Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed three-cent-per-ounce tax on soda got a big boost on Thursday with the launch of a new ad campaign costing nearly a million dollars of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money.
The new, 30-second ad, titled, “Lift,” opens with a shot of a pair of sneakers dangling from a telephone wire to a woman’s soft-spoken voice which starts out saying, “Philadelphia’s chance to help lift our children with city-wide pre-K is now.”
It then quotes the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer endorsements Kenney received in March for the soda tax proposal.
The new ad campaign will air on local television stations for the next three weeks. It’s the central element of an $825,000 advertising purchase that includes TV, radio and digital billboards, all sponsored with funding from Bloomberg and Philadelphians for a Fair Future. The group claims to represent a coalition of 62 organizations from around the city – all focused on raising public awareness about the importance of the mayor’s budget initiatives.
“It’s great to have the support of a nationally recognized businessman,” Kenney said Thursday. “I hope these ads will correct the misinformation the other side has already spent millions spreading.”
During his time as New York City mayor, Bloomberg pushed for a city-wide ban on the sale of sugary juice larger than 16 ounces. His efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, members of a group called the Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax came out in full force on the north apron of City Hall to protest the tax, complete with a giant, mock grocery aisle display of sugary drinks. Shortly afterwards, City Council’s Committee of the Whole held an hours-long hearing where dozens of people came forward to testify on the tax – both for and against.
“After failing to ban oversized sodas in New York City, it now appears that Michael Bloomberg wants to impose his oversized ego and will on tax-weary Philadelphians,” Daniel Grace, Secretary-Treasurer for Teamsters Local 830, said during Wednesday night’s hearing.
“As Senator Bernie Sanders recently stated, Mayor Jim Kenney's soda tax is regressive. It will primarily hurt the very people it's intended to help. Sanders is right. Now, Bloomberg and John Arnold, a pair of outsider billionaires, are coming into our city to force low-income Philadelphians to pay dearly in order to fulfill their personal agendas…
“I also find it ironic that the pro-soda tax group can come up with nearly $1 million virtually overnight to pay for an advertising campaign, but claim to have no money or funding alternatives other than a regressive soda tax to pay for universal pre-K and other programs. If anything, the overnight infusion of major dollars into the pro-tax lobbying groups coffers should convince city lawmakers that there are better, fairer ways to fund needed programs other than heaping the enormous burden on the back of one industry."
The head of another union, however, Gabe Morgan, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, said that his 18,500 members “understand better than most the struggles working and poor people have in this city."
“We support this because…when you look at other possible options, this really is the best one and the need for pre-K and community schools is overwhelming,” he said.
“You can’t raise property taxes anymore. Our members are already experiencing being gentrified. They can barely afford property taxes. You can’t raise wage taxes for those already struggling. You can’t raise taxes on small businesses. We think the need here is critical, and if the city doesn’t take action, no one will.”
Kenney’s proposed FY 2017 budget includes the three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks as a means to pay for $400 million in new investments over five years, including universal pre-K, community schools, improvements to parks and recreation centers and other initiatives.
Attempts to reach Bloomberg for comment were unsuccessful at press time.