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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Despite Loss, Soda Tax Proponents Predict Big Win Ahead

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 11:24 AM

click to enlarge MIKE KOOZMIN
  • Mike Koozmin
By 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, San Francisco's Proposition  E campaign — the scrappy group of parents, researchers, and health nuts who'd tasked themselves with fighting "Big Sugar" — had been outspent more than 30 to 1.

Data from the Berkeley-based political research group MapLight showed that Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Red Bull, and Sunny Delight had amassed some $12 million to defeat the measure, which would have imposed a 24-cent tax on every can of soda sold in the city, generating an estimated $31 million in annual revenue.

Big Soda even poured money into Mayor Ed Lee, arguably the rain-maker of yesterday's election. In July, Coca-Cola lavished $10,000 in behested payments on the mayor's United Way summer jobs program. 

Money or no money, Proposition E faced tough odds, as it needed a two-thirds vote to pass; it only got a slim majority

But there were no long faces at the Noe Valley victory party, which was co-hosted by Prop.  E campaign manager Todd David and several local candidates, including a beaming, pink-tied, Supervisor Scott Wiener.

It may have helped that Wiener won his own district re-election campaign by a landslide. Or that Berkeley, the famously health-conscious city across the Bay, defeated Big Soda with a similar tax measure. Whatever the case, both Wiener and David were sanguine. Clearly, they had enough support to bring this back to voters.

"This is gonna sound totally cheesy, but I feel like we won," David said. "I just don't know when the actual victory is gonna be." He pointed out that only 50 years have passed since the surgeon general began slapping warning labels on packs of cigarettes. "Seatbelts, mandatory motorcycle helmets, those were all controversial," he added. 

If Americans could learn to protect themselves against cancer sticks and drunk drivers, surely the fear of high-fructose corn syrup would eventually catch on. David says he was sold on the proposition as soon as he saw research from UCSF linking soda consumption to Type II Diabetes. (Prop. E crusaders tried to highlight that correlation on Monday, by not-so-subtly scattering fake severed legs around Dolores Park.)

Wiener, who spearheaded the campaign, enjoyed casting himself as a family oriented underdog fighting the evil American Beverage Association. He called yesterday's vote "a double black eye for the soda industry."

Incidentally, few sugary drinks were served at the party, where svelte legislative aids clinked martini glasses, while locals strained to watch the Cavaliers game. A few miles away, in Berkeley, someone probably toasted with kombucha.


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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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