OP-ED: No On Measure D

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At a recent event in support of Measure D, which would place a one-cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks, Councilman Laurie Capitelli insisted that local grocers and restaurant owners, like myself, wouldn’t be responsible for paying the so-called “soda tax.” Rather, the burden would fall only on distributors.

No disrespect to Mr. Capitelli, but I don’t think he understands Business 101. If it passes, the Measure D tax will become a built-in cost that gets passed from distributor to customer to consumer. It’s naïve to think otherwise.

Here’s another reality that supporters of Measure D either don’t admit or don’t understand – the cost of Measure D will in turn be spread over a larger inventory of foods and goods, rather than raise the price of a single 20 ounce bottle of soda or fruit juice by 20 cents. In the end, those higher grocery prices will create a burden for everyone in Berkeley. But it will hit the poor the hardest.

The cost of living in Berkeley is higher than the statewide average. Unfortunately, too many people struggle to make ends meet. I see them every day. They make choices between paying for medicine and paying food. From my vantage point, Measure D won’t make life easier for many Berkeley residents, it will add another cost to their choice to call Berkeley home.

I know the people behind Measure D are well-meaning. They want people to make healthy choices and engage in healthy lifestyles. Perhaps they believe that the money raised from Measure D can be used effectively on programs that encourage lifestyle changes. I’m less confident.

Like it or not, people are going to eat foods and drink beverages that aren’t healthy. Maybe they do it some of the time, maybe they do it all of the time. I think it’s their business and not mine what they purchase.

In Berkeley we have a culture that encourages people to live their lives they way they want to live them. Be with the person you want to be with. Be yourself. Be open-minded and don’t judge other’s lifestyles. Are we now imposing conditions on personal freedom? Are we telling people we won’t judge, as long as they eat and drink what we approve?

Should we have a panel of experts in Berkeley approve of everything we eat and drink? Is Mr. Capitelli uniquely qualified to approve our meal choices? It makes me wonder what’s on his plate and whether we should collectively approve of everything he eats and drinks – or does in his personal life.

There are good arguments for and against Measure D. But I’m voting NO because it not only insults our intelligence for the choices we make for ourselves and our families, but also draws into question the commitment the City Council has for Berkeley residents that this tax would hit the hardest.

bootstrapper-wall-620Sylvester Lollys is the owner of The Bootstrapper Restaurant

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