American Public Health Association (APHA) backs Richmond soda tax

The press release was received this afternoon, and appears below. Jeff Ritterman recently spoke to the APHA about Measure N in Richmond, which would tax business a penny-per-ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage sales.


Federal, State and Local Tax on Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) Endorsed by Nation’s Oldest, Largest Public Health Organization


SAN FRANCISCO, CA, October 31, 2012…Faced with a national obesity crisis largely driven by the consumption of sugary beverages, the country’s oldest and largest public health organization, the American Public Health Association (APHA), voted yesterday to endorse federal, state and local taxes on sugar sweetened beverages.

With over 13,000 physicians, administrators, nurses, educators, researchers, epidemiologists and related health specialists in attendance here at their annual meeting, the APHA approved the landmark resolution, recognizing it as a means of reducing consumption of the sugar sweetened beverages that contribute 48 percent of added sugar to American diets. In the resolution, the APHA pointed out that roughly two-thirds of adults are overweight, and taxes on high calorie, low nutrient sugary beverages are a wise way to address this costly health issue.

“Decisive public health policy measures must be implemented to counteract the enormous consumption of sugar sweetened beverages among children and adults in the United States,” said Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), who co-authored the resolution.

The APHA says that these taxes would raise funds for obesity prevention, pointing out that the most commonly proposed tax amount of a penny per ounce would annually raise over $13 billion nationally. At the same time, reduced consumption could rein in health care spending on obesity and overweight related illnesses, which accounts for as much as $168 billion per year, or 16.5 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures.

If it helps reduce consumption, a tax on SSBs could be of greatest benefit to lower-income populations, the APHA asserts, countering the beverage industry’s argument that such a tax would be regressive.

The American Public Health Association is the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world and has been working to improve public health since 1872. For more about APHA, visit www.apha.org. CCPHA is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization leading efforts in California to understand and address the state’s growing obesity crisis. For more about CCPHA, visit: www.publichealthadvocacy.org.


Richmond’s David v. Goliath: the sugar beverage tax

jeff ritterman felix hunziger

Jeff Ritterman, foreground, and Felix Hunziker, background, an anti-Measure N activist.

RICHMOND — Jeff Ritterman made his case for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages at American Public Health Association Conferences, to doctors at a San Francisco Medical School and the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County — all in the last week.

But perhaps his most important audience was Monday night’s, where 80 people gathered at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church for a town-hall meeting.

Trim and energetic, with his trademark ponytail pulled tight, the retired cardiologist-turned-councilman relied on local African-American sports and health advocates to do most of the talking to one of the city’s oldest African- American congregations, but he bemoaned the “polarization” that has cleaved the city over his controversial ballot measure.

“We have to keep the focus on our children and how to make the city a better place for them,” Ritterman said.

Erick Avery, coach of the Richmond Half-Steppers, a youth track club, had just finished speaking on the need for recreation funding from Measure N, the penny-per-ounce tax Ritterman has devoted nearly all his energies to.

Click here to see the Beverage Association spending report: BEVERAGEGROUPREPORT pdf pdf

Keenly aware of the $2.5 million spent so far against the measure, Ritterman did what he seldom does — acknowledged the possibility of defeat on Nov. 6. As of Oct. 20, the pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign had spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors.

“Win or lose, we have to figure out a way to support (the Half Steppers),” Ritterman said.

The pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign has spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors, a total dwarfed by the $2.5 million in soda industry funding the opposition.

The underdogs have relied on volunteers and creativity to get their message out to local voters.

Youth artists spray-paint anti-soda, “Yes on N” murals on street corner buildings, with the owners’ permission. Ritterman has done hundreds of interviews with media from all over the world, and has spent thousands of hours campaigning. He pulls a wagon carrying 40-pounds of sugar — a prop meant to personify the amount the average child consumes in a year — and spends late nights pecking rhetoric into his keyboard, jousting with critics and naysayers on social media platforms. He’s been shouted down at parks and in church parking lots.

