care cost explosion they spark. By one count, the annual health care cost of obesity in America is $190 billion, with more than half of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid."

See Full AARP Editor's Letter   

Get the Facts.

Every week new studies come out about the dangers of large quantities of sugar.

Every week more experts tell us of the urgency in acting to protect our kids.


See the latest on the Fit-for-Life website In the News

Kids and SodaNew York Times
  Covers Richmond Sugar Tax


CLICK HERE for National Article 6/2/12

FAQs on Richmond's Sugar Drink Tax

Is this a tax on beverages and food like the ads say?

NO. It is a tax only on those beverages which have additional sugar sweetening added. It does not tax fruit juice or milk or carbonated water or diet drinks without added sugar. And sugar sweetened beverages are not food. They have no nutritional value other than calories and new research shows that they are toxic in large quantities especially for children.

Why do we need a tax?

The tax serves three purposes:

  1. It raises money for more athletic fields for kids and programs to fight childhood obesity and diabetes.
  2. The higher price discourages consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
  3. Its existence helps stimulate the educational discussion about what is healthy for our kids and what does serious long term damage.
Can't we get the money for the fields and programs in some other way?

Unfortunately, the right-wing has succeeded in blocking action in the legislature and passing state-wide rules that limit the ways that we can raise money for things we need in the community. Schools are being squeezed and are even less likely to have the athletic or health programs our kids need. If we want it for our kids now then we have to do it ourselves.

Isn't this a regressive tax?

Yes, we are only allowed to use regressive taxes to meet the community needs. A regressive tax is one that taxes the poor a greater amount in proportion to income and we support efforts to make the tax system fair. But in this case at least all the proceeds from the tax will go to helping those in the community who need the help most. The rich do not need public athletic fields - they can go to private clubs. Obesity and diabetes are hitting harder in poor and minority communities. Further, it is not a tax on necessities. If people cut their consumption of sugary drinks by just 20% they will pay no more. If they cut out sugary drinks totally they will save money, and be healthier.

How do we know that this money will go to athletic fields and programs to help the kids? Why doesn't the measure say this instead of putting the money in the general fund?

Again, the state rules require a 2/3 vote if the measure specifically designates where the money goes. This was passed as part of the infamous Proposition 13. We and most people who care for democracy oppose 2/3 rules for making basic decisions. Especially in the context of an unbalanced political field where the rich control the money available for campaigns, to allow 1/3 to block action by the overwhelming majority is especially undemocratic. A 2/3 vote is simply too high a bar for most decisions.

It is legal to do this by majority vote as we are doing here if the money goes into the general fund. To make sure that the money is spent as we want, a second advisory measure is on the ballot that specifies how it is to be spent.

But politicians could just spend the money as they want?

It's possible, but that is why you need to pay special attention to whom you elect. An elected official who does not take corporate campaign contributions will certainly follow the will of the people in this. Because there is a ballot measure and a campaign, the will of the people will be both clear and highly visible. And you can be certain by electing candidates who are pledged to these programs.

Won't people just go buy in other cities?

There will certainly be some of that. But we expect that other cities will join in. Movements start with someone going first and showing the way. Our kids are too important to wait for others to start doing something.

Won't this be an unfair burden on business?

The law provides that businesses can calculate how much sugar sweetened beverage is sold simply by comparing their inventories. Businesses will also have flexibility. For example they can decide to promote other beverages by putting them in more prominent positions in the store.