Soda pop war sends shockwaves through Cook County
Bloomberg, Preckwinkle and the soda pop fizzle … (listen to the audio podcast using the widget below)
By Ray Hanania
Let’s begin with the hypocrisy of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. What a pathetic hypocrite. Thank God he’s not mayor of Chicago.
This guy spent $13 million to buy pathetic advertising – that seemed to have a racial edge adversity against Whites – to promote a punitive soda and sweetened drink tax on suburbanites.
His assertion is that soda harms public health. Really? Why not spend the $13 million on creating a program to improve the health of Cook County residents and let Americans chose for themselves whether they want to drink soda pop, or smoke cigarettes or drink booze, or put their lives at risk by going from one violence prone city to one even worse in New York.
Toni Preckwinkle, through one of her propagandists, Laura Washington, complained that the criticism of her oppressive soda tax was “too personal.”
What a whiny baby! This from the same politician who pummeled her predecessor Todd Stroger with an endless string of personal attacks.
The hero is Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison who, like his predecessor Liz Gorman, refused to rollover after Preckwinkle steamrolled the One Cent Per Ounce tax on almost every drink imaginable in Cook County. Morrison organized a rebellion that has shaken up Illinois’ political establishment.
The voter protest against the soda pop tax is so powerful it shook up political stalwart John Daley.
As of this writing, as many as 14 commissioners were expected to repeal Preckwinkle’s soda tax, making it veto-proof. Morrison’s movement, with the support of seven colleagues, helped convince as many as 6 commissioners who voted for the tax to reverse themselves.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: 15 members of the 17-member board voted to repeal Preckwinkle’s oppressive tax at a meeting of the Finance Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. The full board voted to repeal the soda tax at its regular meeting on Wednesday Oct. 11, 2017.)
Morrison only needed 11 to ensure a veto-proof repeal.
The battle over the soda tax exposed how amateurish Preckwinkle is as a Cook County political leader. It also showed how suburban voters can have an impact when they flex their muscles not on a partisan basis but as a Suburban Voter movement, Democrats working with Republicans.
I argue Preckwinkle chose to impose the One Cent per ounce tax on soda pop and sweetened drinks because it automatically excluded SNAP (low-income) recipients who don’t pay taxes when they make food purchases.
There are 1.1 million SNAP recipients in Cook County – one in six residents, or one in three adults – and most live in Chicago’s poorest communities, the largest in Preckwinkle’s Chicago-based county district.
Her consultants are not stupid. They knew Preckwinkle’s constituency would avoid the bullet. Instead, it put the onus of the tax burden on suburban grocery shoppers.
The tax backfired because many Suburbanites significantly reduced their grocery spending in Cook County, buying soda pop and groceries from neighboring Will and DuPage County. Soda pop is often the key factor for consumers in deciding where to buy groceries.
Preckwinkle’s claim her tax would add millions to the county’s coffers in August proved to be millions off its mark, according to Morrison.
The key now is to not let Preckwinkle’s allies off the hook. Keep the pressure on them in the upcoming election.
Suburban voters need to take charge over Cook County because so far the Chicago-based Machine there doesn’t know how to control its wasteful spending.
Hold their feet to the fire.
Many insiders believe one of the biggest losers is billionaire J.B. Pritzker who seemed slow to appreciate the soda tax issue. Pritzker is coming across like a Bloomberg clone, and that’s giving big momentum to Christopher Kennedy who may not be the first choice of the professional politicians, but he is a favorite among everyday voters.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Originally published in The Regional News Newspaper and Southwest News News Group newspapers.)
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