Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for "Best Topical Reporting" from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis
Berkeley was the trend setter in 2014 when voters there approved the first a soda tax in the U.S. with a resounding 75 percent of the vote.
That same year San Francisco voters rejected a soda tax. But supporters were not deterred. Now, new efforts have resumed in San Francisco and in Oakland to move through a tax with a goal of fighting the obesity and diabetes epidemic. Both cities seem to be applying lessons from the Berkeley playbook to see the taxes through.
First, a bit of review: in 2014 San Franciscans considered a dedicated tax, one that would be earmarked to fund specific health programs. That kind of earmarked tax needs a two-thirds supermajority approval to become law. With 55 percent of the vote, it fell short of the threshhold.
Berkeley, meanwhile, had pursued a different path, one where the proceeds of a tax would go toward the city's general fund. But the law called for the creation of a health panel to advise the Berkeley City Council on appropriate programs to fund. This approach requires only a simple majority — 50 percent plus one vote — to pass.
Backers of the Berkeley soda tax also cultivated a long list of supporters, including health organizations and grassroots groups.
That's where Oakland and San Francisco are today — both proposals are remarkably similar to the Berkeley approach:
a penny per ounce fee on sugar-sweetened beverages
a dedicated health panel to advise city or county officials on spending
plenty of grassroots support
levied on distributors (in Berkeley much of the tax is passed through to consumers)
“We're building a much stronger community coalition,” says San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, one of the sponsors of the 2014 effort and a backer of the current move. “We're taking a much more thoughtful and grassroots focused effort this time around. We Read More ...