SNEED: Bloomberg throws support behind embattled Cook County soda tax

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg | AP file photo

Here comes the cavalry!

Sneed first reported Thursday that Michael Bloomberg, the 10th-richest person in the world, is tapping into his Independence USA super PAC big time to back Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s penny-an-ounce soda tax.

Bloomberg — a billionaire plus, plus, plus, and the former mayor of New York — is one of the few people who have the resources and the political savvy to fight retailers’ efforts to can the tax.

Sneed has learned that a seven-figure broadcast and radio buy has been made, and that Bloomberg plans to be “on the ground” supporting those who support the tax “for as long as it takes,” according to a top Sneed source. The ads are expected to begin airing on television and on radio Friday.

OPINION

Bloomberg “is a true believer in the fundamental importance of the tax and its role in driving healthy eating and improving the quality of life for tens of millions of people,” a top Bloomberg source told Sneed before the ad campaign began being rolled out online on Thursday afternoon.

As mayor, Bloomberg tried to ban jumbo-sized sodas, but that effort was stopped in court.

The ad that debuted online Thursday begins, “When kids drink soda pop, they’re getting a lot more than they bargain for.” The soda tax, the narrator says, “can make a difference, reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, with the money helping to support Cook County hospitals and health programs.”

“Bloomberg’s determination and resources could very likely impact elections throughout the state, not just Cook County, in 2018,” the Bloomberg source said of the pro-soda-tax campaign. “Having spent over $20 million in San Francisco, this development could easily see the largest issue advocacy fight in the history of Illinois.”

• To wit: Bloomberg donated more than $18 million in 2016 to support ballot propositions in favor of a soda tax in both San Francisco and Oakland, California. The ballot measures passed last year in both cities by a wide margin.

No stranger to Chicago politics, Bloomberg intervened in 2013 with a seven-figure spend to help elect U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill. Bloomberg used his super PAC to target one of Kelly’s Dem primary contenders in a special election to replace disgraced U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

• The backstory: Preckwinkle has been under fire since the tax went into effect on Aug. 2, with consumers outraged over the increased cost of soda and other sugary drinks. A poll released Thursday reported 68 percent of Cook County voters disapprove of Preckwinkle’s job performance.

Bye, Balbo . . . 

Sneed’s exclusive story on a monumental move by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to rename Balbo Drive, which was dedicated to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s Italian Air Force marshal Italo Balbo, has met with criticism by the Italian American community — which is suggesting other Italian notables for consideration.

• Why, you might ask?

• Here’s why: The aldermen were considering renaming the major Chicago drive after the late Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly, who had never been honored thus.

Begorrah!

The following names are now being considered.

• Physicist Enrico Fermi, who built the prototype of a nuclear reactor and worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb. He won the Nobel Prize in 1938 for his work in radioactivity, allowing him to escape fascist Italy and settle in the United States. He then built the first nuclear reactor (Chicago Pile-1). Fermi died in Chicago in 1954. Element 100, fermium, is named in his honor.

• Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint, founded 67 institutions, including orphanages, schools and hospitals, within 35 years dedicated to care for the poor, uneducated, sick, abandoned, and especially for the Italian immigrants. She is known as the patron saint of immigrants.

Any suggestions?

The Peterson file . . . 

Attorney Marcia Clark, the prosecutor who unsuccessfully tried to convict O.J. Simpson of murder, hits town Monday to interview one of convicted wife murderer Drew Peterson’s former attorneys, Joel Brodsky.

“She’s doing a TV special for the CBS show “48 hours,” said Brodsky.

Sneedlings . . .

Condolences to the family of Eleanor “Ellie” (Barrett) Griffin, a beloved wife, mother and guileless Irish spitfire — who was the grandmother to my son, Patrick.  A very special lady. . . . I spy: Max Weinberg, drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, spotted at Harry Caray’s on Kinzie Street on Wednesday night. . . . Today’s birthdays: Robert Redford, 81; Christian Slater, 48; and Renato Sanches, 20.

Previously from Chicago News