Eric Mar

Soda tax is social justice issue



We are fighting for a soda tax because public health leaders have sounded the alarm that sugary drinks are a serious threat to our public health. Now is the time to get the word out about the latest facts that tell the story.

Our work on the issue began when community leaders and medical experts started educating us on the impact of sugary drinks. The resulting legislation that we crafted along with four other members of the Board of Supervisors will not only slow soda consumption, but it will fund the anti-hunger and physical activity programs we dearly need.

Most folks know soda is bad for you, but not how bad. Many are also unaware that Big Soda is specifically targeting communities of color and children. Our task is to spread the word about the health disparities this creates.

The lack of healthy food choices is an injustice that is hitting communities of color the hardest. Fully three-fourths of adult Latinos and African Americans in San Francisco are obese or overweight and one in three Americans will soon be diabetic, including one in two Latinos and African Americans.

The disparities are geographic as well. The highest rates of diabetes hospitalizations and emergency room visits are among residents of the Bayview, Tenderloin, SoMa, and Treasure Island. Close behind are the Excelsior and Visitacion Valley. These are also the neighborhoods that lack access to healthy food and are among those consuming the most soda.

We are already paying the high price of soda consumption. San Franciscans spend at the very least $50-60 million a year in health care costs and sick days due to obesity and diabetes attributable to sugary drinks. The fact that sugary drinks are the biggest single source of added sugar in our diets sets it apart from other unhealthy foods.

The revenue generated has tight controls and must be used to mitigate the harm Big Soda causes. Steered by an independent committee and targeted to communities suffering the most from health inequities, the tax will bolster funding for everything from school meals, healthy food retailer incentives, physical education, and other deserving programs.

Big Soda has hired high-priced lobbying firms and public relations folks who are employing a small army of young people, deploying them into the Bayview, the Mission, and Chinatown — those communities most impacted by diabetes and soda consumption. They’ve set up a front group — San Franciscans for an Affordable City — to capitalize on the anger in SF about the cost of housing and living.

But think about it: Have Big Soda companies helped us in our fight for affordable housing? Are they fighting for a living wage for communities of color in San Francisco? They have never cared about an affordable city. They care about protecting their profits, period.

We need affordable housing, healthy foods, and physical activity — issues we are working on every single day. On the other hand, our communities need affordable soda as much as we need cheap cigarettes and booze. It only makes us sick.

There are things our communities are doing to promote good health, like transforming corner stores into healthy retailers, building community gardens, and expanding physical and nutrition education. The soda tax as it is written now can provide these programs and dramatically improve our communities’ health.

This isn’t a ban but a reasonable first step to decrease soda consumption. This is a research-proven way of getting people to use less of an unhealthy product — it worked with cigarettes and it worked with alcohol. Finally, the tax will fund a range of great programs that will actually provide healthy choices for everyone.

It’s time we make the healthy choice the easy choice for low-income communities and all San Franciscans.

John Avalos represents District 11 (Outer Mission, Excelsior) and Eric Mar represents District 1 (the Richmond District) on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Tom Ammiano represents Assembly Dist. 17 (eastern San Francisco) in the California legislature.


The class of 2008: an agenda


OPINION Every few years, San Francisco’s political landscape is remade. But we, the new arrivals of the Board of Supervisors’ Class of 2008, know that the last decade of district elections helped ensure that the supervisors truly represent our neighborhoods and our shared San Francisco values.

Despite various efforts by special interests to paint us as out of step with everyday San Franciscans, the very strength of our campaigns was that they were rooted in the lives of actual residents who understood the choices before them. We campaigned on the best of our experiences — neighborhood activism, labor and community organizing, running nonprofits and small businesses, and championing public education and police accountability.

Despite our different districts and diverse constituencies, we rallied voters around real San Francisco values — the faith in the role of government to protect the most vulnerable and bring forth justice and equity; the trust in grassroots democracy and neighborhood-based activism; the pursuit of a safe and clean environment and sustainable development; the belief in the sanctity of immigrant, labor, and LGBT rights; the dignity of working families, seniors, and people with disabilities; and the pursuit of housing justice and economic opportunity for all.

