Southern Brooklyn

Op-Ed: Mayor’s Critics Think He’s A Super-Sized Soda Jerk

SUGAR! (Source: Uwe Hermann/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES:  Somewhere in TV heaven, Brooklyn icon Ralph Kramden is so annoyed and likely supports the legions of angry New Yorkers, who are upset over Mayor Bloomberg’s latest proposal, that he’s been shouting, “How sweet it ain’t.”

New Yorkers with expanding waistlines have visibly ignored repeated advice from health pros and nutritionists that too much sugar may lead to a variety of health-related issues.

But don’t fret: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a veteran proponent of healthier lifestyles, is on our case.

More than two years after the mayor encouraged a reduction in salt intake when he urged food manufacturers and food chains to reduce the amount of salt in their offerings, he’s targeted another reduction for a condiment on the opposite end of the taste spectrum. That came on the heels of previous Bloomberg’s health-related campaigns, such smoking bans in public offices and spaces and a trans-fat ban in restaurants.

The mayor’s latest scheme would prohibit food service establishments from selling sugar-laden beverages that contain more than 25 calories per eight fluid ounces. The proposal needs to be approved by the city’s Department of Health before restaurants, some bodegas and movie theatres will be forced to reduce the size of sugary drinks or face fines expected to be about $200 per violation. However, supermarkets and grocery stores will still be permitted to sell super-sized soft drinks.

Bloomberg’s opponents could care less that his proposed ban is not a broad prohibition on sugary drinks, which is why the outcry, in some circles, is a bit much.

No sooner did the mayor announce the proposal last week than there was a deluge of controversy and debate, including a witty Facebook photo (via the Looking Spoon website) that depicts an out-of-date soda fountain worker adjacent to the mayor depicted as a contemporary “soda jerk.”

Some are whining that this is just more uncalled for meddling by Bloomberg into a matter that he should just avoid — their personal lives. However, the pro-business web site,, may have gone too far last Thursday when it referred to Bloomberg as a “Sugar Nazi” and a tyrannical dictator.

Since when is the right to an excess of sugar guaranteed by the Constitution? Nonetheless, some people may believe is included in their gluttonous pursuit of happiness.

The mayor’s announcement also prompted the American Beverage Association to fight back with a full page ad in Friday’s Daily News with claims that sugar sweetened beverages are not as much of a problem leading to obesity as the mayor claims. The ad asserts that calories from beverages have decreased over the last decade while obesity rates have climbed, implying that sugary sodas are not the problem.

Despite the uproar, the mayor’s supported by lots of evidence — drinking beverages, like a 20-ounce soda that contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar. Health experts maintain that amount is unsafe as it increases the risks of obesity, diabetes and other ailments. Though his style lacks the compassion of a caring parent, the well-being of our children and all Americans is at stake.

Unless you’ve been in solitary confinement for the last decade, we all know that obesity has reached epidemic proportions nationwide, as well as a locally. According to city Health Department statistics, well over half of New Yorkers are either obese or overweight, with almost a third of that number being children between ages six and 11.

Bloomberg critics say it’s none of his business if people choose to ignore warnings about unhealthy diets and let their waistlines expand. But the mayor’s agenda can help reduce health costs, which are strangling the nation’s and personal budgets. A little bit less here and there couldn’t hurt and might, over time, prove to be wise decision.

Decades ago, I went cold turkey and stopped adding natural or artificial sweeteners to my daily cup of coffee. Prior to that I drastically reduced my consumption of soda after I spilled some on the hood of an old car and the paint quickly disappeared. While soda doesn’t eat away at a stomach like it did the surface of my car, it did raise a red flag that the chemicals in that soft drink must be risky. These days I prefer sugarless or diet iced teas, unsweetened lemonade or refrigerated tap or bottled water. Good article about the dangers of Splenda and many other artificial sweeteners can be found here.

Despite all the debate, Bloomberg does have a salient argument. After all, it would be extremely unflattering if the city became known as the Really Big Apple.

Nevertheless, the mayor’s proposal should be a signal to adults, especially parents, to take a more responsible role. While they may consider the ban unduly intrusive, it should make adults more aware that less sugar would be more beneficial to their own and their children’s health.

If the Health Department approves the sugar ban, it is not expected to take effect until next March. Nine months after that, Michael Bloomberg will be out of office. Perhaps those who don’t see eye to eye with his latest or prior dietary and nutritional regulations will salute his exit by gulping down a sweet, super-sized soda.

