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Post News Group - August 5, 2016

Op-Ed: Sack the Oakland Grocery Tax

Over the past few years, the people of Oakland have witnessed a total resurgence of our city. Our community has experienced an amazing business and economic revitalization.

As a local grocer and small business owner, I have felt some of this growth, and I’m excited about what lies ahead.

That’s why I was dismayed when I recently learned that our local elected officials decided to place a new grocery tax on the November ballot that will disproportionately hurt my food market and the low-income families and individuals that are my customers.

Those advocating for this tax are trying to convince the public that it is a direct tax on soda or other sweetened drinks.

What they aren’t telling you is that the tax will actually be imposed on food distributors like myself who sell these types of drinks – not on the drinks themselves.

They promote the tax as a one-cent-per-ounce fee on all sugar-sweetened drinks, but consumers aren’t ultimately responsible for paying the tax. Grocers like myself will have to do so – or we will be breaking the law.

That means I will only have one option to recover those funds so I don’t lose employees or go out of business: raising prices on all the foods, beverages and other items I sell in my market.

I have been lucky that my regular customers are dedicated to my grocery offerings and committed to supporting my neighborhood business, but other local grocers might not be so fortunate.

It also doesn’t make sense to institute policies that will raise grocery prices for those who can least afford it — the hardworking people and families of Oakland already struggling to afford living, working and raising their families here.

While the economic growth we’ve seen has affected some of us positively, there are still far too many residents struggling to deal with the high price of rent and the increasingly expensive way of life in the Bay Area.

That’s why the last thing we need in Oakland right now is a grocery tax.

Perhaps there are valid reasons why our city leaders believe that this is the right approach. But making groceries more expensive, forcing local grocers to pay new fees and imposing policies that will make life more difficult for all of us here in Oakland are not the right answers.

It is already challenging for Oakland residents to find fruits and vegetables in our community.

So this November, don’t be fooled by the language and rhetoric the “soda tax” advocates use to describe this measure. The stakes are too high for Oakland residents, grocers and small businesses. Make sure to vote no on the Oakland grocery tax.

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