While the Class of 2000 paved the way on many of these progressive values, we enter public office ready to build on this foundation while rising to the new and enormous challenges of today. San Francisco is not just facing a fiscal crisis; we are facing a quandary in which city government cannot do all that it aspires to do.

Our agenda is no less ambitious for the crisis we are in. It is because of the crisis that we need to create opportunity, direction, and hope where there is violence, confusion, and despair. Our San Francisco values mean that we will tackle public safety by addressing the root causes of violence by seeking rehabilitation and restorative justice and push for real police reform by promoting the kind of community policing that is built on relationships between neighborhood residents and the police.

Our San Francisco values prompt us to make our city budget more transparent. We will initiate new programs only with the certainty that important services are not cut in the process. We will do our best to protect critical frontline city workers from privatization and layoffs.

We will work collectively to maintain the city’s commitment to its public schools; promote public transit; foster sustainable development and new affordable housing connected to green and well-conceived public infrastructure; promote community choice aggregation and public power based on renewable energy; support local businesses and the hiring of San Francisco residents; safeguard our sanctuary city to make sure that immigrants can live free from fear of ICE raids; and fight to keep our vital neighborhood services working and our parks, libraries, and senior centers thriving.

We are committed to ushering in a new tone of cooperation and unity in San Francisco. Despite the enormous challenges and contending political views within the city family, we will work to ensure that our neighborhoods always win out over special interests. After all, politics is about improving the lives of everyday people. We look forward to working with you in this noble effort.

Supervisor John Avalos represents District 11. Supervisor David Campos represents District 9. Supervisor David Chiu represents District 3. Supervisor Eric Mar represents District 1.

We stand with Carole Migden


OPINION As longtime fans of the Guardian and as allies in almost every fight, including the struggles for public power, affordable housing, people-focused land use policy, and clean and open government, we do not like finding ourselves on the opposite side of an issue as important as this year’s state Senate race. Respectfully, we must say that we believe the Guardian‘s failure to endorse Carole Migden in that race was a colossal mistake — not unlike the decision to endorse Angela Alioto over Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez for mayor in 2003.

Both Leno and Migden are good votes in Sacramento. But the simple reality is that Carole Migden has been there for the local left in ways that make her the only choice for progressives willing to take on the establishment. Certainly Migden has made herself vulnerable to political attacks. Her failure to retain a professional treasurer for her campaign finance filings was clearly an error of judgment. But for us, none of this outweighs her incredible record of achievement in Sacramento or her far more reliable support of progressive candidates and causes in San Francisco.

Guardian readers should by now be familiar with Migden’s long record in Sacramento: the California Clean Water Act, saving the Headwaters Forest, community choice aggregation (CCA), a series of domestic partnership laws that have established a viable alternative to marriage in California while setting the stage for extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, a remarkable package of foster care reforms, and cosmetics safety legislation.

But it is Migden’s role locally that makes her so important to San Francisco progressives. Migden is the only candidate in the race who has been there for progressives in difficult political battles. As candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee, we are grateful that the Guardian endorsed our entire slate. But we wonder if the Guardian considered the fact that the vast majority (indeed, almost unanimous) of Hope Slate candidates are Migden supporters, because they are the leading progressive candidates to retain a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors in November. It is not coincidental.

Few politicians who have risen as high in the establishment food chain as Carole Migden have done so retaining a willingness to fight for the underdog. Guardian readers should be familiar with the litany: she supported Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick in 2000; reached out to Chris Daly soon thereafter and stood strongly with him against subsequent challenges; never, ever supported Gavin Newsom; attended the Progressive Convention; and financed progressive campaigns from the Affordable Housing Bond to Muni reform.

Migden is a scrappy street fighter who helps other scrappy street fighters. As one of the very first queers and one of the first women to take political power at these levels, she had to be. Someday progressive politics may not need scrappy street fighters (and someday maybe women will be better represented in public office) — but not yet.

We are proud to stand with Carole Migden, as she has stood with us. She is the candidate in this race who we can count on to fight when it really counts.

Bill Barnes, Chris Daly, Michael Goldstein, Robert Haaland, Joe Julian, Eric Mar, Rafael Mandelman, Eric Quezada, and Debra Walker

The writers are Hope Slate candidates for the DCCC.