Assemblyman Richard Bloom likes to beat dead horses. Once again, he’s floating another proposal for a “sugar tax.” Never mind that two previous efforts of mandating a statewide tax on sugar-sweetened sodas failed, spectacularly.

A 1-cent per ounce statewide soda tax proposal in the legislature was killed in 2014. Another similar bill stalled in Bloom’s committee last year. This year, AB2782 by Bloom and co-author Jim Wood of Healdsburg, would impose a surcharge of 2-cents per ounce on sugar-sweetened sodas and other drinks sold in the state. If it becomes law, your favorite 12-ounce Coke or Pepsi will cost 24-cents more.

Revenues from the tax plan would go to counties, cities, community based organizations and licensed clinics to implement and maintain anti-obesity and diabetes prevention initiatives as well as dental care and safe drinking initiatives. The tax is expected to raise $2 billion each year and benefit black and Latino neighborhoods that have traditionally high rates of diabetes and obesity.

Bloom noted that policy makers have the opportunity to reverse the growing obesity trend with programs that counteract marketing campaigns pushing sugar-reinforced products toward children. However without some education about health risks directed to consumers about sugar consumption, this is just another tax and state-mandated funding opportunity for some lawmaker’s favorite charity.

AB2782 is flawed legislation and like previous sugar tax proposals, omits surcharging obvious sources of sugar-reinforced foods, such as chocolate and candies, fruit juices and salty, greasy snacks. Worst of all, creates a nanny government.

The California League of Food Processors claims its “unfair and “inaccurate” to blame sugar-sweetened beverages as the “main culprit” for diabetes and says the legislature has no business regulating our personal decision to purchase and consume sugary beverages.

CalBev (the state beverage industry trade association) executive director Bob Achermann issued the following statement in response to the introduction of AB 2782.

“Time and again, misguided tax proposals on sugar-sweetened beverages have been defeated in cities across the state, as witnessed last year in the California Legislature with Assembly Bill 1357 – legislation that received wide-spread opposition from business organizations, unions, vendors, grocers, retailers and restaurant owners throughout California. It’s time to move on and find real solutions to obesity and diabetes that will have a meaningful impact. Taxes are not a solution to our public health challenges. Instead, they hurt small businesses and increase the costs of common grocery items… The last thing that hard-working Californians need is another tax, which will only make it even more difficult to make ends meet in one of the most expensive states in the nation.”  Right on, Bob!

Parking rates going up

And while City Hall is planning to spend a million bucks to welcome the Expo Light Rail in June, it hasn’t given up nickel and diming residents. As usual, it involves parking fees.

Stacy Dalgish, Mid-Cities Neighbors board member forwarded a comment from one of the organization’s members. It said, “Last night I parked on 7th Street between Arizona and Santa Monica Boulevard and had to pay $2 for an hour and 15 minutes of parking at a meter that went to 9 p.m. Four blocks from 3rd Street and you have to pay until 9 p.m.?

“Okay but why $0.25 for three minutes at certain meters? What can you possibly do in three minutes? That seems like a blatant money grab to me. And on outlying streets, meters go to 9 p.m. when they used to go to 6 p.m. Why not roll them back to 6 p.m.?”

That’s exactly what it is. A blatant money grab.

Just what we need: vegan city employees

If you think that city politicians and policy makers inject too much of their social engineering into the lives of residents, you may be surprised to know that the proselytization doesn’t end with us.City employees have been subject to a “go vegan” campaign as promulgated by the Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Currently, City Hall is wrapping up a “Meatless in March” promotion for City employees with tips and recipes about how they can be more sustainable by going meatless. Programs on not wasting food and how to properly store fruits and vegetables have also been distributed by email and over the intra-city network.

It all made one city employee, who called the City’s political correctness efforts to my attention, to comment that the social engineering of employees is an ongoing effort. Of course, it costs money. And, we’re paying for it. But, it keeps people busy and employed.

Portrait of a whistle blower

The BG Gallery at Bergamot (2525 Michigan Ave, Gallery G8) has a multi-artist show currently on display. One of the pieces is a kinetic sculpture by local artist Dave Quick.

The whimsical piece depicts a pencil lying on a flat bed, railroad train carriage. A little man sits on top of the pencil. Its title is “Whistle blower: Portrait of Bill Bauer.”

It’s an interactive work so viewers can crank the handle on the top-right side of the sculpture, which in turn spins gears that drive a rotating sign that spells out the word: “Monstrosity.” Quick got a kick out of my columns where I described many local developments as “monstrosities” and he used the word as a theme for the portrait.

Quick’s works – unlikely collisions of found objects, photography, political satire, and “machine era” mechanical motion – have appeared in scores of local and national exhibitions over the decades. Very cool, huh?

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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