by Leon Davis, HOPE Steering Committee Co-Chair, Executive Committee member, and Project Leader
On April 7th, I went to Frank Ogawa Plaza, home to Oakland’s City Council, determined to have its members hear my voice for putting the Sweetened Beverage Excise Tax on the November 2016 ballot.
The reasons I felt so determined are multiple:
As a Father looking out for the health of future generations,
As Chair of HOPE Collaborative performing my professional duty to represent our official position on the issue,
As a Project Leader involved in healthy corner stores work knowing the impact the Excise Tax would have, and because I’ve seen first hand how our neighboring city Berkeley after only 3 months of passing their Excise Tax, has seen “retail prices increased more in Berkeley than in nearby cities, marking a step in the causal pathway between the tax and reduced sugar sweetened beverages consumption.”
Having waited all day, the city council finally took up the Sweetened Beverage Excise Tax around noon. I was surprisingly encouraged when I saw the issue had more people speaking about it (35) than all the other agenda items combined. One of the exchanges I found particularly interesting was that of someone against the tax saying “If we gonna listen to politicians tell us how to be healthy, then we ought to tax all sorts of stuff: donuts and cakes, not just sodas.”
However there were those in favor of the tax, pointing out the medically scientific fact that the sugary beverage sweetener sugars are different than other types of sugars by going straight to your liver with no health benefits such as fiber and other qualities that can be derived from other sugars.
There were a lot of other interesting points as well, however here is what I said before the city council:
I am here today to express support for putting the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Excise Tax on the November 2016 ballot and creating a Tax Advisory Board for these sugary beverage distributors. As you may know, obesity is a health burden that falls heavily on Oakland’s low income communities and communities of color.
Through HOPE Collaborative, residents are leading Healthy Corner Store Projects to address this issue by transforming corner liquor stores into healthy community markets. Through this work we have learned how much influence these sugary beverage distributors hold in determining product availability and placement in small neighborhood markets. We witness pervasive marketing of sugary drinks to youth.
A Beverage Excise Tax is a small step towards countering the industry’s influence in Oakland. I want to end by saying HOPE Collaborative supports a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Excise Tax for the November 2016 ballot, because this will lead to better health outcomes for all of Oakland residences particularly our low income and communities of color.