It’s in Richmond’s working-class neighborhoods where the ballot battle will be won or lost, and skeptics say the pro-tax activists can’t overcome the money and the blunt “no on new taxes” message against them.

“Our campaign spending is still considerably less than what Measure N would cost Richmond families in higher grocery bills and Richmond businesses in lost sales and customers,” said Chuck Finnie, a spokesman for the anti-tax group.

Otheree Christian, president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Association, said he liked much of what he heard Monday night, but that his mostly African- American and Latino neighborhood is leaning against the ballot measure and can’t be persuaded.

“In this economy, with people struggling, putting in a new tax is not going to work, no matter how you try to dress it up,” Christian said.

Several speakers on Monday appealed directly to the city’s working class African-American and Latino communities, calling sugar-sweetened beverages “poisons” that are fueling obesity, diabetes and other health maladies.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other elected leaders joined Ritterman at the church and pushed hard for the measure. McLaughlin pledged to pass postelection legislation requiring that every dollar from Measure N goes to youth health and recreation programs, another in a long line of tweaks to the message that the pro-N side has made over months of campaigning to tamp down critics.

The keynote speaker Monday was Maya Rockeymoore, a Washington D.C.-based scholar.

Rockeymoore called on the African American community to look critically at the beverage industry, its products and its marketing tactics toward ethnic groups.

She called the obesity crisis — 52 percent of children in Richmond are overweight — a “systemic” problem.

“We are surrounded all the time by an environment in which unhealthy drinks are advertised,” Rockeymoore said.

McLaughlin echoed many of Rockeymoore’s theme, at one point noting acerbically that obesity and diabetes has been a bitter fruit of the “Pepsi Generation” marketing campaign.

Doria Robinson, a community advocate for better nutrition and urban farming, said residents needed to come together to tax sugary-drinks and reduce consumption.

“It’s not food,” she said. “It’s hurting us.”

With its unlimited budget, The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes counts hundreds of local businesses and influential community groups, including the NAACP and Black Women of Political Action (BWOPA) among its members. The city’s streets and its airwaves are awash in “No on N” ads, funded by the Washington D.C.-based American Beverage Association’s support. The coalition has also provided thousands in direct payments to influential community leaders, including the treasurer of the Black American Polical Action Committee (BAPAC).

“Without Big Soda’s money, there would be no organized opposition against the soda tax,” Ritterman said.

The dynamic has played out elsewhere to the same notes. El Monte, a Los Angeles County suburb with a nearly 20 percent larger population than Richmond, is the other major California battleground over beverage taxes.

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, the leading proponent of Measure H — which is virtually identical to Richmond’s ordinance — has acknowledged that his measure has little chance in the face of the beverage industry’s sophisticated and well-funded campaign.

Yet in El Monte, the battle is being tipped with far fewer resources. The “No on H” committee has spent about $1.3 million, barely half its spending in Richmond, the smaller city. El Monte’s pro-beverage tax forces have spent about $7,000 more than those in Richmond.

“The comparison shows how strong Richmond’s progressive movement is,” said Andres Soto, a founding member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. “We can win here against all the corporate money.”

In both cities, slick campaign strategists have focused on appealing to key ethnic groups.

In Richmond, the campaigns have focused on appealing to African Americans and Latinos. In El Monte, advertising aims at Asians and Latinos.

Critics have complained that Ritterman and his allies initially overlooked the support of local churches and leaders, opening the door for the beverage industry to make inroads. Ritterman disagrees.

“No regrets,” Ritterman said. “We have worked hard. We have run an honest campaign.”

Observers close to the campaigns on both sides say N has a slim chance at passage, but still marvel at the spirited, crafty, bare-bones campaign that has pushed Richmond into the national limelight on issues of public health and sugar-sweetened beverages. The battle in Richmond may be lost this year, they say, but the larger war changing the beverage industry is still in their favor.

