By Lloyd G.
Richmond has reason to celebrate the victorious election results of candidates and state and local ballot measures. And, for those who were on the losing side of Measure N, the so-called “soda tax,” and the City Council races, we think they would be well served to accept the message sent by the voters.
When the Richmond Progressive Alliance-led City Council majority voted to place the soda tax on the ballot, without the involvement or support of Richmond’s African-American community and its political leadership, they sealed the doom of the tax measure.
The Black American Political Action Committee’s (BAPAC) and the Community Coalition employed an aggressive door-to-door grass roots campaign to defeat Measure N. We educated the voters and city council candidates about how the pro-tax forces were asking local businesses to pay a tax on their inventories or annual sales of beverages containing any amount of any type of added sugar.
Even though Councilman Jeff Ritterman, the chief RPA sponsor of Measure N, repeatedly disrespected the Black community by claiming that the campaign to defeat the tax was dependent upon contributions by the U.S. soda industry, his statements boomeranged and had the effect of uniting the minority community.
BAPAC and the coalition were able to defeat the RPA initiative by a 2-to-1 margin, using tactics similar to those employed by Obama’s Presidential campaign. The coalition, like Obama, had an effective ground game, as well as some large contributors. BAPAC publicly announced, in the May 30 edition of the Richmond Post, that it would seek financial help to implement its city-wide mobilization plan.
BAPAC thanks many individuals and organizations that helped defeat Measure N and elect candidates to City Council. They include: the city’s pastors, preachers, churches, Black Men & Women (BMW), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Men & Women of Purpose, Men & Women of Valor, Neighborhood Council Presidents, National Brotherhood Alliance (NBA), Richmond Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, Mayor Irma Anderson, Dr. Brazell Carter, Councilman Corky Booze and Nat Bates, Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes and the entire community for coming together to defeat this unfair-regressive Soda Tax, re-electing Nat Bates, and electing Gary Bell to the Richmond City Council. We are praying for Bell’s recovery and we expect him to be seated on the council in January.
The RPA said Measure N focused national attention on Richmond. BAPAC agrees that the nation watched how the city came together to defeat Measure N while supporting every other tax measure on the ballot.
So what do we do now? First, we must heal our divided City of Pride & Purpose by working with the Measure N supporters. We both agree that obesity and diabetes in Richmond are real. Now we must strive to create a balanced approach to better health.
Secondly, as Dr. Brazell Carter said, “We must explore ways to better educate our community around making wise choices in our dietary selections”. Additionally, Dr. Carter supports efforts toward building a modern health education/medical center that could attract more physicians to our city.
BAPAC is looking forward to working with Councilmembers Nat Bates, Gary Bell and Tom Butt. We are prepared to align our support around sound and fair public policy decisions of the council, especially with the knowledge and expertise Bell brings to the council.
Finally, BAPAC is working on a plan to continue its regular weekly and monthly door-to-door outreach organizing for the upcoming 2014 elections. We will touch, inform and engage residents in our neighborhoods throughout the city. The 2014 elections will complete the much needed shift in balance of power from the Richmond Progressive Alliance back to the people. BAPAC along with its partners are planning a reception for Nat Bates and Gary Bell in January. If you would like to be added to BAPAC’s “What’s Happening Newsletter,” send your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.