El Monte pushes Measure H, sugary drink tax


"We're trying to find a way to solve two public policy objectives. One: To raise revenue for the community. And two: To be able to put a tax on products that have been shown to be linked to obesity," said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero.

Quintero says the city has the ninth highest rate of childhood obesity in the state. Measure H will impose a penny per ounce tax on sweetened drinks in the city. Business owners say it will drive business out of town.

"We've asked our customers what are they going to do if the measure does pass and they say why don't they just go to our sister city, which is Temple City, and buy something from Temple City?" said Erica Hadjis, whose family has owned El Sombrero restaurant in El Monte for 46 years.

"This new measure, Measure H, will not allow us to give away any free refills. It's a penny per ounce," she said.

Hadjis said that's about a penny for every sip. A 44-ounce drink would be 44 cents more expensive. She worries that tracking all those drinks sold will be complicated and she asked the mayor about it.

"I asked him how are they going to govern this? He's the one that's pushing for this measure to go through. And he has no idea," she said.

The mayor says business will adapt and he hopes by making it more expensive to buy the drinks, people will get the message about the risks of obesity.

"If they have to leave the community to buy their sugary drinks, that is going to work on them as well," Quintero said. "They are going to be thinking to themselves, 'Why do I have to leave my city to do this?'"

In addition to El Monte, the city of Richmond in Northern California has a similar proposition on the ballot. Proponents say if it passes here, other cities will consider doing this as well.

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