“This really advanced the cause no matter how the vote turns out,” said Councilman Tom Butt. “A lot of people have been watching this, learning what to do and what not to do, and I am sure there will be other cities that will take this up.”

Asked if he has ever felt down against the seemingly overwhelming odds, Ritterman brushed that aside.

“I’ve been working on this more than full time for many months. I don’t feel demoralized at all, I feel energized.”



Gospel artist Earnest Pugh to head wellness fest at Hilltop church

RICHMOND — Internationally-acclaimed gospel artist Earnest Pugh will headline the Unity Wellness Fest by the Bay on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Hilltop Community Church, 3118 Shane Dr.

The event starts at 5 p.m. with a free community health outreach initiative featuring free health screening and demonstrations by the Richmond Fire Department.

“It’s all about connecting our community for a worthy cause,” said event organizer Dwan Vance. “Our community partners such as Lifelong-Brookside Community Health Center, Granny’s Kitchen and Natural Healing Tree are essential in bringing resources to our community and exposing participants to healthy food and lifestyle choices.” 

Following the free community health expo will be a gospel concert featuring recording artist Earnest Pugh, known for various hit records including “I Need the Glory” and “Rain on Us.” Additional performers include: Joe Douglas & Spirit of Praise, J’on Harris and Voices, Voices of ICC Verizon Wireless People Choice Award Winning Choir, and other special guests.

“We are encouraging the entire community to come out and participate in this event as we work to unify our community through prayer, praise and purpose,” Vance said.  

General Admission is $20 ($25 at the door). VIPtickets are $30 (all ages). Children under 12 years old are $8. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the concert. For tickets or for more information call 510-253-0020 or visit www.thealaf.org. Tickets are also available at Reid’s Records.

Proceeds from the event will be used for continued community outreach for multicultural youths, young adults and academic scholarships awarded to students who have achieved academic excellence and have made outstanding community contributions.

Sponsors and Affiliates for the 2012 Unity Wellness Fest by the Bay include: {AlaF Inc., Say Yes Productions, Lifelong-Brookside Community Center, Richmond Fire Department, Richmond Police Department,  Richmond Pacific Railroad, Bay City Mechanical, PFBC, AHC Inc. Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, Precious Angels Daycare  & Preschool, Noble Assets Clothing & Accessories, Natural Healing Tree and Granny’s Kitchen}.


‘Soda tax’ rally Oct. 29 at local church

Measure N is the hottest political battle in Richmond in a long time.

It’s brought in millions in campaign funds and inflamed passions, all over a penny-per-ounce tax on businesses that sell sugar-sweetened beverages.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29 the pro-Measure N forces will host a Town Hall meeting at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond.

The meeting invocation will be given by local civil rights leader Rev. Phillip Lawson. Noted author and public policy scholar Dr. Maya Rockeymoore will deliver the keynote address titled, “When Breaking up is Hard To Do: The Link Between Sugary Drinks and African American Health Disparities.”

Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a retired cardiologist, will speak on a panel that will also include Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Measure N has garnered national attention as its supporters hope Richmond will become the first city in the nation to tax sugary drinks as a public health initiative.

Local food advocate Doria Robinson and Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles are also expected to speak.


Richmond neighbors will celebrate Sunday at Solano Playlot

Solano Playlot, the small park in the North and East neighborhood that was recently refurbished because of community involvement and activism, is holding its Fall Festival on Sunday.
Here’s the announcement from community group Solano PLAY:

Solano Playlot Friends,

On Sunday from 2-4pm, the Solano Playlot once again will be overflowing with laughter, excitement and a little bit of holiday spookiness. Don’t miss the 3rd Annual Solano Playlot Fall Festival, which will be the first big celebration in our new park.

