Boulder’s 2016 Ballot: How I’m voting on national, state, and local issues

I am a registered Democrat and generally vote for Democrats unless having a strong reason to vote for another candidate. I’m mainly interested to give my positions on state and local ballot measures, which people have a variety of viewpoints regardless of party.

A note about the presidential race specifically: I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I am not simply voting against Donald Trump, nor voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. While I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary and some of Hillary’s past decisions have bothered me, I believe that the Democrats are the progressive party in this country and we need to continue to work at every level of government to keep driving positive change in the party. Hillary is uniquely qualified to lead the country.

I am happy to cast my vote for the United States’ first woman president, Hillary Clinton.

Presidential Electors Hillary Clinton / Tim Kaine
Democratic
United States Senator Michael Bennet
Democratic
Representative to the 115th United States Congress –
District 2
Jared Polis
Democratic
Regent of the University of Colorado – At Large Alice Madden
Democratic
State Senator – District 18 Stephen Fenberg
Democratic
State Representative – District 13 KC Becker
Democratic
District Attorney – 20th Judicial District Stan Garnett
Democratic
County Commissioner – District 1 Elise Jones
Democratic
County Commissioner – District 2 Deb Gardner
Democratic

 

Colorado State Ballot Measures

Amendment T
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado
constitution concerning the removal of the exception to the
prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude when used as
punishment for persons duly convicted of a crime?

I am voting YES on the measure. Colorado needs to go even further to eliminate prison labor entirely.

Amendment U
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
concerning an exemption from property taxation for a
possessory interest in real property if the actual value of the
interest is less than or equal to six thousand dollars or such
amount adjusted for inflation?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure would reduce costs for local governments as the cost of collecting these taxes outweighs the average tax assessment ($24 per affected person).

Amendment 69
YES/FOR
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $25 BILLION
ANNUALLY IN THE FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR, AND BY
SUCH AMOUNTS THAT ARE RAISED THEREAFTER, BY AN
AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION
ESTABLISHING A HEALTH CARE PAYMENT SYSTEM TO
FUND HEALTH CARE FOR ALL INDIVIDUALS WHOSE
PRIMARY RESIDENCE IS IN COLORADO, AND, IN
CONNECTION THEREWITH, CREATING A GOVERNMENTAL
ENTITY CALLED COLORADOCARE? (Truncated…)

Perhaps the most difficult item on the ballot this year. I am voting YES on the measure. A number of notable politicians in Colorado have come out against ColoradoCare. Although some details of the proposed law may need to be improved, the net benefits in covering an entire population and reducing overhead from insurance companies could outweigh the costs.

Here’s an op-ed in favor of the measure by Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar: Yes on Amendment 69: Coloradans should take back their health care

Amendment 70
YES/FOR
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
increasing the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour with annual
increases of $0.90 each January 1 until it reaches $12 per hour
effective January 2020, and annually adjusting it thereafter for
cost-of-living increases?

I am voting YES on the measure. The phased-in approach and cost-of-living adjustments are smart policy. Although some groups are pushing for a higher minimum wage, giving the geographical disparities in Colorado, a higher minimum may have huge impacts on rural parts of Colorado while still not being sufficient for some of its cities. I think this measure finds an appropriate balance without having a more localized policy.

Amendment 71
NO/AGAINST
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution
making it more difficult to amend the Colorado constitution by
requiring that any petition for a citizen-initiated constitutional
amendment be signed by at least two percent of the registered
electors who reside in each state senate district for the
amendment to be placed on the ballot and increasing the
percentage of votes needed to pass any proposed constitutional
amendment from a majority to at least fifty-five percent of the
votes cast, unless the proposed constitutional amendment only
repeals, in whole or in part, any provision of the constitution?

I am voting NO on the measure. While raising the amending the constitution for measures like marijuana or personhood may seem inappropriate, voters do have the ability to weigh-in on important issues. Colorado doesn’t currently have the problem of dozens of measures each election cycle like California does, and notable measures (like those against oil and gas) in fact failed to get on the ballot this year. The proposed changes would make it certain that only well-funded and organized efforts could have any possibility to get on the ballot in the future, and it would be very difficult to fix problematic items currently in the constitution (like TABOR).

