Got Milk? Maybe Not in San Jose.

UPDATE: The proposed “soda ban” did not make it out of committee Wednesday.—Editor

What’s the most pressing issue facing the City of San Jose? Is it following through on pension reform to reduce unsustainable sky-high pension liabilities? Paving our streets? Hiring more police officers? Restoring library hours?

Unfortunately, some at City Hall believe that telling you what you can and can’t drink trumps all of these other pressing concerns. Today a City Council committee will discuss a proposed ban on “sugary drinks” at all city properties and all city events. Just what is classified as a “sugary drink,” you ask? The answer may surprise you.

Soda is included in the ban, as you might expect. And energy drinks. However, diet soda has also been blacklisted along with sports drinks like Gatorade and, most surprisingly, whole milk.

You heard that right: City Hall wants to ban whole milk.

When the Rules Committee discusses this item on Wednesday at 2pm, it will be presented with a specific list of “sugar sweetened beverages” that details the specific amount of sugar allowed in certain types of drinks. For example, sports drinks “containing more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20 ounce serving.” However, because this proposal is so specific, it immediately opens loopholes and creates inconsistencies.

Here are a few strange scenarios: a bottle of Snapple Kiwi Strawberry would be banned, but it has less calories and less sugar than a glass of orange juice, which would be allowed. A Diet Coke with zero grams of sugar would be banned, while a glass of chocolate milk with 95 grams of sugar would be allowed. At this time it’s unclear whether Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink would be included in the banned list.

As the father of five young children I understand the importance of a healthy diet for my kids. Obesity is a problem in the United States. However, it’s simple-minded to think that sugary drinks are the sole cause. My family’s pediatrician encouraged us to provide our growing children with whole milk rather than non-fat or reduced fat milk. This beverage ban would go directly against those recommendations. Personally, I trust the advice of our doctor over a politician’s cause of the day.

There are other scenarios to think about as well. Consider that when some diabetic children are in need of a sugar boost and insulin isn’t immediately available they will be given a soda. If this ban goes into effect, diabetic children won’t have soda available at city events in the case of an emergency.

The real-world implications of this ban are enough to make your head spin. Because this ban has vague references to exemptions at locations “that serve, in part, commercial purposes,” we are told that the SAP Center and possibly some other properties would allow banned drinks.

This means that when you take your family to a Sharks game you will be able to purchase soda, root beer, and all kinds of sugary drinks. But if you and your family go to Happy Hollow Zoo, those same drinks will be unavailable. And while you will presumably be able to buy a soda at a San Jose Giants game, a family birthday party at a city park would be prohibited from serving whole milk with cake.

I hope the City Council uses some common sense and votes against this overreaching, unnecessary, nanny-government proposal. There are too many other pressing needs like public safety, street repaving, and restoring neighborhood services.

I encourage you to call and email your representative on the City Council and let them know how you feel about this beverage ban.

Pete Constant is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 1.

Editor’s Note: Councilman Ash Kalra, who proposed the sugary drink ban, has been sending the following message to residents to explain his proposal:

Thanks for your honest feedback. At this point, the suggestion to limit what kinds of beverages can be sold at a limited number of city facilities is in its infancy. I understand that one of my colleagues is really taking the opportunity to create a stir, and that is his prerogative I suppose. Frankly, whenever we put forward a proposal, it is difficult to say how far the process it will go to becoming a city ordinance. At this point, I am only asking that it be placed on a priority setting session to be considered by majority vote of Council before there are any city resources or time put into it. However, your feedback is appreciated at any point in the process.

And, I hope it is clear that this is not even close to the only item I am working on. Over the years I have been the most vocal advocate to maintaining public safety services. I advocated against eliminating our SJPD violent crime enforcement team and burglary unit. I have routinely made efforts to add resources to the patrol and investigative units of the SJPD as well as increased capacity in the SJFD. Mr. Pete Constant has routinely voted against my efforts to increase public safety resources time and again as crime has hit record levels in our neighborhoods. I also have fought vigorously for increased library hours and was successful in efforts to gain more resources for neighborhood traffic calming. I have also worked with the Mayor on important incentives and programs to bring more companies to San Jose and create jobs for our residents. I am also the chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, vice-chair of VTA and on the CalTrain Board. This just touches on some of the work I am doing on behalf of the residents of San José. All of those duties keep me busy in creating a healthy, vibrant transit system throughout the region and air quality standards to make the air we breathe as clean as possible.