Here’s a quick run down of the major attractions. For adults, we’ll have a cafe and bake sale, raffle and lots of community. With a little luck, you could win:

a YEAR’s supply of bread from Semifreddis
Catahoula coffee
Restaurant gift certificates to Hotel Mac, Salute E Vita, The Baltic, Huong Tra, SaWadDee, Up and Under, and Pup Hut among others

El Cerrito Natural Grocery gift certificates

Trader Joe’s gift basket
Free oil changes

For kids, we’ll have a costume parade, free goody bags, a jumpy house, craft table, visit from fire truck and police car, temporary tattoo station, hopefully face painting, and so much fun.

If you can spare an hour to help us set up, please reply. We can always use help!

We should have beautiful weather, but in case of rain, the event will be held at Noah’s Ark Preschool at 555 37th Street.

ALSO, on Saturday from 1-3pm, don’t miss the Richmond Art Center’s Skeleton Fest. At this free community event, you can create scary masks, movable skeletons, sugar skulls, and more. Bring a T-shirt to screen and a treat to share. All ages welcome! The RAC is located at 2540 Barrett Ave. in Richmond.

See you Sunday!

Melanie Myers
Solano PLAY


Pastor Sydney Keys to take helm at North Richmond church

Pastor Sydney Keys is getting a fresh start.

The well-liked local religious leader will be welcomed at 3 p.m. Saturday as the new Senior Pastor at Greater New Bethel Apostolic Ministry on 101 Market Street in North Richmond.

“I am going to go forth with the vision,” Keys said Thursday.

The ceremony will be attended by Congressman George Miller (D-Martinez) and other political and neighborhood leaders, Keys said.

Keys made big news in 2011 when his Bible Way Community Church in Richmond joined was evicted at the behest of bank ownership after falling behind on payments.

Keys was supported in nonviolent protests of the eviction by Councilmember Corky Booze, Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus, County Supervisor John Gioia and representatives of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Keys was arrested by Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department deputies— along with his wife, mother and two activists — after a two day sit-in protesting the eviction. They were released the next day.


Richmond council hopefuls debate at Hotel Mac

nat bates, tom butt

Candidates square off at the Hotel Mac. (photo by Robert Rogers)

RICHMOND — Five candidates for City Council squared off in their upteenth debate Wednesday in an upstairs room of the historic Hotel Mac.

The lunch hour debate featured incumbents Nat Bates and Tom Butt, along with challengers Eduardo Martinez, Bea Roberson and Marilyn Langlois.
The debate was sponsored by the Council of Industries and drew about 20 local business leaders.
Economic development took center stage in all the candidates’ remarks.
Martinez, Langlois and Butt, backed by the progressive coalition that has lead Richmond in recent years, touted the city’s successes and said Richmond was on the right track.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Martinez said, joining his allies in praising the city’s General Plan, which stresses pedestrian friendly streets, green development and open space preservation.
Langlois said passing Measure N, a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, was part of Richmond’s progress as a leader in healthy development.
  1. Read an online debate on Measure N here
Bates and Roberson said they were the “business friendly” candidates and vowed to open the city up to more development.
“We have enough parks in this city,” Bates said. “We need more economic development.”
Bates, 81, and Butt, 68, sparred with their usual volleys of barbed banter.
Bates said Butt and his Richmond Progressive Alliance allies were to the Council of Industries what Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is to the NAACP.
Butt said Bates “probably just forgot” that Butt has been a leader on economic development issues for years.
Other candidates for city council, including Gary Bell, Eleanor Thompson and Jael Myrick participated in another debate at the Hotel Mac on Oct. 17.
Three slots are up for grabs this year. Butt and Bates are longtime incumbents seeking re-election, while Councilman Jeff Ritterman has opted not to seek a second term.
In recent years, Richmond has enjoyed a sharp drop in crime, improving employment and new development starts, most notably the announcement earlier this year that the city would be the site of a massive new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, slated to open in 2016 or 2017.

