Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who fought unsuccessfully to establish a cap on the size of soda portions sold in that city, has donated $85,000 to the Yes on Measure D campaign.
His contribution – the largest the soda tax advocates have gotten to date – is one of three significant donations made by national groups in recent days, according to Josh Daniels, the co-chair of the campaign. The American Heart Association recently gave $23,000 and the Center for Science in the Public Interest kicked in $15,000.
The national donations “recognize that this has become a national issue and Berkeley is in the spotlight because of it,” said Daniels. “In the last couple of weeks we have not only seen the press coverage of what the beverage association has been spending, but also the fact that we continue to be very successful. That’s why these advocates, including Bloomberg, see us as this tipping point. We will be the first city in the country to do this and they want to make sure that our victory is solidified.”
The Yes on Measure D campaign has raised about $259,585, according to campaign filings. The No on Measure D campaign has spent $1.675 million to fight a proposed 1-cent-per-ounce soda tax that would be levied on distributors. All of those funds have come from the American Beverage Association California PAC.
In 2012, Bloomberg proposed a law that would have prevented restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas in New York City from selling sugary drinks that were larger than 16 ounces. The New York City Board of Health unanimously adopted the law, but the beverage industry immediately challenged the law.
Numerous courts ruled that the law was arbitrary and capricious since it did not ban convenience and other stores from selling large portions of soda and other sugary drinks. In 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals negated the law, saying only legislative bodies, like the New York City Council, and not places like the Health Board, had the power to make laws like that.
Despite the defeat, Bloomberg has worked on other efforts to curtail soda consumption, including supporting Mexico in its efforts to tax soda.
“We supported the Mexico Soda Tax and now Measure D because they are good public policies proved to improve children’s health,” Howard Wolfson, an advisor to Michael Bloomberg, said in a prepared statement.
Daniels said the Yes on Measure D campaign will use the new national funds to send out mailers, pay staff, and get the word out on the campaign.
The No on Measure D campaign has used ‘saturation advertising” all over Berkeley to promote its message that the soda tax is unnecessary. They have put ads on the floors, walls, and ticket booths in the North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations, put ads in bus shelters and in local media, including Berkeleyside, The Daily Californian, The Berkeley Times and SF Gate, among others.
Opponents of the tax have said they think eduction, not government regulation, is the best way to help people reduce their consumption of sugary drinks.
“This is a local, grassroots campaign, but we are grateful for our friends in the larger movement,” said Martin Bourque, executive director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center in a prepared statement. The Ecology Center has given $11,000 in cash and also made many in-kind donations. “We have learned much from our allies who fought Big Soda in Richmond and Mexico. The American Beverage Association is trying to crush all of us who are proactively fighting the diabetes epidemic. But we’re in it for the long haul. Sooner or later, the tide is going to turn.”
Update: This article has been updated to state that Bloomberg gave $85,000, not $83,000 as originally reported. The Yes on Measure D campaign originally told Berkeleyside the amount was $83,000. Campaign filings made after that conversation revealed it was more.
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