STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER JOHN FRITCHEY ON HIS VOTE TO REPEAL THE SWEETENED BEVERAGE TAX

As the executive, President Preckwinkle has to make very difficult decisions and I respect that fact. But I simply disagree with this particular decision and outcome as do the majority of people in Cook County.

My commitment to health issues during my career has been unwavering. In my office are awards from the American Heart Association, Respiratory Health Association, and American Cancer Society, among others. But I don’t believe that this tax will accomplish the benefits it claims that it will. Neither do the overwhelming number of constituents I have the privilege to represent.

I represent a district that stretches from Michigan Avenue to the western border of the City. It includes neighborhoods ranging from River North to Lincoln Square to Portage Park. I came out against this tax because too many of my constituents across my district are suffering from a different health issue – tax fatigue. They’ve been stricken with a massive property tax increase, diagnosed with an increase in their water bills, suffered a tax on shopping bags and a relapse of having an increase in the state income tax. Compounding their financial ailments, just today, the Chicago Public Schools announced that they are raising Chicago property taxes by Two Hundred Twenty-five Million Dollars, an increase of over 8 percent. Simply put, the financial health of many of my constituents is in critical condition and I cannot in good conscience add to their suffering.

To date, nobody has discussed a glaring hypocrisy of this tax. Just last year, this Board approved a 10-year contract to provide exclusive rights to sell beverages at all Cook County properties and at all Forest Preserve properties, properties that are overwhelmingly used by families. A contract worth over Four Million Dollars. A contract with – Pepsi. It is simply disingenuous for this Board to tell people not to drink sugary beverages while at the same time taking millions of dollars to give them access to those very same drinks.

But today’s vote is about more than repealing a tax, it’s a rare moment when the people of Cook County not only let their voices be heard but more importantly, are having their voices result in action. As a result, this vote is nothing less than historic.

Make no mistake, when this tax is repealed, very difficult decisions will need to be made. Decisions that will impact the residents of Cook County. While myself and my colleagues on the Board are prepared to make those tough choices, we must reiterate that the separately elected officials also have a crucial role in the process. They know their offices better than anyone else and must participate in good faith as we work together to make County government do more with less.

To date, this tax has resulted in millions of dollars being spent on television ads and mailers to persuade people’s opinions. It has resulted in countless dollars being spent in stores outside of Cook County. My only wish is that the money and attention that has been given to this issue would also be given to other issues. Attention and action on issues upon which we all agree. That we would spend as much attention on bullets going into our children as we are spending on Gatorade going into our children. On the need for after-school programs and other initiatives to reduce our murder rate.

We each owe a duty to our constituents; some of us may differ as to how our respective duties dictate we vote. I believe my duty is to support the repeal of this tax and that is why I am a sponsor of its repeal.

Mr. Chairman, people of Cook County, for these reasons and others, I support the measure, continue my initial opposition to the tax and will be voting for the repeal of the sweetened beverage tax.

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