By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Somewhere in Chicago, former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is sitting back sipping on a cherry kijafa, laughing and saying, “I told you so!” Why? Because the Cook County Soda Tax, Sugary Drink Tax, Sweetened Beverage Tax or whatever we are calling it this week, has been a complete disaster and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle just doesn’t know when to stop. You would think the pushback she received initially just to get the silly tax imposed would be a clue for any politician to back off.
Instead, Preckwinkle is doubling down, and using an outside agent and commercial advertising campaign to do it.
Earlier this month, Cook County residents were inundated with commercials sponsored by former New York City mayor, billionaire and legal gun owner’s nemesis, Michael Bloomberg. The TV commercial features Chicago physician Dr. Javette Orgain, an older Black woman with dreadlocks, speaking on how the tax is good for the community because it will promote healthier choices for families. Interesting spokesperson choice, seeing that even though she is a family health physician, Orgain’s grades on various websites are nothing to write home about. They vary between a one and two on a five star scale. Ouch.
The commercial is an insult to the community’s intelligence and a lame attempt by Preckwinkle to save her quickly fading political career. The sweetened beverage tax is about one thing: MONEY.
And had Preckwinkle just said that from the very beginning and stuck to it, none of this epic backlash she is receiving, especially from the Black community, would have come about. Getting booed at the Bud Billiken Parade, a parade specifically for children, is not a good sign, Toni. It should have given you pause and made you realize you have some repair work to do.
Instead, you linked yourself with the rich white guy who has never shown his love for Black people, and doubled down on something that everyone knows is a farce.
If the beverage tax is purely about health, then you would not tax sports drinks like Gatorade. What’s even worse, you are even taxing sports drinks that have ZERO CALORIES. I stopped drinking soda pop years ago because of the contents and switched to water, vitamin water and my current favorite, Powerade Zero. But making that healthy choice for myself without government oversight does not make me immune from Toni’s tax.
Even though Powerade Zero has 0 calories (hence the name) and according to the label is comprised of water, sodium, potassium, niacin, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B12, it is still taxed in Cook County. One can easily conclude that not only is this tax about making money, there is also an air of fraud to the tax as well.
But Preckwinkle still doesn’t get it so this week at the Cook County Board meeting, she urged commissioners to stay strong and stand by their vote even though there is a loud, growing cry to repeal the controversial tax.
And Preckwinkle has reason to be nervous. If just one person who voted for the tax originally changes his mind, she’s screwed. You see, when it was originally passed last year it only made it by one vote. And guess who cast the deciding vote? Yep, Preckwinkle herself.
So you see Toni is skating on ice thinner than Donald Trump’s hair. And the question is, will there be other commissioners willing to stay out on the ice with her?
Toni should have been honest from the start and told Cook County residents: “look y’all, we’re going broke. And I cannot sustain healthcare, the jail and all of the other things the county is responsible for unless I get some more paper. If I don’t get the revenue all hell is going to break lose for all of us.”
She would have been much better off. People still might have rejected the tax, but she would have had a much better chance of bringing people to her side. Instead she pulled a Rahm Emanuel and said the tax was for health reasons, just as Rahm suggested that taxing plastic bags would make the city cleaner. How is that going? Both mislead the public and both will feel the wrath of voters in the next elections.
And somewhere in Chatham-Avalon, Todd Stroger is feeling vindicated by it all. Stroger pushed a 1% sales tax increase back in 2009. Voters revolted, and Preckwinkle herself exploited that wrath and rode it to victory in the 2010 elections with Stroger finishing dead last in the Democratic Primary.
Ironically, Todd Stroger was also booed at the Bud Billiken Parade, and at the Chicago Football Classic. This year’s Classic is later this month at Soldier Field. Advice to Toni, don’t go to the game!