By Arlene Jones
As I write this column early in the morning on Oct. 9, the good news is that the Cook County Board is alleged to be planning on voting to repeal the Sugary Drink Tax, aka the "Pop Tax." According to various sources, 12 of the 17 commissioners on the board have signed on to repeal the ordinance.
I hope and pray that the ordinance to end the tax does happen. I had the misfortune of hearing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on WVON 1690AM last week. As she spoke with host Cliff Kelley, Queen Sugar — a nickname Preckwinkle has been given (deservedly so) by those of us in opposition to the tax — lamented that the health care system for poor residents is in danger. Seeing that most poor folks qualify for Medicaid, who are those poor people in dire need of the free services of the County?
When Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel professed that Chicago would be a welcoming location for illegal aliens, aka sanctuary city, he and Queen Sugar failed to mention that those folks are and will be many of the recipients of the free health care that Cook County Hospital provides.
The County framed the tax, and the money being generated by it, as a defense against the attack by the soda industry on young children. Except in their desire to make it seem like soda was the culprit for morbidly obese children (so fat that they can barely walk), they overlooked the common sense reality: 1) the soda was most likely purchased and given to a child by an adult guardian, and 2) since LINK Card holders don't pay sales taxes, the tax wasn't going to stop poor children from continuing to have access to the sugary drinks.
How did Preckwinkle become the face of the Pop Tax? She was the tie-breaking vote when the measure initially came up for a vote. She also quite willingly became the one running around attempting to sell the tax to the normally unresponsive taxpaying public.
However, a sales tax that has someone paying almost as much as the price of the drink was the last straw — figuratively and literally. From fast food meals that included a soda with the meal to nightlife that wanted more for a mixed drink that included some pop in it, this was a legislative boondoggle. I even saw signs in Indiana saying to buy your pop there because there wasn't a special tax on soda. I noted firsthand how the newly opened Dollar Tree on Indianapolis Boulevard couldn't keep the pop on the shelf. I watched as people, who normally don't say anything politically, showed concern over the tax.
One has to wonder why Preckwinkle hunkered down to defend the tax? She should fire whoever advised her to support the legislation as a "good idea."
I am pretty positive that come election time, Queen Sugar will pay the penalty for having been the face of the tax. I want to be the first to call upon Todd Stroger to run again for the position with a "See I told you so" tagline to his candidacy. I hope the general public continues to pay attention to all the taxes placed on us. Because we need revenge against those whose only solution is additional taxes rather than proper fiscal management of taxpayers' dollars!
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