Amendment 72
YES/FOR
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $315.7 MILLION
ANNUALLY BY AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO
CONSTITUTION INCREASING TOBACCO TAXES, AND, IN
CONNECTION THEREWITH, BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2017,
INCREASING TAXES ON CIGARETTES BY 8.75 CENTS PER
CIGARETTE ($1.75 PER PACK OF 20 CIGARETTES) AND ON
OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS BY 22 PERCENT OF THE
MANUFACTURER’S LIST PRICE; AND ALLOCATING
SPECIFIED PERCENTAGES OF THE NEW TOBACCO TAX
REVENUE TO HEALTH-RELATED PROGRAMS AND
TOBACCO EDUCATION, PREVENTION, AND CESSATION
PROGRAMS CURRENTLY FUNDED BY EXISTING
CONSTITUTIONAL TOBACCO TAXES; AND ALSO
ALLOCATING NEW REVENUE FOR TOBACCO-RELATED
HEALTH RESEARCH, VETERANS’ PROGRAMS, CHILD AND
ADOLESCENT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, CONSTRUCTION
AND TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS FOR QUALIFIED
HEALTH PROVIDERS, EDUCATIONAL LOAN REPAYMENT
FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IN RURAL AND
UNDERSERVED AREAS, AND HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
TRAINING TRACKS?

I am voting YES on the measure. While the major concern is that cigarette taxes fall onto lesser educated, poorer populations—so do the negative health effects. The law’s funding would mostly target those who are most affected. Colorado currently ranks 43rd highest on cigarette taxes out of 56 states and territories, and the proposed law would move the state to 12th on that list.

Proposition 106
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado revised statutes to
permit any mentally capable adult Colorado resident who has a
medical prognosis of death by terminal illness within six months
to receive a prescription from a willing licensed physician for
medication that can be self-administered to bring about death;
and in connection therewith, requiring two licensed physicians to
confirm the medical prognosis, that the terminally-ill patient has
received information about other care and treatment options,
and that the patient is making a voluntary and informed decision
in requesting the medication; requiring evaluation by a licensed
mental health professional if either physician believes the patient
may not be mentally capable; granting immunity from civil and
criminal liability and professional discipline to any person who in
good faith assists in providing access to or is present when a
patient self-administers the medication; and establishing
criminal penalties for persons who knowingly violate statutes
relating to the request for the medication?

I am voting YES on the measure. The need for right-to-die legislation affects a small amount of the population, but in cases of significant debilitating diseases can make a large impact on the individuals themselves and their families. According to the Oregon law, “1,545 people have received end-of-life drug prescriptions, and 991 used the medication between 1999 and the end of 2015, according to the Oregon Public Health Division,” showing that this option is used very rarely. Requiring two doctors and a mental health professional to sign off on the measure should be an appropriate safeguard against misuse or abuse.

Proposition 107
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes
recreating a presidential primary election to be held before the
end of March in each presidential election year in which
unaffiliated electors may vote without declaring an affiliation with
a political party?
Proposition 108
YES/FOR
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes
concerning the process of selecting candidates representing
political parties on a general election ballot, and, in connection
therewith, allowing an unaffiliated elector to vote in the primary
election of a political party without declaring an affiliation with
that party and permitting a political party in specific
circumstances to select all of its candidates by assembly or
convention instead of by primary election?

I am voting YES on the measures. The caucus system used currently disenfranchises many people who are unable to spend several hours on a certain weeknight in order to participate in the political process, including people doing shift work or needing childcare. The caucus system also failed both Democrats and Republicans this year by having inadequate capacity to serve the public in the former, and bypassing the system entirely in the latter. A state-run system would be less likely to face either problem.

Allowing independents to vote may have the effect of reducing partisan affiliation, which is why the state chairs of both the Democratic and Republican parties oppose the measure.

Another marked change from the current systems is to assign a winner of the primary the entire set of delegates instead of a proportional division. That could have some variable effects depending on how competitive Colorado or other states are in a national election, making the state potentially more or less desirable to spend resources in a given year. I’m neutral on that aspect of the measure.

Here’s a good debate on both sides of these measures: Point/counterpoint: Should voters approve Propositions 107 and 108?

