Willie Brown Speaks to Faith Leaders

Willie L. Brown, Jr.

By Sabrina Saunders, Executive Direcetor, One Accord Project Willie L. Brown, Jr., former California Assembly speaker and two-term San Francisco mayor, delivered a keynote address to Richmond’s African-American faith and community leaders, urging a strong election day turnout to return President Obama to the White House, restore local Black political leadership to Richmond and reject the Measure N beverage tax. Brown, appearing at a clergy breakfast at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Saturday, Sept. 15, called out GOP ploys in key swing states to trim voter registration rolls of Black and other traditional Democratic voters ahead of the November election as a new twist on an old game that needs to be overcome. He stumped for reelection of his long-time friend Nat Bates and election of other Black candidates in this year’s City Council races as a step to returning an African American to the Richmond mayor’s office in 2014. “I want to be very much a part of, and around, when you finally get your mayorship back,” he said. And Brown homed in on two chief criticisms of Measure N, the so-called “soda tax,” pointing out that it will drain money for family budgets without any commitment as to how the funds would be spent by city government. “By taking money from my paycheck you are not going to make me healthy,” Brown said.  “Adding money to my paycheck is going to make me healthy.” Brown was touching on a point that Richmond ministers, community groups, such as the local branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and numerous current and former elected leaders have been making about Measure N—that it is regressive because it will fall hardest on lower-income people. Though Measure N was promoted as a tax on soda to reduce sugar consumption, it actually would have to be paid by local business on sales of hundreds of beverages containing added sugar and can be expected to be passed along in higher grocery prices felt by everyone, not just soda drinkers. Additionally, Brown, still one of California’s leading Democrats, hit the fact that the “soda tax,” put forward by Green Party members of the City Council, fails to commit any of the tax proceeds to new recreation, nutrition education and other programs to improve health and fight obesity in Richmond. To make the point, Brown drew an analogy to the state ballot. The former Assembly speaker said he has told Gov. Jerry Brown that support among Black voters for the governor’s top election priority, the Proposition 30 increase in sales and income taxes, isn’t as strong as it might be because of lingering doubt about how that money would be spent as well. The event, organized by the One Accord Project, drew about 80 Richmond clergy members and elected and community leaders who enjoyed a traditional breakfast of grits and eggs with turkey sausage and smothered potatoes.
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