Oakland considering soda tax for Nov. ballot

Members of the Oakland City Council are asking voters to approve a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, saying it will improve the health of the people of Oakland and bring in up to $12 million in new revenue.

Oakland’s efforts follow similar campaigns in recent years in Berkeley and San Francisco. But while Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, San Francisco fell short of the two-thirds approval needed to pass it.

City Councilwomen Rebecca Kaplan, Annie Campbell Washington and Desley Brooks authored the Oakland measure, which would impose a tax of one cent per ounce for each sugar-sweetened beverage.

According to the measures’ proponents, one in seven Oakland youth drink two or more sodas each day, dramatically increasing health risks from sugar consumption.

Drinking one can of soda per day can increase the risk of dying from heart disease by one-third, and drinking one or two sugary beverages a day can increase the risk of developing diabetes by 26 percent, according to the three councilwomen.

Kaplan, Brooks and Washington planned to introduce the measure at the City Council’s rules and legislation committee Thursday, with Kaplan saying:

“I am pleased to support this action to improve the health of people throughout Oakland — both by reducing the harm caused by sugary drinks and by funding important programs to strengthen our community.”

If the City Council approves the measure for the November ballot, it will only need approval of 50 percent of voters. In San Francisco, the soda tax had 56 percent support but it needed two-thirds approval to pass there.

Oakland’s measure has drawn broad support from other local elected officials and community leaders, though it is likely to draw fierce opposition from soda manufacturers, who vigorously opposed the legislation in Berkeley and San Francisco.