"Milk club Dems line up with soda industry on sugary-drink tax"
2014-08-23 by Heather Knight, City Insider columnist for the "San Francisco Chronicle"[http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Milk-club-Dems-line-up-with-soda-industry-on-5708260.php]:
Election season in San Francisco is always a bit nutty, but the run-up to the November ballot is already off to a particularly strange start. Herewith, dear readers, we point out a couple of the more noteworthy oddities - and in San Francisco politics, that's saying something.
-- Surprising things happen when you combine soda and Milk.
The soda tax has had people on both sides frothing with anger for months, but nothing's gotten its supporters worked up like the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club's lopsided decision to endorse a no vote on the measure.
Proposition E would levy a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks, with proceeds going to children's nutrition and physical education programs. It has the support of the majority of the Board of Supervisors, the teachers union, medical groups, parent groups and food banks. The San Francisco Republican Party members - all three of them, OK, maybe four - voted to endorse a no vote on the tax.
Sounds like a yes vote would be a no-brainer for one of the city's most progressive political clubs, right? Nope.
"Overwhelmingly the sentiment was just that this is a tone-deaf time to try to pass a regressive tax that's going to raise the grocery bills of low-income folks in San Francisco," said Tom Temprano, the club's co-president. "We're in what is obviously the greatest affordability crisis in America right now."
That's almost exactly what the American Beverage Association, which is expected to spend millions of dollars to defeat the measure, is saying. The soda industry's Stop Unfair Beverage Taxes committee to defeat the measure was hailed by the Milk club as a "hero" for sponsoring a table at its recent gala.
The committee also had some members join the Milk club to help ensure a no vote on the soda tax, though Temprano said only "a handful" of new club members were from the antisoda tax side.
Soda tax supporters think something suspicious is bubbling just below the surface of the new bromance between the Milk club and the soda industry. They think the Milk club wants the beverage association to pay for slate cards - those endless slick mailers you receive each election season telling you who's endorsed what - to also tout its endorsement of Supervisor David Campos, who is running for the Assembly.
(Slate cards are often funded by the candidates or the backers of ballot measures who will benefit from them, not the political clubs that put them together.)
Maureen Erwin, campaign manager for the pro-soda tax side, said, "Harvey Milk's name and legacy was bought and sold at the Milk club. ... With only $20,000 in the bank, I believe it was Campos' last-ditch, desperate play to remain relevant in the Assembly race, selling out his community's health and the legacy of a civil rights hero to win an election."
Campos was a co-sponsor of the legislation to put the soda tax on the November ballot, but his speech at the board just prior to the vote was not exactly stirring. The anti-soda tax side is now using his quote, "There is something Big Brother about this," in its campaign to defeat the measure.
And a telephone poll conducted within the past few days, presumably commissioned by the American Beverage Association, asked respondents a series of questions about the soda tax, including whether they view Campos favorably or unfavorably and what they think of his Big Brother quote.
So is Campos trying to have his soda and drink it too?
Of course not, said Campos. He said the soda tax supporters should be touting the merits of their measure, not slamming him and the Milk club. He added that he can't control the American Beverage Association using his quotes in their campaign and that the measure wouldn't be on the ballot without his vote.
"Whatever happened to telling the truth and sticking to facts?" he said.
Temprano said there's been no discussion of the club's slate cards or how they'll be funded yet, but we suspect they'll be hitting your mailbox soon.
-- San Francisco Democrats sided with a Republican, but some have come to regret it.
Our colleagues Matier & Ross reported recently that the Democratic County Central Committee picked a strange side in the BART board race. A mix of more conservative members and lefty, pro-labor members had the votes to vote "no endorsement" in the race.
It was a way to support incumbent James Fang, the only elected Republican in San Francisco, even though the club can't actually endorse a Republican. It was a disappointment to his challenger, Democrat Nick Josefowitz. (Unions lobbied heavily for the "no endorsement" vote as a thank you to Fang for supporting striking BART workers last year.)
Fang immediately put out campaign literature naming the individual members who voted not to endorse Josefowitz alongside a list of digs against him. We hear some of those named individuals were livid to have their names being promoted by a Republican, but hey, what did they expect? Fang is also catching flak for using the Bay Guardian logo on some campaign literature, though the alternative newspaper didn't endorse him.
Alix Rosenthal, vice chairwoman of the DCCC, supported Josefowitz and said she was "mortified" and "outraged" that the Democratic Party failed to endorse the only Democrat in the race - and a solid, viable candidate at that. We hear the DCCC, which is allowed to revisit endorsement votes, may take this one up again at a future meeting.
Democrats backing a Republican? The Milk club making ties with the soda industry?
"There are already some really strange bedfellows," noted Rosenthal, who's also a Milk club member and was disappointed in its soda vote, noting it foreshadows a wacky election season. "It's going to be wild and crazy. It already is."