Boulder County Ballot Measures

COUNTY ISSUE 1A

(Road and Bridge Mill Levy Increase):
NO/AGAINST

SHALL BOULDER COUNTY TAXES BE INCREASED $5.5
MILLION ANNUALLY (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR DOLLAR
INCREASE IN 2017) THROUGH AN INCREASE IN BOULDER
COUNTY’S AD VALOREM PROPERTY TAX MILL LEVY OF
0.785 MILLS, FOR FIFTEEN YEARS TO AND INCLUDING
DECEMBER 31, 2031, FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING
ROAD AND BRIDGE PROJECTS WITHIN THE
MUNICIPALITIES IN BOULDER COUNTY AND
REHABILITATION OF PAVED PUBLIC LOCAL ACCESS
SUBDIVISION ROADS IN UNINCORPORATED BOULDER
COUNTY, SUCH INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAX REVENUES
TO BE IN EXCESS OF THAT WHICH WOULD OTHERWISE
BE PERMITTED UNDER SECTION 29-1-301, C.R.S., EACH
YEAR WITHOUT SUCH INCREASE; AND SHALL THE
REVENUES AND EARNINGS ON THE INVESTMENT OF THE
PROCEEDS OF SUCH TAX, REGARDLESS OF AMOUNT,
CONSTITUTE A VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE
AND A PROPERTY TAX REVENUE CHANGE; ALL AS MORE
PARTICULARLY SET FORTH IN BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS’ RESOLUTION NO. 2016-89?

I am voting NO on the measure. Boulder County has sufficient funds for common road and bridge projects within the county, and also sufficient funds to repair subdivision roads (albeit at a slower pace than these homeowners desire). Advocates for additional subdivision road spending in the county have repeatedly rejected funding local improvement districts or converting these roads to lower-cost roads. The measure would cause a disproportionate funding for subdivision roads to be paid for by residents of cities (Boulder, Longmont, Louisville) rather than residents of these subdivisions.

COUNTY ISSUE 1B

(Countywide Open Space Sales and Use Tax Bond

Authorization and Tax Extension):
YES/FOR

SHALL BOULDER COUNTY DEBT BE INCREASED BY UP TO
$30 MILLION, WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF UP
TO $54 MILLION, WITH NO INCREASE IN ANY COUNTY TAX
OR TAX RATE, BY THE ISSUANCE OF REVENUE BONDS
FOR THE PURPOSE OF OPEN SPACE LAND ACQUISITION,
WHICH BONDS SHALL BEAR INTEREST, MATURE, BE
SUBJECT TO REDEMPTION, WITH OR WITHOUT PREMIUM,
AND BE ISSUED, DATED AND SOLD AT SUCH TIME OR
TIMES, AT SUCH PRICES (AT, ABOVE OR BELOW PAR) AND
IN SUCH MANNER AND CONTAINING SUCH OTHER
TERMS, NOT INCONSISTENT HEREWITH, INCLUDING
PROVISIONS FOR FUNDING ANY CAPITALIZED INTEREST
AND REQUIRED RESERVES, AS THE BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS MAY DETERMINE;
AND SHALL ONE-HALF (0.125%) OF THE COUNTY’S
EXISTING 0.25% SALES AND USE TAX FOR OPEN SPACE,
CURRENTLY SET TO EXPIRE DECEMBER 31, 2019, BE
EXTENDED FOR AN ADDITIONAL PERIOD OF FIFTEEN
YEARS TO AND INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2034 FOR THE
PURPOSE OF FUNDING THE OPEN SPACE PROGRAM [Truncated]
COUNTY ISSUE 1C

(Countywide Sustainability Sales and Use Tax

Extension):
YES/FOR

WITH NO INCREASE IN ANY COUNTY TAX OR TAX RATE,
SHALL ONE-HALF (0.125%) OF THE COUNTY’S EXISTING
0.25% SALES AND USE TAX FOR OPEN SPACE,
CURRENTLY SET TO EXPIRE DECEMBER 31, 2019, BE
EXTENDED FOR AN ADDITIONAL PERIOD OF FIFTEEN
YEARS TO AND INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2034 FOR THE
PURPOSE OF FUNDING SUSTAINABILITY
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PROGRAMS [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measures. Both support preserving existing taxes that enable open-space in the county, while diverting a portion of the existing tax (which is not needed for the current open-space plan) to provide sustainable transportation options in the county.

County Question 1D

(District Attorney Term Limit Extension to Four

Terms):
NO/AGAINST

Shall the term limits imposed by state law and in Article XVIII,
Section 11, of the Colorado Constitution on the office of District
Attorney of Boulder County, Twentieth Judicial District, be
modified so as to permit an elected officeholder in that office to
seek and, if the voters of Boulder County choose to re-elect that
person to a fourth term in office, to serve a fourth consecutive
term?

