Richmond could become the first city in California to tax soda; in fact, Richmond would be one of the first cities in the nation to impose a special tax on sugary drinks. This week the City Council approved the preparation of ballot language for a measure to go before voters in November of 2012.
Troubling obesity rates were a motivating factor behind the proposal, which would impose a penny-per-ounce tax. According to Wendel Brunner, Public Health Director of the Contra Costa Health Department, 32 percent of children and 24 percent of adults are considered obese in Richmond.
Reportedly the funds raised by the tax will go toward anti-obesity programs or even new sports fields and other health programs. Councilman Jeff Ritterman is one of the fee’s strongest supporters, as he proposed the measure. Notably, Ritterman is the Chief of Cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center. During the council’s discussion of the tax, Ritterman commented, “We will be sentencing these kids to lives of early illness and early death if we don’t do something.”
Many residents were clearly divided on the issue and raised concerns about the higher costs in a city that has struggled economically. One resident criticized the council a letter and said the proposal suggested consumers were incapable of thinking for themselves.
Finally, Contra Costa Times reports on one amusing point during the council meeting:
“Before voting to put the tax on the ballot, Councilman Tom Butt 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.’”
Well played, sir.