3 Oakland City Council members accuse mayor of shifting funds from soda tax


OAKLAND (BCN) — Three Oakland City Council members criticized Mayor Libby Schaaf today for what they said was her plan to spend revenue from the city’s recently-passed successful soda tax measure to help close the city’s budget deficit.

Measure HH, which was approved by 61 percent of the city’s voters in the November election, imposes a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened taxes.

The measure’s supporters said it would raise more than $6 million a year to fund Oakland education, health, nutrition and recreation programs to prevent health problems linked to sugary drink consumption, such as diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, heart disease and strokes.

But the measure’s opponents, such as Joe Arellano, the spokesman for the No Grocery Tax campaigns in Albany, Oakland and San Francisco, warned that the money could be used for other purposes since it goes to the city’s general fund.

The measure’s co-authors, Council members Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington and Rebecca Kaplan, said in a statement that the measure “calls for spending the funds according to community input on efforts to improve health and nutrition for our youth and our community.”

But they said, “Today Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a budget proposal which instead diverts these funds to fill gaps in the overall Oakland budget.”

Brooks, Campbell Washington and Kaplan said, “As the three authors of Oakland’s soda tax, we remain committed to ensuring that the measure is properly implemented and spent for appropriate uses such as health and nutrition programs.”

They said, “We reject and oppose the mayor’s proposal to use these funds for filling holes in the overall general budget. We must keep our promises – and allocate these monies to the intended purposes.”

Schaaf’s spokeswoman, Erica Derryck, said in a statement that the proposed policy budget by the Mayor and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth has not yet been published but will be released later today.

Derryck said the concerns raised by Brooks, Campbell Washington and Kaplan have been heard.

Derryck said, “While the Measure HH Advisory Board has yet to be established, the proposed budget reflects over $5.5 million in immediate expenditures that are consistent with the goals of the measure.”

He said, “This supports a variety of services proven to impact the social determinates of health from educational attainment to healthy neighborhood environments and public outreach and education.”

Derryck said, “The proposal also includes $1 million in fiscal 2018-2019 so that after the Advisory Board is formed, its recommendations can be considered during the mid-cycle budget process.”

Derryck said, “As she was during the campaign, Mayor Schaaf remains a strong proponent of Measure HH and its goal of working with our community partners in fighting against the epidemics of childhood obesity and diabetes.”

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