New Yorkers were girding for a showdown Wednesday between Mayor Bloomberg and the opponents to his proposed ban on 16-ounce or bigger soft drinks. A mid-afternoon public hearing was scheduled to debate the measure, which still needs approval by the city Board of Health — appointed by the mayor — to take effect.
The ban's opponents could always sue or appeal to the state legislature (or not, judging by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent remarks), but the "hundreds" of people who gathered on the steps of City Hall on Monday to oppose the ban, organized by a American Beverage Association coalition called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, would rather put a stop to Bloomberg's legislation before it goes into effect.
"I picked out my beverage all by myself," one City Hall protester's t-shirt read, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Who wants to go to a movie theater and have small glasses?" shouted a representative for that industry, the New York Times reported.
Monday's protest may have been a better reflection on ban opponents than the amateurish effort organized by Ron Paul backers last week, but it didn't deter Bloomberg. The mayor told reporters, “Nobody’s going to stop this,” later amending that to: “They’ll consider the issues,” he said of Board of Health members, “and my hope would be that they would pass this.”
His foes include well-heeled beverage giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi as well as libertarians and mainstream New Yorkers who just don't believe that it's any of the government's business when they down a 16-ounce Slurpee. Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman even wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, which neglected to mention that his brand is owed by Coca-Cola.
According to the ABA's press release, the coalition brought to Tuesday's hearing "more than 6,100 hard-copy comments from New Yorkers who oppose the ban, and officially registered with the Board the more than 91,700 New Yorkers and more than 1,500 businesses who have signed the petition opposing the ban."
Bloomberg has been lining up celebrity backers of his proposed ban, including filmmaker Spike Lee and chefs Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver. (Certainly he's hoping Oliver will prove as beneficial to the ban as he did to the effort to get fast-feeders to rid their hamburgers of "pink slime" recently.)
"Sugary drink consumption is the driver of the obesity epidemic," Bloomberg said on Monday alongside community leaders gathered with him to back the measure. "This year an estimated 5,800 New Yorkers will die because they are obese and overweight."
Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for the New York Restaurant Association, expressed his fears (as quoted by the NYT) thusly: “They could take away our hot dogs. They could take away our steaks, our calzones!” [Update: the New York Times live-blogged the lively hearing here.]