The campaign signs read, "more sports plus less sodas equals healthy kids."

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is designed to raise money to provide opportunities for our young people to participate in healthy organized sports.

It promises to yield benefits that are priceless to our community, including an increase in both the mental and physical health of our youth.

A beneficial byproduct of this improved mental and physical well-being is a decrease in crime, as children are busy and do not have idle time that can sometimes lead to their becoming involved in criminal activities.

Children who participate in sports not only become physically more healthy, they also learn values that lead to increased self-esteem and increased respect for others and the environment.

When children are busy participating in sports, they are more likely to do well in school and to attend college and lead satisfying, successful lives.

In a city such as Richmond, where large numbers of families cannot afford sports programs, it is important that we all chip in to help.

We know that the funds do not exist to pay for these programs. Although I wish it was not so, the only way to get these advantages for our children is to pay for them ourselves.

Our children are too precious for us to stand by. We must do what we can so our children will have the conditions needed to create healthy minds and bodies.


Advertisement

Money raised from Measure N on the Nov. 6 ballot will allow the city of Richmond to invest in a new sports field every year; allow all Richmond children to play sports by helping with full and partial club tuition; teach every Richmond third-grader to swim at the Richmond Plunge or Kennedy Swim Center; pay for medical care for uninsured diabetic kids; expand after-school sports programs and offer nutrition education and cooking classes to Richmond children and parents.

Measure N requires a simple majority vote, the proceeds of which will go into the general fund.

The Richmond City Council chose to take this route because the right wing in California has made it very difficult for municipalities to pass measures to help ourselves by requiring that new taxes be passed with a two-thirds majority vote if those taxes have specific designations.

Case in point, although the school bond received 66 percent of the vote in the last election, it failed because it required a full two-thirds vote. That is why Measure N puts the money in the general fund and comes with an accompanying measure; Measure O. A yes vote on Measure O puts the community voice on record that the funds be used to fight increase health and wellness of our youth.

I signed a community pledge, as have other council members and two progressive candidates for City Council. Only two council members and the candidates who oppose Measure N have refused to pledge to follow the will of the Richmond voters on Measure O to direct these funds to youth health programs.

I'm willing to invest in our children because I know that healthy children become the successful, healthy adults that will lead to a flourishing, vibrant city.

That's an investment worth making.

Jovanka Beckles is a member of the Richmond City Council and is a children's mental health specialist for Contra Costa County.