Late Friday night, July 13, the Chamber learned that the City Council was considering approving an ordinance referred to as the “Soda Tax” that would apply a 1 cent per ounce business license tax on sugar added drinks sold in the City of Redlands as a ballot proposal on the November election. It is suggested that the tax could be used to help fund recreational programs, provide health education materials, nutrition classes, additional sports fields, recreation staffing and activities. It further suggests the tax will aide in the battle against obesity, heart disease and diabetes by using the funds generated to pay for education campaigns and other obesity-related programs.
The revenue collected by implementing the sugar added business license tax would go into the general fund. An advisory committee would recommend how the money would be used. Because this is a general tax it would only require a simple majority of the voters.
The ordinance had not been completely detailed and a number of questions had been left unanswered. President Paul Barich called an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee Tuesday morning, July 17, to discuss the issue and take a position on the agenda item. The Committee unanimously opposed the ordinance and appeared before City Council that evening asking them to NOT approve the ordinance, what in essence appeared to be “a blank check” …. an ordinance with no detail. The committee decision was based on a number of facts. The business community had not had any input … the hasty action to move the ordinance forward was not consistent with the message of transparency in government that is being delivered by City leaders. The Chamber had not been allowed sufficient time to speak to those businesses who will be most impacted by the action and the Chamber has a significant list of questions that need to be addressed and City staff was unable to answer those questions as of the Council meeting.
The Chamber as an advocate of the business community took quick action to insure that a hasty decision did not forever impact the local small businesses of Redlands.