President, Strategic Communications, LLC

Friday, July 27, 2012

When the Circus Came to NYC

This week the New York City Board of Health conducted a public hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed so-called “soda ban." To paraphrase one of the more famous lines from Casablanca, the Mayor's office went out and "rounded up the usual suspects." A handful of consumers spoke. Mostly it was a spattering of elected officials and lobbyists on both sides of the issues. You know the ones - the media ego maniac, the sky is falling, Michael Jacobson and the ivory tower sky is following, but we do not need more study because we have no idea whether this will actually reduce total caloric intake, Kelly Brownell. There message was simple, "Don't confuse me with the facts because my mind is already made up.

Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, let me direct your attention to the center ring where we are going to conduct the greatest show on earth -- a public hearing about the role of soft drinks in the diet in the nation's largest city with many "experts" and very few public participants.

Only 100 people attended, most of them reporters, who after making the trek to Long Island City, felt obliged to file a no news story.

No new information or evidence was presented. Each side rehashed the same old arguments. The hearing will not likely change the expected approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, which will limit the size of non-alcoholic beverages sold at restaurants, movie theaters, delis, stadiums, arenas and mobile food cars to 16 ounces. The Board of Health — 11 physicians, public health experts and scientists and the health commissioner — are all mayoral appointees.

One pro-industry group said something to the effect that the deck was stacked which reminded me of Captain Renault's famous quote, again from Casablanca, that :" I'm shocked to find that gambling is going on in here [Rick's Cafe]!" -  after receiving his share of the evenings earnings. Shocked indeed.

In politics, there is a golden rule -- he who has the gold makes the rules. And this was the Mayor's sandbox. The board will formally vote on the plan in September. If approved, it will take effect in March 2013.

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