The Sun-Times’ latest editorial on the sweetened beverage tax proposes its repeal. This has become a popular refrain, though without any reasoned suggestion as to what Cook County might do to properly fund vital public health and safety services the tax supports.

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The Editorial Board asks the County find a “less annoying way to pay the bills,” as if funding vital services at Cook County Health and Hospitals System or sheriff’s office is trivial or any other tax would not be characterized by those not forced to make difficult governance decisions as a nuisance.

Moreover, to try to make a quick point, the Editorial Board minimizes the health risks of artificially sweetened beverages, stating “a sugary drink tax on a Diet Coke is like a cigarette tax on a nicotine patch.”

Tell that to researchers at the American Heart Association who found that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages doubles the risk of stroke and increases the likelihood of dementia in people who consume one to six artificially sweetened drinks per week.

Let me be clear that when we faced a $174.6 million deficit in our Fiscal Year 2017 budget, we needed to find a revenue source that, along with expenditure cuts, would allow us to close that gap. We looked at various options and determined that if we needed to raise revenue we should find a source that would also produce benefits for our residents. So we settled on the sweetened beverage tax as it both 1) provides the revenue we need, and 2) serves a clear public health benefit.

Sometimes as a public official you have to tell people what they don’t want to hear, and for those now proposing repeal I would ask if they are willing to reverse the progress we have made in making CCHHS a leading provider of choice in the city. With the help of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, CCHHS has transformed its ability to care for our highest-risk and most at-need neighbors, and I, for one, am not willing to go back.

We are working hard to create a more fair and equitable criminal justice system through significant changes in bond court, reducing the jail population and making critical changes in juvenile justice laws.

Thankfully the Circuit Court rejected the claim by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association that the tax was unconstitutional and lacked uniformity. We expect to prevail in the Appellate Court as well.

I was elected and then re-elected to institute a course correction in Cook County government. We have done so by balancing our budget, paying our bills, attacking our pension shortfall, improving services, being accountable, and improving services to our residents. That is the kind of responsible governance to which I am committed.

Toni Preckwinkle, president, Cook County Board

 

Step up, citizens

In the wake of July’s flooding, a strong Sun-Times editorial began with “Destructive climate change has arrived in the Midwest.”  It went on to describe our country’s approach to climate change as appalling, embarrassing, and dangerous (“Dangerous Climate Change Hits Home,” Aug. 8).

Last week revealed additional cause to take concerted climate action: an assessment of 100 U.S. urban centers using the United Nations’ 17  sustainability indicators. Categories included water, climate change, healthy “life on land,” and many more.

Overall and on every one of the 17 specifics, our great city was nowhere near the top 10 (or the bottom 10, thankfully).

Here’s the real kicker: not a single urban center scored high enough to accomplish even half the progress needed to achieve the standards of the Paris climate accord.

Most people know that we need to both mitigate (reduce emissions) and prepare for the coming changes. But whereas Chicago is a beautiful city and rightly proud of being “nature’s metropolis,” we are falling behind.

When our official leaders are not doing enough, more “average citizens” need to lead “from below.” More of us need to take initiative, engage in new and more effective conversations, step out of our personal and professional silos (a.k.a. comfort zones), and collaboratively drive new climate solutions.

The demand for climate leaders is high and growing, but the supply is low. Starting now, with the Aug. 8 editorial as a starting point, the supply of new leaders must grow.

Thomas S. Bateman, Lake View

No sense of history

The Republican Party was the party of Abraham Lincoln, whose election triggered the secession of the slave states and who ended slavery in the South. The Republican Party was the party of Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general who defeated the Confederacy and as president supported radical Reconstruction. The Republican Party was the party of “carpetbaggers” who “invaded” the defeated South for profit during Reconstruction. The Republican Party was the party of “scalawags,” white southerners who supported Reconstruction. Now, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, alt-right nationalists and white supremacists claim the Republican Party. Not only do these Republican wannabes have no sense of decency they have no sense of history.

Bob Barth, Edgewater

Needs the facts

Donald Trump, speaking about his hesitation in condemning hate groups, stated, “Before I make a statement, I need the facts.” When did that start?
Tony Galati, Lemont

Bashing Trump

The media have been bashing Donald Trump nonstop over the neo-Nazi rally turning violent. Why not go to the video replay booth before we make our call? You cannot tell me that there isn’t extensive video coverage of this event. Neo-Nazis are scumbags, but they still have First Amendment rights, as does the Black Lives Matter group, whose rallies have turned violent.

Mike Rice, Jefferson Park