THE NUTTER administration is clearly proud of the high-minded decision it has made to refuse money for an anti-obesity program that would be run through the city's health centers because the money would come from the American Beverage Association, which represents companies that make sugary soda. So proud, in fact, that the mayor himself took to tweeting this battle cry yesterday: "Taking money from Big Soda to fight obesity is like taking money from the NRA to fight guns. You can't buy this City Hall."
Does that mean the mayor will return the $30,000-plus in campaign contributions from soda mogul Harold Honickman?
Nutter's office says that's different: Donations to an individual candidate are different from funding a government program. To us, that seems to be a convenient argument that doesn't hold water - or soda.
It's similar to the argument the administration makes for why the anti-beverage stand, reported in yesterday's Inquirer, doesn't conflict with the idea of anonymous donations that the city helped orchestrate to buy out Arlene Ackerman's contract.
We do think that principles are a good thing, especially when it comes to donations. We don't even think that the city should be faulted for turning down the program, especially given that it has stimulus money already funding its own program.
We just wish it reflected a larger, consistent policy on such donations. Especially since, in this global multinational world, these ethical dilemmas can be complicated. For example, sugar is only part of what the Beverage Association represents; bottlers of healthier beverages like water, fruit juice, ice tea, and less-healthy but nonfattening diet soda are also members. And the beverage industry represents a small portion of the sugar that wreaks havoc on young (and old) bodies. Likening this association to the NRA, whose only purpose is to promote the use of guns, seems like unfair demonization.
(Besides, if the NRA funded programs to cut down on gun ownership, we'd vote thumbs-up for taking that money. )
Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, which offered the program to the city, is a living example of this difficulty; no one doubts its commitment to kids' health, despite the on-site presence of a McDonald's.
Such difficulties argue for a clear policy, which the city doesn't have. If it did, for example, we wouldn't wonder why banks, which are part of the financial industry that sent a hand grenade through the economy, shouldn't be considered pariahs instead of strong community partners.
The point: Corporate donations to government entities can be a very slippery slope.