City of Richmond Tax on Soda, Measure N (November 2012)
Measure N, if approved by the city's voters, will impose a "business license fee" of 1 cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages sold within city limits. This will mean that consumers would pay 12 cents more for the average can of pop than they currently pay.
A companion measure, Measure O, is also be on the ballot. Measure O is an advisory measure asking if the proceeds of the tax should be used for sports and health education programs "aimed at local youths."
- City council member Jeff Ritterman wrote the language for the measure and is its chief spokesperson. A former chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center, he says, "I'm in this to win this."
- Actor Danny Glover supports Measure N. In a press release from "Fit for Life", he is quoted as saying, "I come from a basic family of working-class people who worked very hard and had solid values. It's important for people of color to link up with issues around food security, health and the environment. Big corporations that sell sugary drinks are profiting while our kids grow sick and overweight."
- The organization "Blacks Mobilizing, Organizing and Educating Richmond" supports Measure N.
- The Rev. Alvin Bernstine supports Measure N.
- Kris Hunt, the executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, is opposed to Measure N. She says, "If childhood obesity is the target, banning soda from schools altogether would be a better tactic."
- Joe Fisher, treasurer of the Bay Area Political Action Committee, opposes Measure N.
Through July 31, the "No on Measure N" campaign raised about $350,000.
Text of measures
The question on the ballot:
|Measure N: "Shall an ordinance be adopted to impose a business license fee of one (1) cent per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage served, provided, or traded by businesses in the City?"|
The question on the ballot:
|Measure O: "Should the proceeds of any business license fee measured by the serving, providing, or trading of sugar-sweetened beverages be used to: have more after school sports programs, make them less expensive and provide adequate sports fields; allow healthier school meals, nutrition classes and cooking classes; provide medical care for children with diabetes who can’t afford care; and support other worthy projects to prevent and treat diabetes and childhood obesity?"|
Path to the ballot
Measure N was placed on the ballot by a 5-2 vote of the Richmond City Council.
City council members Nat Bates and Corky Booze voted against referring the measure to the ballot. Bates said at the time of the vote, "I can't see this ballot measure passing. People are fed up with the taxes."
Charles Breyer, a federal district court judge, ruled in early September that the City of Richmond cannot require the "No on Measure N" campaign to state on campaign literature mailed to voters in Richmond that the "No on Measure N" campaign has received ""major funding from large out-of-city contributors."
The City of Richmond adopted a campaign disclosure law in 2002 and revised it in June 2012; the September 7, 2012 ruling of federal judge Breyer indicates that unless the city revokes that campaign finance ordinance, he will strike it down, because it violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Breyer additionally said that the ordinance in question is unconstitutionally vague. By this he meant that the language of the ordinance wasn't drafted clearly enough to clarify to campaign finance organizations exactly what their obligations are.
The key provision of the ordinance would have required campaign committees that receive funding from donors who do not live in the city to state that in large, bold-faced type on the front page of any campaign mailers. According to the judge, "That's clearly argumentative. You can't require the other side to make your arguments. That interferes with their First Amendment rights."
- Contra Costa Times, "Richmond to place 'soda tax' on November ballot", May 16, 2012
- Mercury News, "Actor Danny Glover backs Richmond soda tax ballot measure", August 29, 2012
- Contra Costa Lawyer, "Richmond’s “Soda Tax” That Isn’t", September 1, 2012
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge rules on Richmond soda tax mailers", September 7, 2012