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Developing a Strategic Plan to Counteract Bloomberg’s Big Soda Ban

The proposal by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to ban soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at numerous city venues, designed to combat obesity, has generated a great deal of controversy-with businesses, elected officials and average citizens weighing in on the Big Brother aspect of the mayor’s plan. As it stands now the plan will be taken up by the NYC Board of health, a body that is made up entirely of mayoral appointees. A similar proposal to mandate menu labeling was passed by the Board and is in effect now-although all independent studies indicate that it is doing little to no good at combating obesity.

Unlike the menu labeling mandate, however, the current soda ban is running into some feisty opposition-and with the new mayoral election cycle right around the corner many of the prospective candidates have begun to line up against the proposal. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Three potential mayoral candidates weren’t fully supportive of the effort and, if elected, could revisit the issue of selling sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces.”The city should be educating students in our schools about good health and not limiting what our citizens can purchase,” one candidate, Bill Thompson, a former city comptroller, said. “Ten years into this administration and this is the best they can come up with?”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who leads all potential mayoral candidates in the polls, said she was concerned the ban wouldn’t have “positive results. “She said a future mayor “should certainly think about” reversing the ban.” 

In addition, NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has lashed out against the “Big Brother” aspects of the plan, and has threatened legislative action to combat it:

“State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday said he’s considering a plan to thwart Mayor Bloomberg’s attack on sugary drinks. “We may be getting too close to Big Brother,” a clearly bothered Silver told The Post, adding that he’s considering legislation at the state level to stop the mayor’s plan to limit the size of sodas and other sugar-laden drinks sold in the city.

“I just think we ought to step back and look at the freedoms that we have been given in this country and reflect on them,’’ Silver said.”

The political pushback-along with the business opposition and grass roots sentiments expressed against the idea means that there exists a legitimate opportunity to generate a strong and diverse political/business/community coalition that can be mobilized to defeat the mayor’s ban-and if not on the first go around, then certainly when the new mayor takes over in a year and a half from now.

Still the forces of political correctness are not to be downplayed, especially in New York City-and editorial support for the mayor’s plan is already being expressed by the NY Daily News and the NY Post-along with some influential columnists. It is therefore imperative that the opposition to this first step-and make no mistake it is a first step-be organized at once.

The New York Association of Grocery Stores (NYAGS) has been established to represent the interests of neighborhood retailers and restaurant operators all over the city. It has the support of the Bodega Association, the Latino Restaurant Association and the Korean American Small Business Service Center-the group that represents the city’s 2500 green grocers. All of these groups understand that this supersizing ban is only the opening salvo, one that will lead to further restrictions on the rights of business and all New Yorkers if left unchallenged.

NYAGS is led by a team of experienced government relations and media consultants who have been in the trenches for many years fighting on behalf of the city’s small businesses. We afford all industry opponents the opportunity to align their particular interests with those of the diverse small business community-a coalition of interests that represents the face of NYC.

We would like to sit down with you to discuss how your company can help develop the growing opposition to the mayor’s ban, We are in the process of devising a more complete strategic plan and welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you at your earliest convenience.