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Berkeley Passes Soda Tax Measure, San Francisco's Goes Flat

Big Soda disses on Berkeley, while San Francisco still thinks they've scored a win.

Justin Sullivan

Score one for Big Soda in San Francisco: Measure E, the city's proposed tax on sugary beverage failed yesterday when it fell short of the necessary 66.67% votes to pass. Meanwhile, across the bay: Berkeley's similar Measure D passed with about 75% of the vote.

Berkeley's measure, the first of its kind in the nation, will impose a penny-per-ounce tax on any sugar-sweetened beverage ranging from soda to sports drinks to pumpkin spice lattes. (Booze and diet sodas have mercifully been spared.) The tax will be collected from beverage makers and distributors, rather than showing up at the cash register and it remains to be seen if any retailers will just head to Oakland to stock up on soft drinks.

San Francisco's measure would have been a bit more imposing at 2-cents-per-ounce. Revenue from that tax would have poured into a new fund for children's nutrition and recreation programs at city parks and schools. The three San Francisco supervisors supporting the tax were still optimistic, however, writing in a statement: "With Berkeley's results, and our numbers, we have delivered a double black eye to the beverage industry."

Likewise, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was quoted by the AP giving the kiss-off to Big Soda: "We're saying that Berkeley and the rest of the country need to pay attention that soda is such a destructive product."

On the other hand, a spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, which spent $2.4 million in Berkley and $9.1 million in San Francisco to defeat their respective measures, was sort of dismissive towards our neighbors in the East Bay, saying their decision was not indicative of a big anti-soda movement in this country. "Berkeley is very eclectic," spokesman Roger Salazar told the LA Times. "It doesn't look like Anytown USA."

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