WBEZ | George Cárdenas http://www.wbez.org/tags/george-c%C3%A1rdenas Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Soda tax hearings bubble over with debate http://www.wbez.org/news/soda-tax-hearings-bubble-over-debate-112883 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/soda t.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">When 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas arrived on City Hall&rsquo;s 2nd floor Wednesday, he met a lobby full of teamsters wearing shirts emblazoned with the words &ldquo;Pepsi,&rdquo; &ldquo;Coca-Cola,&rdquo; &ldquo;7Up&rdquo; and &ldquo;Dr Pepper.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">They were there with Teamsters Local 727 President John Coli, an early supporter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and an opponent of Cardenas&rsquo; proposed penny-per-ounce soda tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This tax &mdash; the third tax in recent memory &mdash; would do nothing but harm the middle class,&rdquo; Coli said in a press conference before Health Committee hearings on the proposal.</p><p dir="ltr">More opposition came from the soda lobbyists at the American Beverage Association. &nbsp;They enlisted former corporate counsel for Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mara Georges to take a look at the proposal. She predicted that, if passed, the tax would &ldquo;not hold up to legal challenge&rdquo; because the city already taxes soda at the maximum rate the state allows.</p><p dir="ltr">Also on board for the opposition is lobbyist Mike Kasper, the lawyer who helped Emanuel fight his 2011 residency challenge. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">When asked if he was intimidated by these influential opponents, Cardenas, &nbsp;who also chairs the City Council&rsquo;s Health Committee, was philosophical.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re put in these positions of leadership to make decisions, unpopular as they may be,&rdquo; he said. &nbsp;&ldquo;At the end of the day, if you have passion for the right thing you say it and people are going to be complimentary sometimes and sometimes not complimentary.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Those who were not complimentary to the proposal were representatives of the Illinois restaurant industry, bottlers and retailers. They noted that the city already imposes two taxes on soda (one on bottled soda and one on fountain drinks).</p><p dir="ltr">But supporters note that this is an excise tax &mdash; not a sales tax. That means it would be reflected in the shelf price (of about 68 cents more for a 2 liter), making it, &nbsp;theoretically, more effective in changing behavior than the current lower taxes that are noticeable only on receipts. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Opponents also claim the tax would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752">cost Chicago revenue</a> and jobs as consumers buy soda in nearby towns that don&rsquo;t impose the tax.</p><p dir="ltr">Tanya Triche of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association warned that if stores near the edges of the city &ldquo;don&rsquo;t stay profitable they will close and we have seen lots of closings of grocers, convenience stores and gas stations near the edge of the city.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">University of Illinois at Chicago professor Lisa Powell, however, says that her predictive models don&rsquo;t show statistically significant net job losses. Instead, the economist and health policy analyst says, the jobs lost in the beverage industry from lower soda sales would be made up in other areas.</p><p dir="ltr">In the past, Mayor <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-08/news/ct-met-emanuel-soda-wellness-1009-20121009_1_mayor-rahm-emanuel-plans-health-care-combat-obesity">Emanuel has resisted</a> the kind of anti-soda proposals his counterparts have embraced in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. His previous strategies have stressed personal responsibility and partnerships with the soda industry to pay for health programs. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But speaking at an event after the hearings, the mayor did not rule out a tax completely.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The notion of a sugary [drink] tax is all about curbing behavior in the same way that we&rsquo;ve done certain things about reducing smoking in this city,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel says he wants to hear budget-balancing suggestions from all of the aldermen, and he sees the soda tax as one of them.</p><p dir="ltr">Cardenas stressed that Wednesday&rsquo;s hearing was a subject hearing, not a budget hearing or an opportunity for a vote. But regardless of the final vote, he said, he wanted to start a conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we are going to come out of this with some consensus and at least some knowledge,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;My whole point was to educate some people on obesity and diabetes&hellip;[the tax] is an option on the table from health advocates like myself.&rdquo;</p><p>Some have floated the tax as a possible alternative to the garbage collection fees. &nbsp;Cardenas won&rsquo;t speak directly to that possibility, saying only, &ldquo;Could it replace something else? Well, surely when you get to the next phase of budget hearings, it could be an option as well.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is WBEZ&rsquo;s food and health reporter. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Sep 2015 21:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/soda-tax-hearings-bubble-over-debate-112883 Tax on sugary drinks gets pushback http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 <p><p dir="ltr">Just weeks after Chicago Ald. George Cardenas&rsquo; proposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, the soda industry shot back with a battery of testimonials.</p><p dir="ltr">They came from an industry funded group called the<a href="http://illinoisbeverage.org/chicago-coalition-against-beverage-taxes-launches-opposition-to-discriminatory-beverage-tax/"> Chicago Coaltion Against Beverage Taxes</a>. And among its members is the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Omar Duque leads the chamber and says its members would be &ldquo;adversely affected by the tax&rdquo; because it would drive soda sales down.</p><p dir="ltr">But that&rsquo;s exactly why Esther Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition supports a tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We see the increases in obesity in children and adults in the Hispanic community, and the issue of diabetes and metabolic syndrome has become epidemic,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So we advocate drinking water, not soda.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/HKNfY0sCT1cBDGupbjiw643iZ_PT5_P6HVlAG1TU2CQh3aMsZruWsf9-2AmnRNTlPjR3i2vOIuZb4Id3RDqEgi3-KRaYMH-pwn76XmRpVefHSeBk3Rq3XkVG2CT99CUK1MzvMyw" style="text-align: center; font-family: Arial; font-size: 14.6666669845581px; white-space: pre-wrap; border: none; transform: rotate(0rad); height: 241px; width: 300px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Duque says he recognizes that Latinos suffer from high levels of sugar-related disease. &nbsp;But he doesn&rsquo;t think a local soda tax--that builds on sugar taxes already in place--would help.