The proposal is designed similarly to an existing County regulation regarding sugar sweetened beverages at a number of their facilities. The state voted in similar limitations for schools back in 2005. The idea behind the consideration of such a ban has to do with limiting the most prevalent source that causes juvenile diabetes and obesity, which are sodas and extra sweetened beverages. The list of items in the initial recommendation is simply put out there to give a sense of what kinds of beverages are typically targeted by other jurisdictions. I am glad it has caused some heated discussion if it causes some to look at the damage the prevalence and availability of these beverages has on our youth. However, I did not intend to create any anger or disappointment in anyone. Creating a little bit less access at libraries and community centers is a small gesture to an understandably complex issue. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo already has a program called “Eat Like a Lemur” so it is already moving in the direction of offering healthier foods and less sugar sweetened beverages, so, there is little need to include it in any new proposal. Nothing has been decided yet so I really do appreciate your feedback and criticism of my putting forward this suggested recommendation to my colleagues.


  1. Pete

    your right “Obesity is a problem in the United States” and you are a poster child.  You get a retirement based on a back problem and we all look at you and wonder guess why.  You were the same shape when you were an officer. Now you are even bigger, what happen with the once a year bike ride for the photo shot.

    You are like the kid who did not get his way on the playground and took his ball home. Now when you did not like something on the council rules committee, you make a post here and in the Mercury News opinion section blasting a fellow council member.  And you want to be mayor, God help us all.  Seems it is your way or the highway.

    How are you going to take all your leftovers how with your new ban on containers?

    • >  you are a poster child

      > You get a retirement based on a back problem and we all look at you and wonder guess why

      > You were the same shape when you were an officer

      > You were the same shape when you were an officer.

      > Now you are even bigger

      > You are like the kid who did not get his way on the playground and took his ball home.

      > you make a post here and in the Mercury News opinion section blasting a fellow council member

      > you want to be mayor, God help us all.


      Councilmember Constant hurt your feelings, didn’t he.

      You don’t like him, do you. 

      Is there some reason that the rest of us are supposed to give a crap about who you like and don’t like?

      Maybe you could have just sent him a private note with a dead fish, or something.

      • Louie,

        If I wanted to reprint my own post I could have but thanks for doing it for me.  Have a great day.  I don’t expect you to give a crap either. First amendment.

        • >  First amendment.

          If the Founding Fathers had asked me, I would have suggested putting an exemption in the First Amendment denying speech protection to whiny narcissists who want to bore everyone with lists of all the people they hate.

          Nonetheless, the First Amendment does NOT guarantee an audience, so—Praise the Lord—we’re all free to ignore you. 

          Which is what we all will now proceed to do.

  2. Oh…you mean the “sky high pension liabilities” such as the city disability pension you receive from the City and then you get another FULL second check from the City as a councilman? Think maybe you contribute to the problem??? Put a sock in it. No one really wants to hear what you have to say. You are part of the problem.

    • Dearest So So,

      I believe that Mr. Constant’s injury happened in the line of duty, serving the people of San Jose. His disability was determined and confirmed by four separate, independent, professional panels.

      Do you propose that all disabled citizens be prohibited from serving in elected office, or just those individuals that you don’t like?

      Or maybe you’re suggesting that disabled elected officials can serve, but they should not be compensated the same as their peers?

      Do you have two socks? I suggest you use them.

      • Audrey,

        While I appreciate your reasoned reaction, those who have been at SJPD long enough know Pete Constant for the deceptive cretin that he is.

        If anything, he is the posterchild for the very problem that others claim exists within the pension system: in short, gaming and deceiving the panel to make them believe you have a disability where, in fact, none exists. Although Pete, here, is the poster child for a very small minority, it is the height of hypocrisy for him to make the statements he has and criticize a system which he has gamed, deceived and from which he has benefited greatly.

        Even before he was on the City Council, his peers understood him to be a shallow, lazy, semi-incompetent lout whose foremost interests laid in enhancing his personal photography side business while on City time. His unenviable reputation was of an officer who often would not respond to the scenes of incidents to which he was dispatched and, on those scenes to which he actually did respond, his contributions frequently were less than nil.

        While ‘So So Interesting’ could certainly have been more detailed in his mini-tirade against Pete, the fact remains that Pete is precisely part of the problem: one of the rare incompetent, lazy City employees who successfully deceived and gamed the system to his advantage. And, to make matters worse, he now rails against the very system he gamed, making him a extraordinary hypocrite.

        • I get that some people have political differences with Mr. Constant for reasons that have nothing to do with nanny-state laws. In the context of this discussion, these objections to Mr. Constant are irrelevant.

          The fact is, in regards to this stupid, overbearing, anti-choice nanny-state beverage restriction, Mr. Constant is spot-on.

        • Officer Anonymous, thank you for that explanation. You are correct that I could have done it better, but I didn’t take the time for all the detail. You have done that well.

      • Dear Ms Audrey Huynh…and how is it that you know so much?

