Fall 2016 – Two Soda Tax Measures

With the assistance of two recruiters, TOLA 8 had the largest class ever with 9 fellows selected to participate in the program. And with an enhanced curriculum guided by lessons learned in the Berkeley vs. Big Soda win, TOLA 8 waged soda wars in two more communities, Oakland and San Francisco, California. Each city proposed levying a penny per ounce tax on the distributors of sugary sweetened beverages.

The Beverage Industry invested over $30 million in wall-to-wall media advertising in the SF-East Bay Area, opposing Proposition V (SF) and Measure HH (Oakland). In turn, the Yes on Prop V and Measure HH campaigns were backed by philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and John and Laura Arnold, spending over $22 million.

TOLA fellows worked tirelessly to take on the soda industry and won in both cities.

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City of Oakland

Prompted by a small group of community health advocates, and interest from a city council member to address the health of Oakland residents, the momentum for grass roots support of a one cent per ounce soda tax measure was so strong that the City Council voted unanimously to place a measure on the ballot. This early outreach led to broad community support and laid the groundwork for a significant victory.

The Beverage Industry hired a well-known lobbyist, and put together their political consulting team to exert pressure on community leaders as they had done in other communities. Different from Davis and Watsonville, however, the Oakland City Council was undeterred.

Through aggressive phone banking and door to door work, TOLA 8 fellows organized teams of volunteers to educate voters on the importance of Measure HH, and to dispel lies by Big Soda that the tax was a grocery tax. Bilingual fellows made a special effort to recruit Spanish and Chinese speaking volunteers to help in certain districts/precincts.

Fellows worked tirelessly on the campaign and won. Measure HH was approved by 61% (107,405 Yes; 67,655 No) of Oakland voters.

City of San Francisco

This was San Francisco’s second attempt to pass a soda tax measure. In contrast to the first (a special tax requiring a two-thirds majority) the second tax was modeled after Berkeley. The campaign garnered support from those previously involved in the first campaign, as well as new supporters.

TOLA 8 fellows organized teams of volunteers to educate voters on the importance of Proposition V through door to door and phone contacts. Bilingual staff organized in districts that were predominantly Chinese and Spanish speaking.

As in Oakland, fellows worked countless hours taking on Big Soda, leading to a decisive win. Prop V was approved by 62% (237,168 Yes; 142,347 No) of San Francisco voters.