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our particular opposition is specifically focused around the fact that studies show that punitive taxes around this don&rsquo;t solve the issue,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;An excise tax on sugared beverages would drive down product sales, but it would not really push the needle to reduce obesity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As evidence, he cites taxes on sugary beverages in Arkansas and West Virginia, which have some of the highest obesity rates in the nation. But Elissa Bassler of the Illinois Public Health Institute--which is also backing a<a href="http://iphionline.org/2015/03/heal-act-reintroduced-makes-a-splash/"> state soda tax</a> to fund Medicaid--believes the comparison is inappropriate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The [soda] taxes in those states are much much lower and they don&rsquo;t go to fund prevention programs like the proposals in Chicago and Illinois&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The proposed city soda tax would fund health programs in Chicago Public Schools. And supporters of the state tax say it could raise $600 million for Medicaid and obesity prevention each year.</p><p dir="ltr">For many, soda taxes are complicated issues in low-income minority communities. According to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/163997/regular-soda-popular-young-nonwhite-low-income.aspx">2013 Gallup data,</a> whites drink sugary soda only about half as often as minorities. &nbsp;And those who make more than $75,000 a year are half as likely to drink regular soda as those who make less than $30,000 a year.</p><p dir="ltr">So Bassler concedes that the excise tax could affect the pocketbook of low-income minorities more than others.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But we need to remember [minorities] are also disproportionately targeted by the marketers for sugary drinks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And those are the communities that are most impacted by the health problems attributable to excess consumption of sugary drinks.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes is not the first such coalition funded by the soda industry. Similar groups crop up in most places taxes are proposed. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/nyregion/behind-soda-industrys-win-a-phalanx-of-sponsored-minority-groups.html?_r=0">2013 New York Times investigation</a> also detailed millions in soda industry funding to minority groups who would later come out vocally against soda taxes.</p><p dir="ltr">Duque says Coca-Cola is, and has been a dues-paying member of his organization for around 20 years. But he says that has nothing to do with his opposition to the tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are not being paid off to be part of this,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We represent businesses in our community, that hire people and have a positive impact in the communities in which they operate and their employees live. They&rsquo;re telling us that they would be adversely affected by this tax. The more we can help these business to continue to operate and be profitable, the more of an impact we&rsquo;re going to have on our economy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Still, Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition questions those priorities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the positive role of businesses who are not helping the health of the community?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m pro-health and helping people to be less sick. What good are profits if they come with the consequence of increased illness in the community?&rdquo;</p><p><br /><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 Settlement could lead to big park for Mexican neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/00_580x350_parks6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago could be near the end of a five-year legal battle for control of a former industrial site with potential to help form a 24-acre park. If an eminent-domain settlement holds up, the land could be an asset for a Mexican-American area of the Southwest Side.<br> <br> Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor this week signed off on the deal, under which the city will pay more than $7.5 million for about 19 acres owned by 2600 Sacramento Corp.<br> <br> “I don’t get a penny,” company owner Joanne Urso said Friday afternoon. The money will go to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office and remain there as Urso tries to settle with a bank that has filed suit to foreclose on the property, according to her attorney.<br> <br> Urso’s land could combine with an adjacent five acres the city already controls. The park would total about five blocks, all just west of South Sacramento Avenue and north of West 31st Street. The perimeter would pass residential buildings, industrial properties and the Cook County Jail.<br> <br> Activists in the Little Village neighborhood hailed the settlement. “We have not seen any park development in over 75 years,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.<br> <br> Wasserman said the deal could inspire other neighborhoods to push for public amenities and services. “Regardless of language and regardless of immigration status, as long as there is determination in these communities, we can continue to get the things that we need,” she said.<br> <br> The park concept has the backing of the local alderman. “That’s what we’re pushing for,” said Juan Manzano, an aide to Ald. George Cárdenas, 12th Ward.<br> <br> The property served industrial manufacturers for more than 70 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Their output included asphalt, coal tar and driveway sealer. Celotex Corp. made roofing products on the site from 1967 to 1982, the EPA says.<br> <br> Allied Chemical and Dye Corp. purchased that operation. A series of mergers and acquisitions turned Allied into New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. The corporation dismantled the Celotex facilities between 1991 and 1993, according to the EPA. Urso’s company bought the property later.<br> <br> After cancer-linked chemicals turned up in nearby homes and yards, the EPA designated the area a Superfund site. A Honeywell cleanup consisted largely of covering the land with gravel. The cleanup finished last year, the agency says in a statement.<br> <br> Chicago filed the eminent-domain suit in 2006. The case became more complicated in August 2010, when Texas-based United Central Bank filed the foreclosure suit, a nearly $10 million claim, in federal court. The loan involves both the Celotex site and another Urso property.<br> <br> The city’s payment for Urso's land will consist of $6 million from the Chicago Park District and more than $1.5 million from city general-obligation bonds, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.<br> <br> But the timeframe for creating the park is not clear. Ownership of Urso’s property will transfer to Chicago upon payment, due September 7, but the city is not specifying a date for turning over the acreage to the Park District. “Possibly later this year,” Hoyle wrote Friday afternoon.<br> <br> A possible obstacle is a Chicago Fire Department facility on the adjacent five acres.</p><p>The biggest challenge could be funding the park construction. Wasserman’s group is calling for playgrounds, a farm, sports fields, an amphitheater and a community center. Building all those amenities could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the group says.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552