Sugary Drink Tax is On Life Support

I do not think that there has been a Mayor elected recently that had more of a good vibe feel that Mayor Kenney.  The primary got a little contentious when State Senator Anthony Williams indicated that he would get rid of Police Commissioner Ramsey immediately.  Candidate Kenney at the time thought that Commissioner Ramsey should be able to make his own decision.  One issue that now Mayor Kenney will have to account for is the continuation of the Stop and Frisk policy that he vowed to end.  A recent article in the Daily News reflects that this policy is having little to no effect on the number of shootings occurring in our city.

Mayor Kenney was also elected on a platform of repairing recreation centers and instituting Universal Pre-K.  The price tag for these programs are pretty formidable.  I don't know if he factored into these items the fact that contracts with DC 33 and DC 47 will have to be negotiated also.  There have been three councilpersons who have come out against the tax already.  Maria Quinones Sanchez, Jannie Blackwell and Al Taubenberger have already nixed the proposal as hurtful to the constituents that they represent.  I think Jim Kenney said something recently to the effect that he 'cannot lose' in this effort.
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Politics is sometimes funny in the situations and partnerships that it creates.  The West Oak Lane Democrats, led by the inimitable Dwight Evans and recently retired Marian Tasco, supported Kenney's efforts to a resounding win.  Some people decried the fact that African American candidates should be supported by all African Americans.  I know that this support was not given for free though.  Mayor Kenney had to pay with a pledge of support for issues important to the WOLD's or with cash.  I wonder where Councilperson Cherelle Parker stands on the sugary drink tax.  She sits in a seat that provided the largest support for the now floundering proposal.

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I awaited with anticipation the results of the hearings on the proposed tax.  There have been radio commercials for and against the 3 cents per ounce tax.  Many opponents are referring to it as the grocery tax.  It is somewhat ironic that Mayor Kenney opposed this tax twice when he was a Councilperson.  He seems to have better support among Council than Mayor Nutter had.  I was surprised when Council President Clarke put the smack down on the proposal by calling it ridiculous and too high.  He did indicate that he had some previous discussions with the Kenney Administration before the public denial that he expressed.  He seems to agree with the container tax proposed by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown as a Plan B.  I wondered all along what alternative for funding did Mayor Kenney have.  He seems to think he still has enough 'friends' on Council to pass this tax.

A budget needs to be approved by June 30th in order to proceed with the fiscal year in an expedient manner.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's budget was held up for months by a partisan legislature that already has threatened to prolong the pain by those entities dependent on State funding.  One of those entities is the School District of Philadelphia.  In spite of opposition to the SRC by many citizens, the PSD cannot survive without State funding.  I would like to have real answers on how the cigarette tax and the increased sales tax has helped the School district.  That is another issue for research though.

I wonder what emissaries Mayor Kenney has dispatched to the various council offices to try to increase his chances of success on this issue.  This is when politicians really earn their stripes.  Not every important issue is going to be approved on the first vote.  The real measure of success if the partnerships that you can develop to push through legislation with amendments or promises of support on other issues.  Will it be a rousing success for the soda tax or a case of back to the drawing board on two of the most important issues of the Kenney administration?  Proponents are touting the health benefits of a decrease in soda consumption.  Stay tuned.

P.S. The Sweetened/Unsweetened Beverage tax passed at 1 1/2% months ago.  It is supposed to be implemented on January 1st, 2017.  There was a court challenge by the Beverage Association.  Jannie Blackwell caved in to outside pressure.  Councilman Clarke also voted in favor of the tax.  I will be buying my beverages outside of the city.


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