You gotta admit that, except for a fleeting thirst quench, those extra large and super-sized sugar-laden soft drinks have absolutely no positive or nutritional value. Despite the practical advice, albeit from a politician not a health professional, in this instance, most people think Mayor Michael Bloomberg ain’t nothin’ but a soda jerk.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. “Since when is the right to an excess of sugar guaranteed by the Constitution”
    Considering the things you have written in the past the word Constitution shouldn’t even be in your vocabulary.

  2. In my opinion this is an infridgement on the  public. This should be your personal decision re: soda. Also this is how he would like to make more money with other tickets to be giving out. But remember this has to go before the legislator. Why can’t he just leave well enough along. What’s next??

  3. I write Between the Lines, which doesn’t mean your skewed interpretation of my defense of civil liberties should read between them.

  4. nobody seems to realize the ban is on size. everyone’s acting as if they’ll never be able to drink soda ever again. 

  5. Heres another flaw with this law.  This law is being referred to as “The Big Gulp Law”.  Establishments like 7-11 and McDonalds and other franchises like them will be exempt from the Mayor’s ban because franchises are regulated by the State of NY not the City.  So it seems like its another shot at small business.

  6. I already have a daddy, and I don’t need Bloomberg trying to be mine and controlling every detail of my life. What’s next, a citywide bedtime? Will we get spankings from the city council if we don’t eat our vegetables? As an adult, I have the right to make my own decisions, even if they are unhealthy decisions. 

  7. That’s not the point. The point is that people should have the freedom to make their own choices. 

  8. Guess the folks at Walt Disney also think they have a responsibility to promote healthier diets: (from today’s NY Times)
    In an effort to address concerns about entertainment’s role in childhood obesity, the Walt Disney Company announced on Tuesday that all products advertised on its child-focused television channels, radio stations and Web sites must comply with a strict new set of nutritional standards.
    Are they meddling too?

  9. No. They are a private company and they can create any standards they like for themselves. Totally different from the government telling people what they can or cannot buy and sell. 

  10. AH….. sugar cubes I remember when they were differant fantastic colors, a surprise in every one.

  11. His proposal is also aimed at soda-guzzling children who put their lives at risk with every big gulp they drink!

  12. If you cant understand the difference between a private company making business decisions for themselves and going in a direction the feel is right and the government or political figure trying to tell people how they should live thier lives you have some serious issues you need to deal with. I am not saying that soda is good for anyone but its not govt. business what or how much i drink as long as its a legal beverage.

  13. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this initiative of Bloomberg’s … frankly, there’s a lot of validity to the argument that there’s really no need for ginormous sugary beverages. I think it’s a weird loophole in the law tho’ … as Big Gulps (7-11) will not be affected by this new law.

    One would really have to be sticking their head in the sand to truly believe that the super sizing of sodas (and other fast food items) as well as the increase in portion sizes in chain restaurants have no impact on the growing obesity problem. Comparatively, as soda sizes have increased since the 70’s, as well as the prevalent use of HFS, we as a nation have gotten larger.

  14. No business of government. I may be wrong but I consider MYSELF to by the owner of MY BODY!

  15. […] Op-Ed: Mayor's Critics Think He's A Super-Sized Soda JerkSheepshead Bitesby Neil S. Friedman on Jun 5th, 2012 BETWEEN THE LINES: Somewhere in TV heaven, Brooklyn icon Ralph Kramden is so annoyed and likely supports the legions of angry New Yorkers, who are upset over Mayor Bloomberg's latest proposal, that he's been … […]

  16. I had heartburn my whole life. About ten years ago i started getting acid reflux at night. Woke up couldn’t breath nasty taste. You can get a sample from “Official Samples” online.

  17. You can’t buy a 32 ounce soda. You can buy 2 16 ounce sodas. You also get to pay more sales tax which means more money for the city. 

  18. That may be true, but you body owners still go to a hospital when you get sick. And then the tax payer has to pay for those hospital bills.  

  19. Like i said it doesnt show anything. There arent any postings. From what i read from you in the past im sure its only things that you personally believe in. Either way i am willing to read them if you can provide a working link. 

  20. What I would like to know is why the mayor in this case can bypass the city council and only needs Health department approval, while in other cases we need State approval or even a referendum?

  21. Here, for your drinking pleasure.
    Soda Jerk Michael Bloomberg Strikes Again (Nanny of the Month, May 2012)(Video)…

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