I am voting NO on the measure. Each term is four years and the extension would allow a district attorney to serve 16 years instead of 12 years, which is a long time for one person to hold the office.

Boulder City Ballot Measures

CITY OF BOULDER BALLOT ISSUE 2H

SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGE PRODUCT

DISTRIBUTION TAX
YES/FOR

SHALL CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED $3.8
MILLION (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) ANNUALLY
BY IMPOSING AN EXCISE TAX OF 2 CENTS PER OUNCE ON
THE FIRST DISTRIBUTOR IN ANY CHAIN OF DISTRIBUTION
OF DRINKS WITH ADDED SUGAR, AND SWEETENERS
USED TO PRODUCE SUCH DRINKS, EXEMPTING: (1)
SWEETENERS SOLD SEPARATELY TO THE CONSUMER AT
A GROCERY STORE; (2) MILK PRODUCTS; (3) BABY
FORMULA; (4) ALCOHOL; AND (5) DRINKS TAKEN FOR
MEDICAL REASONS;
AND IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, SHALL ALL OF THE
REVENUES COLLECTED BE USED TO FUND: THE
ADMINISTRATIVE COST OF THE TAX, AND THEREAFTER
FOR HEALTH PROMOTION, GENERAL WELLNESS
PROGRAMS AND CHRONIC DISEASE PREVENTION IN THE
CITY OF BOULDER THAT IMPROVE HEALTH EQUITY,
SUCH AS ACCESS TO SAFE AND CLEAN DRINKING
WATER, HEALTHY FOODS, NUTRITION AND FOOD
EDUCATION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, OTHER HEALTH
PROGRAMS ESPECIALLY FOR RESIDENTS WITH LOW
INCOME AND THOSE MOST AFFECTED BY CHRONIC
DISEASE LINKED TO SUGARY DRINK CONSUMPTION [Truncated]

According to my Twitter feed, the sugary drink tax is the most controversial issue on the local ballot. I am voting YES on the measure.

My support bases on several key pieces of evidence:

  1. The Berkeley sugary drink tax has reduced sugary drink consumption and increased water consumption compared to neighboring cities. Boulder’s tax is modeled after this tax. Berkeley sees a big drop in soda consumption after penny-per-ounce ‘soda tax’
  2. The tax is not a grocery tax, nor does it directly affect prices at grocery stores. The tax is levied on distributors and not individual businesses. An economic analysis of the tax in Berkeley showed that “47% of the penny-per-ounce tax had been passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a previous study by some of the same researchers. For sodas in particular, 69% of the tax was incorporated into the price.” This means that the distributor or producer absorbed 31% of the price, reducing their profits. Boulder’s tax is higher, putting more pressure on distributors to absorb more of the price increase while also ensuring that the tax raises the price for consumers (which is required to change behavior).
  3. The taxes collected will benefit poorer populations and minorities. As the ballot language states, the revenue collected will go to “improve health equity, such as access to safe and clean drinking water, healthy foods, nutrition and food education, physical activity, other health programs especially designed for residents with low income and those most affected by chronic disease linked to sugary drink consumption.” In my opinion this counteracts any problems with a regressive nature of the tax. It’s also important to understand that the sugar industry targets low-income and minority populations specifically: Washington Post: “When soda companies target minorities, is it exploitation?”
  4. Sugary drinks directly relate to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death. “Sugary Drinks Take a Deadly Toll
  5. The sugar industry has systematically tried to influence public policy to protect sugar. “An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar.” NYTimes – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, The Shady History of Big Sugar
  6. The World Health Organization directly supports a sugary drink tax, as does the American Heart Association. W.H.O. Urges Tax on Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity

Here’s why I think arguments in opposition are not very compelling:

  1. “Boulder is mostly white and has a 12% obesity rate”

Boulder may seem an unnecessary place for such a tax, but here’s why I think it’s still worthy to support. Boulder does have minority and poorer populations, even if they are a smaller portion of the city than most consider. These populations are important to protect for many reasons, particularly because they’re vulnerable and give Boulder much of its racial and ethnic diversity. Revenues raised would benefit them most.

