The Nov. 6 elections are behind us but some of the issues debated are far from settled.
One of the Bay Area's highest-profile election battles was Measure N -- the so-called "soda tax" on the ballot in my hometown of Richmond.
Supporters claimed that taxing businesses that sell soda and other sweetened beverages would curb obesity by reducing consumption of sugary drinks and by raising revenue to fund recreation and nutrition education programs. As a long-serving physician in West Contra Costa County, I stood with the 67 percent who voted no and defeated Measure N.
That doesn't mean obesity -- particularly childhood obesity -- isn't a serious problem in Richmond. The election is over, the problem remains. So where do we go from here?
Unfortunately, the activists behind Measure N and a companion measure in the Southern California city of El Monte, also repudiated by voters, are busy trying to write the history of these two elections in a manner that claims victory in defeat and justifies bringing "improved" tax measures before voters and local legislators up and down the state.
They attribute their losses to campaign spending by the other side -- implicitly saying that voters in Richmond and El Monte weren't smart enough to decide the question on the merits. They say they will learn from their mistakes and win next time.
I'm not an activist, I'm a doctor. My aim isn't winning campaigns, rather it is healing people. Taxing businesses that sell or consumers that buy a can of soda or a carton of chocolate milk won't heal high blood pressure or diabetes.
Attitudes about healthy nutritional choices cannot be made through political mandates; city councils aren't equipped to address the complexities of obesity.
Food is comfort, culture, a form of celebration, an escape from boredom. How we eat is influenced by the people who raised us, our environment and our income.
Taxing soft drinks won't do a darn thing to convince young people that they are valuable; that their bodies are valuable; that they need to respect themselves by eating the right foods and exercising.
Those are among the lessons we need to instill in children and in so many young parents who are passing along learned behaviors.
Peddlers of the notion that we can combat obesity by demonizing and taxing soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages -- products that together account for just 7 percent of the average American's total caloric intake -- are the snake-oil salesmen of yesteryear.
Why do residents of Marin County -- right across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge -- have better health outcomes than residents of my city?
Primarily, it is because they have jobs and higher incomes that buy access to quality health care, better food choices, the best education and safer neighborhoods. Those are issues mayors and city councils of the Bay Area are equipped to address.
Richmond needs activists with the passion and enthusiasm of Measure N supporters to push for more jobs, safer streets and better schools. What cities like Richmond -- and there are many in California -- don't need are more Measure Ns that distract communities from serious discussion and action.
Dr. Brazell Carter is a longtime Richmond physician.