Councilman Ash Kalra Wants to Ban Soda, Other Sugary Drinks at City Spaces, Events

In a move New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg might appreciate, Councilman Ash Kalra wants to ban sugary drinks from all city-owned buildings and city-sponsored events.

“We cannot stop the obesity epidemic, but as the city of San Jose, we can do our part by being socially responsible and accountable for the products we make available to San Jose residents at the facilities and centers we operate, as well as at events that we host,” Kalra writes in a memo going before the Rules and Open Government Committee meeting Wednesday.

Councilman Pete Constant, for one, isn’t having it.

“They’ve done it again,” he writes in a District 1 newsletter blasted out this morning. The folks at City Hall have found a new nanny-government proposal to impose on the people of San Jose. But this proposal goes further than anything you’ve seen before.”

Further than anything, you say?

“City Hall wants to ban soda, sports drinks, diet soda and whole milk from all city events and properties, including parks, community centers and even out zoo,” Constant continues. “You heard that right: a ban on whole milk!”

It’s true. The ordinance Kalra proposes would ban:

• All sodas, both diet and otherwise
• Electrolyte replacement drinks and sports drinks with more than 42 grams of sweetener per 20-ounce serving
• Flavored, carbonated and sweetened water with no real fruit juice and only added sweeteners
• Fruit juice or fruity drinks with added sweeteners and less than 50 percent real juice
• Veggie drinks with added sweeteners and less than half real veggie juice
• Flavored or plain milk with more than 2 percent fat

Constant says he’s upset because of the proposal’s nanny-state approach as well as its upside-down priorities.

“San Jose leaders should be focused on hiring more police officers, following through on pension reform and fixing out streets, community centers and city facilities,” he writes. “Instead, they’re discussing a beverage ban.”

Kalra says he’s just worried about his constituents’ health. Obesity has become a bigger concern for the state and Santa Clara County, he notes. Nearly 27 percent of Californians were reported obese, according to a 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, 13 percent of high school students are considered obese, per a 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Study by the same agency.

Kalra says the average American diet contains 175 pounds of sugar a year, and a 20-ounce soda has 17 teaspoons of the stuff, or 250 empty calories. Forty-one percent of kids aged 2 to 11 and 62 percent of 12 to 17 drink at least a soda or some other sugar-bombed drink a day, Kalra adds. It’s a habit that, per the councilman’s sources (presumably still the CDC), make a person 27 percent more likely to become fat.

Drinks that that you would find at city events and properties if the ban passed include:

• Water, including the carbonated kind
• Drinks with 50 to 100 percent fruit juice and no added sweetener
• Veggie drinks with 50 percent or more veggie juice with no added sweetener
• Nonfat and 2 percent-or-less milk
• Dairy alternatives like soy milk

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for August 28, 2013:

• Here’s the tentative agenda for the Sept. 3 study session where City Council members will meet to talk about how to restore services, whether by moving money around the budget or passing a parcel tax.

• The city’s considering raising the fine for airport noise curfew violations. Right now the fine is set at $2,500. Last year, 132 flights of the 383,200 total violated that curfew.

• The city’s Senior Citizens Commission forwarded a letter in support of a state bill that would clarify a point: inclusionary zoning ordinances adopted by local governments don’t violate existing rent control laws. AB 1229, introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would re-authorize cities to pass ordinances that offer rent control to low-income residents.

• Mayoral candidate and activist David Wall’s investigating the Environmental Innovation Center disaster, trying to confirm a suspicion of his that the whole snafu had something to do with a Ponzi scheme.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hal, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. “Instead they’re discussing a beverage ban”…..Hippocrite….Lets talk about the city park Pete gifted Archbishop Mitty(private school) to increase his “God points” to get guaranteed admissions for his kids????…Lets talk about Pete’s separate mass email/harassment of police officers causing more distrust between the city and cops (real constructive), Lets talk about tax dollars used to send Pete to weight-lifestyle camp, Lets talk about Pete and his time-sheet issue (fraud) during the GOP event??  The list goes on and on……Oh well, he is a politician and gets a free pass.  I cant wait until he is the next Mayor of San Jose

  2. Yeah this is ridiculous.  How about he propose we ban alcohol first since we know there is such a DUI problem with local leaders and citizens.

  3. Kalra should not be worried about people’s obesity. That is not his business, that is not his job. If people want to come to City Hall or other City events and choose surgary drinks, that is THEIR business. Are you also going to remove the potato chips and other fattening foods from the vending machines? How about the creamery from the coffee stand? This is about the dumbest proposal I have heard. They say this is a “free” country. This country is NOT free. Not anymore. More and more, it seems as it is turning into a government controlled country. What next?

  4. Instead of actually trying to solve San Jose’s real problems, we get more nanny-state laws. I don’t need city government telling me what to drink. Pete Constant is correct and I hope the rest of the council listens.

  5. Mr. Kalra’s memo includes a list of the beverages banned at “city-sponsored events.”  A recent city sponsored event was Music in the Park at St. James Park this past July.  This event was also sponsored by Heineken, Amstel Light, J. Lohr Vineyards, and StrongBow Hard Cider. 

    If Mr. Kalra feels the city has a duty to regulate the beverages residents drink, why is alcohol not included in his proposal as we know it not only has the empty calories but also impairs judgment.  If Mr. Kalra’s ban does go into effect, we would have the strange situation at city-sponsored events were buying alcohol is OK but a diet Coke is considered contraband.

    • And I never thought I’d say THIS but I agree with Pete Constant, Kathleen Flynn, and even (drum roll please………………..) So So Interesting!

      Do the far left progressives like Ash Kalra, Barack Obama, and Rob Johnson not understand that in order to grow,  people must be allowed to make their own choices and learn from their own mistakes? Do they really want a nation of helpless grownup children always looking to Big Brother to make their decisions for them?

  6. I will respond more but I just have to say: does Ash Kalra know the Bill of Rights? If he reads it over maybe he will understand that America is about liberty. Soda and sugary drinks don’t cause obesity, it’s the individual who chooses what they drink and if they want to exercise.

    Deeply dissappointed he spent time writing this proposal up.

  7. Thinking about it, I don’t want to waste more time commenting on the misguided views of a San Jose Councilman. I thought San Jose-Santa Clara would have more leaders in government. A majority of the people who are governing the area, like Ash, have consistently been a dissappointment.

    After this statement by Ash, I am counting down the days until he is out of government completely. He needs to go educate himself on the founding principles of America.

  8. Jimi, just about every politician in this stinking state needs to go educate themselves on the founding principles of America.

    But the ultimate blame goes to the stupid voters that keep electing these assholes.

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