  1. “Other items with sugar [i.e. yogurt, frappuccino] aren’t being targeted like sugary drinks”

While added sugar in any form can contribute to negative health outcomes, sugary drinks are very easily and quickly consumable and habit-forming. Added sugar in grocery foods is a problem not covered in this tax, but I do not believe that is a reason not to support the tax. Items like frappuccino made in a coffeeshop or restaurant are not covered due to their inherently high cost as a full-service item. However, a frappuccino sold in a store would be required to pay the tax.

  1. “The tax is regressive and disproportionately targets poorer populations and makes food scarcity worse”

As I made clear above, the sugar industry already targets poorer populations with marketing. The sugary drink tax does not contribute to food scarcity because sugary drinks should not be considered food, and healthier alternatives will be more attractive given the additional tax on sugary drinks.

City of Boulder Ballot Question 2I

Clarify and Amend Blue Line, Water Not Supplied

West of Line
YES/FOR

Shall the boundary described in Boulder Home Rule Charter
section 128A and approved by the voters in 1959 that provides
that the City of Boulder shall not supply water for domestic,
commercial, or industrial uses to land lying on the westward side
of the line be amended to clarify the location of the boundary
and to allow the provision of water service to existing developed
properties as described in Ordinance No. 8133, and further shall
the standards in Charter section 128A be amended to clarify the
conditions and eligibility for water service as described in
Ordinance No. 8133?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure works to clarify an existing section of the charter without significant change to the existing line. Image below in this Daily Camera piece: Boulder’s murky Blue Line could get clarity from voters in November

NewBlueLine

City of Boulder Ballot Question 2J

Provide Insurance Benefits for Council Members

YES/FOR

Shall section 7, “Compensation,” of the Boulder Home Rule
Charter be amended pursuant to Ordinance No. 8132 to allow
council members serving on January 1, 2020 and after to be
eligible to receive benefits under the same terms and conditions
that are available to full-time city employees including without
limitation participation in city health, vision, dental and life
insurance plans?

I am voting YES on the measure. The measure provides a significant and needed benefit to members of the city council, whom make approximately $12,000 per year for a job that typically consumes 25 or greater hours per week. Given that previous pay increases have been rejected, this is a measure that would help increase the supply of people who might consider serving on the city council.

City of Boulder Ballot Question 302

Qualifications of Council Members
YES/FOR

Shall section 4 of the Boulder Home Rule Charter be amended
by adding a new paragraph to restrict council members to three
terms in the person’s lifetime, which requirement shall apply to
any candidate for council after November 8, 2016?

I am voting YES on the measure. I will review a number of arguments against the measure:

“Term limits are not needed based on historical precedent and have the appearance of targeting current council members”

While Richard Valenty makes a compelling case against term limits using historical data, the strength of incumbency and bias toward older and retired members of the community are powerful counter-arguments.

“The measure only reduces the supply of people who can run for city council, and does not increase it”

I agree that the measure would reduce the supply of people available to run for council, and does not address other reasons that other demographics do not run (very little pay and benefits). I support both increasing city council pay and increasing benefits (City of Boulder Ballot Question 2J)

“Other policy to increase equity in who can run for city council is more important”

I agree. Yet the policy on term limits is reasonable policy looking forward as the city grows, while recognizing the need that Boulder has more work ahead to give broader representation of various people who may run for city council.

BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT BALLOT

ISSUE 3A:

YES/FOR

SHALL BOULDER VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT RE-2 TAXES
BE INCREASED BY $10,000,000 IN 2016 FOR COLLECTION
IN 2017 AND BY WHATEVER AMOUNTS IN ANY YEAR
THEREAFTER AS ARE RAISED FROM A MILL LEVY WHICH
SHALL NOT EXCEED FOUR (4) MILLS, PROVIDED THAT NO
MILL LEVY INCREASE FROM YEAR TO YEAR SHALL
EXCEED ONE (1) MILL, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING
ONGOING CASH FUNDING FOR CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION,
NEW TECHNOLOGY, EXISTING TECHNOLOGY UPGRADE,
AND MAINTENANCE NEEDS OF THE DISTRICT [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measure. Colorado funds education far below other states, largely because of TABOR, and local funding is needed to make up the gap.