        His disability does not seem to deter him from functioning. A desk job within the department would have served him well. He seems to move about quite freely. Granted, I would not deny that he is not able to run, jump and do flips but I certainly believe the full disability was over generous. If he can function as a council member, he can function in the department in a desk position. Instead…he gets another FULL check from the very entity that is paying him a disability check. What I am insinuating by “FULL” check is that he is able to function in a full time capacity as a council member and get a second check, but not able to function well enough to work a desk job in the department. You know…pushing paper.

        Do you always read into things and turn what you have read around to suit you? I do notice that you take great pains to make impolite statements about elected Democrats, so I guess I should not expect anything better.

        How did it go from pete to “all disabled citizens”? That was a very unintelligent question. Tell me how your brain put that together or is that your personal summation? You are batting 1000. To answer your question, it could have been pete or anyone else in his same circumstance…but I do not think circumstances such as his are commonplace.

        You don’t need one sock or two…you need a shoe.

        • So So,

          Constant’s medical/surgical story is well known. I will continue to rely on the determination of medical professionals rather than political hacks.

          I have been a registered Democrat since I was 18 years old. I have been shocked and sickened to learn of and observe the foul inner circle of power in our local democratic party. It is a private club that bullies anyone that gets in their way, including good democrats that aren’t in the club.

  3. Pete

    Its really hard to listen to anything you say when your lips are moving(or in this case in print) . Its truely amazing that you bring up pension reform , since you are are one of Reeds puppets who refused to deal with or negotiate with city workers in an honest and Open way. You had every opportunity to TRY and do the right thing , but instead chose to follow Reeds lead and push for an illegal ballot measure . That is more than likely to be defeated in the courts . There is no doubt in my mind that you will push to appeal the decision when the city loses , costing San Jose residents Millions of Dollars more.
        Most Doctors and Nutritionists will tell you that only up to a certain age is whole milk actually beneficial , after that the pluses and negatives even out .  As far as the soda for the diabetic kid. Thats a stretch at best . the sugar in the soda is temporary fix ( 10-15 minutes at most) . Then what

    • Stuff your face and drink gallons of anything you want, just don’t do it at a city facility.  This is not government just a good call by a concerned council member.  But considering who sits on the rules committee (Pete) , he will blast Ash and shut this down in a heart beat because Ash in an outcast on this council.

  4. I like Ash, but I think he’s way off base here. I’m really disappointed in him for pushing this. I honestly think this ban is a waste of time and resources. Government should not interfere with our right to chose.

    I work with at risk youth,law enforcement, and families of homicide victims. In the scheme of things, having the Council waste its time on what we drink, rather than focusing on the REAL issues of our community is just mind boggling to me.

    Kids are dying in the street, Police Officers are short staffed, overworked, getting injured, leaving in droves, crime is sky rocketing, and we are focusing on this?

    Talk about the lack of priorities….

    • I think most are missing the point.  Ash is talking about city run facilities not trying to dictate fast food, or stores or any other place that sells such items.  I am sure Pete is worried he can’t get his soda at city hall when he can bring a case of soda, milk or whatever to his office.

      At least Ash is concerned about residents in city facilities.

      Wake up SJ this is how you pass stupid bills from some of the same on the city council.  Research bills, proposals and get off of the council cool aid.

  5. Rob Johnson, “I think most are missing the point.  Ash is talking about city run facilities not trying to dictate fast food, or stores or any other place that sells such items.”

    I respectfully disagree. He is invading our right to chose what is best for ourselves and our children. Ash should focus on public safety, our depleted Police force, and the increase in crime. That is and should be the one and only priority at City Hall right now.

    As to Pete’s motivation on coming out against this, well, none of us have fallen off a fruit truck lately. We get the politics in it.

    • And I disagree with you that is what is so great about this country.  Ash has focused on public safety, voting against Measure B, what a wise man trying to save this city millions.  Sad to say he is a minority of this council.

      If invading your rights to buy a soda then go to 7-11 before you bring your drink to the next council meeting.  Now if they deny you to bring the big gulp in then I will back you.

  6. Ash is just trying to get the nanny state’s nose under the proverbial tent by making the current discussion about “city run facilities.” The theory is that if this passes they can then come back with a more draconian law that would ban soda, milk or whatever is not politically correct this way. Let’s nip this in the bud and get government out of the kitchen.

  7. Pete-“As the father of five young children I understand the importance of an unhealthy diet for my kids.”….and giving away a San Jose city park (John Mise) to Archbishop Mitty guarantees them admission to one of the most desirable private schools in the state!!!!

    Ash-“And, I hope it is clear that this is not even close to the only item I am working on. Over the years I have been the most vocal advocate to maintaining public safety services. Mr. Pete Constant has routinely voted against my efforts to increase public safety resources time and again as crime has hit record levels in our neighborhoods.”

