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Taking Down Santa Claus: What Soda Taxes Promised and What They’ve Delivered So Far

Public experts and longtime advocates for soda taxes discuss what they’ve learned so far about the impact of these controversial policies and what’s necessary to ensure they are a net benefit to communities that already pay more than their fair share for groceries.

January 12, 2023

Decibels for dollar, soda taxes or “sugary beverage taxes” spark some of the loudest policy debates relative to the amount of money they raise. Part of the reason is because sugary beverages have so deeply ingrained themselves into our collective minds – Santa Claus is always dressed in red today because of Coca-Cola marketing.

In this free-flowing conversation, we’ll discuss what the latest data are actually revealing about the impact of these policies so far and whether they live up to the promises early proponents made about them — and just what were those promises to begin with?

Since Berkeley became the first city to pass a soda tax in 2014, the debates have gotten louder and more complex, with seven other cities passing their own versions, billionaire philanthropists jumping in to support their expansion, and big beverage corporations fighting back with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, peer-reviewed studies are now available that actually reveal what happens when these policies are put in place. Low-income households are bearing the brunt of the tax burdens created, but the net benefit of these policies can still result in a positive for low-income neighborhoods.

This conversation will feature the voices of public health experts and long-time advocates for soda taxes as well as someone in the position of ensuring the funds raised get used to benefit the communities that are bearing the brunt of the tax burden created.

This session is part of Next City’s Solutions of the Year, a multi-day virtual convening of seven sessions that will frame the conversation for 2023. Purchase a single ticket now to all of the events for just $50, or pay what you wish by registering for each event individually. Everyone who donates will receive a copy of our annual Solutions of the Year special issue magazine.

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Moderator:

Oscar Perry Abello, Senior Economic Justice Correspondent, Next City
Oscar Perry Abello covers policies, programs and businesses that seek to address historical disparities in access to jobs, capital and space for economic use in cities. He previously served as Next City’s editor from 2018-2019, and was a Next City Equitable Cities Fellow from 2015- 2016. Since 2011, Abello has covered community development finance, community banking, impact investing, equitable and inclusive economies, affordable housing, fair housing and more. He holds a bachelor’s in economics from Villanova University.

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Speakers:

Roberto Ariel Vargas, MPH, Associate Director, Center for Community Engagement and Senior Staff, for the Community Engagement and RAGE Program of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Roberto Ariel Vargas, MPH is Associate Director for the Center for Community Engagement and Senior Staff, for the Community Engagement and RAGE Program of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Vargas has helped shape health policy and practice at the municipal and national levels on chronic disease prevention and cancer care.

Vargas served on the National Cancer Institute’s National Council of Research Advocates, the board of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) & co-chair of the SF Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee & currently the board of the American Heart Association Bay Area & Instituto Familiar De La Raza.

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Jim Krieger, Executive Director of Healthy Food America and Clinical Professor at University of Washington School of Public Health
Jim Krieger, MD, MPH is Executive Director of Healthy Food America and Clinical Professor at University of Washington School of Public Health. He previously worked for 25 years at Public Health – Seattle & King County as Chief of Chronic Disease Prevention. 

He has provided technical assistance for adoption, implementation, and evaluation of sugary drink taxes in over forty localities and states in the US. He was a leader of the successful campaign to adopt a tax in Seattle and co-chaired its Sweetened Beverage Tax Community Advisory Board from 2018-2019. He has authored reports on centering taxes in equity and best practices in tax design. He has published numerous articles about sweetened beverage taxes in academic journals, including a recent one assessing the equity of tax payments and benefits.

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Aiisha Herring-Miller
Deputy Director, Diverse Business and Workforce Development at Rebuild, City of Philadelphia

Aiisha Herring-Miller has built a stellar career as a public servant with 20 years of experience working for the City of Philadelphia.  During her municipal government career, Aiisha led various economic and community development initiatives designed to revitalize business districts, increase minority participation in contracting, and drive equitable employment in the skilled trades industry.  As the Deputy Director of Diverse Business and Workforce Development in the City’s Rebuild Office, Aiisha is responsible for leading a team to ensure diversity and inclusion goals are met for contractor and professional services, and workforce programs.  Prior to joining the Rebuild Office, she was the Senior Director in the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).   In her role with OEO, Aiisha consulted with over 50 city departments and agencies to highlight the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in procurement and achieve the mandate of 35% city government contracting with minority, women, and disabled enterprises.

Aiisha is a board member with the Mount Vernon Community Development Corporation, a community-based association focused on building affordable housing in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.  As a highly-engaged parent of a Shipley School student, she serves on the school’s Annual Fund and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees.  Aiisha earned a Master of Arts in Urban Studies from Temple University and is a proud graduate of Lincoln University, the first degree-granting HBCU in the United States.  She also holds a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional credential through the Neighborhood Development Council.

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