The Denver Metropolitan Scientific and Cultural

Facilities District (“SCFD”) Ballot Issue 4B

YES/FOR

SHALL THERE BE AN EXTENSION UNTIL JUNE 30, 2030, OF
THE AGGREGATE 0.1 PERCENT SALES AND USE TAXES
CURRENTLY LEVIED AND COLLECTED BY THE DENVER
METROPOLITAN SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL FACILITIES
DISTRICT THAT ARE SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE ON JUNE 30,
2018, FOR ASSISTING SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL
FACILITIES WITHIN THE DISTRICT, WHILE AUTHORIZING
THE DISTRICT TO CONTINUE TO COLLECT, RETAIN, AND
SPEND ALL REVENUE GENERATED BY SUCH TAX IN
EXCESS OF THE LIMITATION PROVIDED IN ARTICLE X OF
SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION [Truncated]

I am voting YES on the measure. The area would re-authorize an existing tax used to fund the arts in the region. Here’s a short summary from The Denver Post: Ballot issue 4B would renew funding for culture, arts with sales tax

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Why I support a tax on sugary drinks: Yes on Boulder’s Ballot Issue 2H

 

CITY OF BOULDER BALLOT ISSUE 2H: SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGE PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION TAX

 

 

YES/FOR

SHALL CITY OF BOULDER TAXES BE INCREASED $3.8MILLION (FIRST FULL FISCAL YEAR INCREASE) ANNUALLY BY IMPOSING AN EXCISE TAX OF 2 CENTS PER OUNCE ONTHE FIRST DISTRIBUTOR IN ANY CHAIN OF DISTRIBUTION OF DRINKS WITH ADDED SUGAR, AND SWEETENERS USED TO PRODUCE SUCH DRINKS [Truncated]

 

According to my Twitter feed, the sugary drink tax is the most controversial issue on the local ballot. I am voting YES on the measure.

My support bases on several key pieces of evidence:

  1. The Berkeley sugary drink tax has reduced sugary drink consumption and increased water consumption compared to neighboring cities. Boulder’s tax is modeled after this tax. Berkeley sees a big drop in soda consumption after penny-per-ounce ‘soda tax’
  2. The tax is not a grocery tax, nor does it directly affect prices at grocery stores. The tax is levied on distributors and not individual businesses. An economic analysis of the tax in Berkeley showed that “47% of the penny-per-ounce tax had been passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a previous study by some of the same researchers. For sodas in particular, 69% of the tax was incorporated into the price.” This means that the distributor or producer absorbed 31% of the price, reducing their profits. Boulder’s tax is higher, putting more pressure on distributors to absorb more of the price increase while also ensuring that the tax raises the price for consumers (which is required to change behavior).
  3. The taxes collected will benefit poorer populations and minorities. As the ballot language states, the revenue collected will go to “improve health equity, such as access to safe and clean drinking water, healthy foods, nutrition and food education, physical activity, other health programs especially designed for residents with low income and those most affected by chronic disease linked to sugary drink consumption.” In my opinion this counteracts any problems with a regressive nature of the tax. It’s also important to understand that the sugar industry targets low-income and minority populations specifically: Washington Post: “When soda companies target minorities, is it exploitation?”
  4. Sugary drinks directly relate to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death. “Sugary Drinks Take a Deadly Toll
  5. The sugar industry has systematically tried to influence public policy to protect sugar. “An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar.” NYTimes – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, The Shady History of Big Sugar
  6. The World Health Organization directly supports a sugary drink tax, as does the American Heart Association. W.H.O. Urges Tax on Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity

 

Here’s why I think arguments in opposition are not very compelling:

“Boulder is mostly white and has a 12% obesity rate”

Boulder may seem an unnecessary place for such a tax, but here’s why I think it’s still worthy to support. Boulder does have minority and poorer populations, even if they are a smaller portion of the city than most consider. These populations are important to protect for many reasons, particularly because they’re vulnerable and give Boulder much of its racial and ethnic diversity. Revenues raised would benefit them most.

“Other items with sugar [i.e. yogurt and frappuccino] aren’t being targeted like sugary drinks”

While added sugar in any form can contribute to negative health outcomes, sugary drinks are very easily and quickly consumable and habit-forming. Added sugar in grocery foods is a problem not covered in this tax, but I do not believe that is a reason not to support the tax. Drinks made in a coffeeshop or restaurant are not covered due to their inherently high cost as a full-service item. However, a frappuccino sold in a store would be required to pay the tax.

“The tax is regressive and disproportionately targets poorer populations and makes food scarcity worse”

As I made clear above, the sugar industry already targets poorer populations with marketing. The sugary drink tax does not contribute to food scarcity because sugary drinks should not be considered food, and healthier alternatives will be more attractive given the additional tax on sugary drinks.