  8. Bluefin Tuna from Japan is completely irradiated from the Fukushima meltdown.  If a politician is going to show concern over what we consume I’d think it should be about radioactive tuna (maguro for the sushi literate) before a can of coke.  I’d rather be obese than radioactive.

  9. Good news! San Jose has DROPPED the soda ban.

    I agree with this public commenter:

    “I don’t believe in legislation that takes away my opportunities and choices,” said Kim Wickstrum, a Los Gatos mother of six who owns property in San Jose, adding that the city should focus on meatier fare like fixing pension costs and police understaffing.”

    • I am glad that the “ban” isn’t gong anywhere.

      It is amazing to me that so many are demanding Kalra focus on fixing pension costs and understaffing.

      I wholeheartedly agree the “soda ban” was foolish but I also know that Kalra has been one of the most reasoned advocates for both fixing pension costs and understaffing.

      Why is it that so many of you folks who are soooooo passionate and soooooo knowledgeable about fixing public employee pensions YET are so unaware of Kalra’s efforts on pension reform in San Jose and his support of retaining and restoring staff????

      Why is it that Ash Kalra doesn’t appear on any of you brilliant people’s radar until he makes a little noise about restricting access to your sugar water???

      Why is it that the guy with the disability for back problems directly associated to HIS OWN inability to control what he puts in his mouth is the loudest critic?

      • Meyer:  Mr. Kalra has been telling District 2 residents for years he is for pension reform.  Unfortunately Mr. Kalra has never outlined the basic elements of his pension reform plan.  Mr. Kalra had a huge opportunity to provide a better alternative to Measure B but he failed to provide residents with the details of his pension reform plan so they could compare with Mayor Reed’s plan.

        • Mayor Reed was presented with a few different options , from city workers . Those plans would have saved the city $500 million dollars in less than 5 years. Guaranteed! But that wasn’t good enough . Oh and that saving would have begun immediately. Pension reform is absolutely needed , but it must be done thru negotiations NOT Imposition.
              Lets all be honest this was never about “pensions” , that debt is nothing compared to what is owed by the airport or RDA . those two combined are triple what the pension debt is , But you NEVER hear the Mayor or any council member bring those debts up . why is that ?
              Measure B will be beat down in the courts , it is simply illegal . so the real losers in the mayors gamble are the residents of San Jose

        • See DisgustedinSJ’s post… it is just one of several alternative (to measure B) pension reform measures that Mr Kalra attempted to submit to his colleagues on the council. 

          The majority on the council weren’t interested in alternatives to Measure B and were not interested in publically acknowledging that alternatives existed when they were crafting Measure B. Those alternatives still exist and are viable alternatives to Measure B should the City ever give up its defense of “B”

          Folks in District 2 and in all districts will be begging City Employee bargaining units to re-submit some of those offers in the near future when the total bill that the taxpayers of this City will be stuck with comes due when Reed’s Gamble
          (measure B) is ruled to be illegal.

          The same City employees who VOLUNTARILY gave back 10% of their salaries (on Reed’s promise that he would restore that pay when the City was better off) to help the City get back in to the black were more than willing to accept REAL – NEGOTIATED pension reform at one time – now that we know the City was lying about the true state of its finances it will be difficult (not impossible but very difficult) to convince them to negotiate for real reform

          The employees wanted to do everything they could to avoid all the bad things that have happened to services, staffing, employee morale crime…..the same things that Reed told you were just “scare tactics from union thugs” and that they would never happen THAT HAVE ALL HAPPENED!  Roads in worse shape than ever, libraries still closed, police and fire fighters staffed at low and unsafe levels, crime rates through the roof and no end in site because thanks to Measures V, W and B the City can’t recruit people to fill job openings at every level up through department head!!!

          Reed will be termed out (not) soon enough as will all the other council members who sold you a bill of goods.

          It is up to YOU now to demand that the Mayor and Council stop the nonsense and do everything in their power to turn things around.

          The one good thing that came out of the recent Measure V arbitration results where “Judge” Flaherty ruled in favor of Reed against the police department is this: 

          The Police Union PROVED that the “City” government elected and appointed “leaders” are nothing but LIARS!  The POA forced the City to admit that they had 10’s of millions of dollars (OUR TAX DOLLARS) more HIDDEN off “the books.”

          are you paying attention” are you listening? THEY LIED TO US in order to get B, V and W passed – they said they didn’t have any money (and it turns out that they did) they said V, W and B would “preserve jobs and protect essential City services” and that was a lie!

          The City Manager and her staff are corrupt. The mayor and some members of the council are corrupt. They lie!