Letters: People will dump garbage in a neighbor’s can

SHARE Letters: People will dump garbage in a neighbor’s can

How about reducing the size of the Chicago City Council?  How about a foreclosure tax on the banks for subpriming and then taking those houses back, and then not taking care of them? How about a nuisance tax on slumlords?

Honest to goodness, why is the city trying to run everyone out of town because of political financial malfeasance? This city is a pretty miserable place  to live, to drive, to do anything, unless you live in select communities. A garbage fee in particular is stupid. I can see it now: People sticking garbage in other peoples’ garbage cans. They put all those taxes on cigarettes, now everyone goes to Indiana,  bring cigarettes back and sell them. This is a particular problem in my community. There is an endless parade of customers parading into to the building next door to buy cigarettes and who knows what else.

Michael Owens, South Shore

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com (Please include the name of your neighborhood or suburb, and a phone number for verification.)

Who’s a ‘special interest’?Ironic, isn’t it, that Gov. Bruce Rauner accuses the Democrats of voting for “special interests” — meaning the unions, which represent Illinois workers.  Meanwhile, Republicans vote for their “special interests” — wealthy and greedy corporations.  Thank you, Dems, for voting with the taxpayer.Ann GutierrezTinley ParkSoda tax essential to better public health

As a member of the core strategy team that fought the beverage industry’s strong opposition to pass a soda tax in Berkeley, and also as a member of the Panel of Experts that has been convened to recommend to the Berkeley City Council how to spend the revenues from this tax, I feel I need to address the misinformation that was embedded in the Sun-Times editorial [City soft drink tax would fizzle] and the flawed assumptions that underlie the Cornell-University of Iowa report it referenced regarding how well the Berkeley tax is working.

I applaud Chicago Alderman George Cardenas for his courage to take on the issue of the overconsumption of sugary drinks.  After being outspent at about 8 to 1, we in Berkeley know how hard it is to work on this issue and the lengths industry will go to kill or discredit any efforts to curb their sales of liquid sugar.  We also know that the beverage industry has upped the ante by hiring academic researchers to help them cast doubt on the overwhelming independent research that has identified causal links between sugary drink consumption and diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, fatty liver disease, and pancreatic cancer,—all of which are leading causes of death, especially in Chicago and Cook County’s Latino, African American, Native American and Pacific Islander communities.

The authors of the Cornell-University of Iowa report used three different variations of one economic model to calculate if sugary drink prices have increased since the tax went into effect a little less than six months ago.  The problem is not with the economic model they used, or their premise that purchases should shift when prices rise, but rather their flawed assumptions that completely ignore that: 1) as an excise tax, the industry actually can control whether they will pass along the tax, 2) many of the prices that retailers in Berkeley charge are set regionally by their corporate offices, 3) a complete misunderstanding of the demographic shifts between Bay Area cities and how this affects cost of living–San Francisco is not a good substitute for Berkeley when it comes to population-level purchasing habits, and 4) the effect that the tax revenues will have when they are used to support school and community based efforts to increase awareness of the health dangers of consuming sugary drinks and the need to shift to healthier options—revenues that only started being collected less than six months ago.

As I write this opinion, our Panel of Experts is currently drawing up the requirements for how to invest the resources from the tax into both school and community based efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of consuming sugary drinks as well as creating policies and infrastructure that makes shifting to healthier drinks the easy choice.  We anticipate Berkeley’s revenues from this tax to be approximately $1.5 million over the year.  A city the size of Chicago, could generate approximately $134 million per year.  This would go a long way toward supporting school and community based efforts to prevent the chronic diseases linked to the consumption of sugary drinks.

Economic models are like hammers; they work well when they are used in the right context.  But, you can’t cut wood with a hammer.  And right now, in Berkeley, we are building a complex and robust environment that requires many tools — not just hammers — to get in front of the health crisis that is caused by sugary drink consumption.

As the first City in the nation to finally beat the beverage industry, our bet is that they will do whatever they can to try to claim that our tax doesn’t work.  Their biggest fear is that others will be emboldened to repeat Berkeley’s victory.

We also know from other ongoing evaluations whose results are still embargoed, that the Cornell-University of Iowa “helicopter evaluation” is very misleading and could use better point of sale data.  It would have been nice to have the study’s authors work with some of the Berkeley team to better think through their underlying assumptions.I want to encourage Chicago Alderman Cardenas, in the face of the onslaught that the beverage industry will certainly unleash, to keep his courage and know that when this measure passes, Chicago’s most vulnerable populations will benefit the most.

Xavier Morales, Ph.D. was a part of the leadership team that worked to pass Berkeley’s Measure D. He now sits on the Panel of Experts that is charged with recommending how the revenues should be invested.  He is also the executive director of the Latino Coalition for A Healthy California.

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