Richmond soda tax supporters call a town hall meeting

Supporters of Measure N in Richmond are holding a town hall meeting 7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 684 Juliga Woods St.

Here’s the official announcement:

Richmond Soda Tax Supporters Present Town Hall Meeting, Monday, Oct. 29 with Keynote Speaker Maya Rockeymoore, MD

Just as they pour the equivalent of nine teaspoons of sugar into one can of soda, the American Beverage Association is
pouring buckets of money to defeat the so called “soda tax” in Richmond, California. The beverage industry evidently
fears that success in Richmond could lead to calls for similar measures in other cities and a general public awakening to
the health dangers posed by sugary soda consumption.
Proponents of Measure N are being outspent almost 100 to 1, but taking their case directly to the public. On Monday,
October 29, at 7:00 pm, there will be a Town Hall meeting to discuss the measure at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist
Church in Richmond. The meeting invocation will be given by local civil rights leader Reverend Phillip Lawson. Noted
author and public policy scholar Dr. Maya Rockeymoore will deliver the keynote address titled, When Breaking up is
Hard To Do: The Link Between Sugary Drinks and African American Health Disparities.
Dr. Jeff Ritterman, the cardiologist and Richmond City Council member who spearheaded Measure N, will speak on a
panel that will also include Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other Council members.
The so-called Soda Tax is a local initiative that has gained national attention. While it has raised alarm in the corporate
corridors of Coca Cola and Pepsi, it has received support and encouragement from the head of the Centers for Disease
Control in Atlanta, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Heart
Association, and the Institute of Medicine.
The town hall meeting next Monday night will counter the well funded opponents with public information and
education explaining the link between rising rates of obesity and diabetes and soda consumption. The public will be
informed in detail about plans to use the funds generated from the soda tax to pay for playgrounds, sports activities,
swimming lessons, and other anti-obesity projects for Richmond children.
Keynote Address by Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, LLC
Public Policy Scholar, Public Health Advocate, Author and Media Commentator
Panel Discussion:
Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond
Jeff Ritterman, Councilmember, City of Richmond
Jovanka Beckles, Councilmember, City of Richmond
Doria Robinson, Nutrition Educator and Urban Farmer
7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 684 Juliga Woods St.
Sponsored by Richmond Fit for Life and Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO)


Marin Energy customers look to new solar installations

MARIN — A one megawatt solar installation at the San Rafael Airport was unveiled at an 11 a.m. ceremony today.

The solar energy generated from 4,600 panels on 48 hangar rooftops at the airport — the largest in Marin County — will  supply energy Marin Clean Energy (MCE) customers, including Richmond.

The panels were installed by Muir Beach-based Synapse Electric.

The MCE project will distribute power through PG&E’s existing power lines.

According to a news release, “MCE is the first and currently only operating Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program in California, accelerating the creation of local renewable energy projects with its standard offer contract Feed-In Tariff. MCE has paved the way for other California cities and counties to follow suit.”

The clean power generated at the airport will eliminate 1,138 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the equivalent of removing 223 cars from the road or planting 29,000 trees, according the release. 

In June, Richmond became the first East Bay city to join MEA and become the first California city outside of Marin County to offer customers a choice to purchase green electricity through Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

Passed in 2002, CCA granted local cities and counties the authority to purchase electricity and sell it within their jurisdictions, providing customers with a public power option. 



Sugar beverage tax debate on KQED Friday morning

RICHMOND — As election day draws near, the debate over Measure N is at full fizz.

Measure N would tax businesses that sell sugar-sweetened beverages a penny-per-ounce in an effort to reduce consuption, lower obesity and generate revenues.

We hosted a spirited online chat-style debate between Jeff Ritterman and Chuck Finnie this week. All the of the revealing answers are there for you to read and decide.

They’ll be back Friday morning at 9 a.m. on KQED.

To call in with questions: 866-733-6786

To email questions: forum@kqed.org