Soda tax is an example of why Cook County needs change

Soda tax is an example of why Cook County needs change
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Soda tax is an example of why Cook County needs change

The Preckwinkle tax on all sweetened drink sales in Cook County primarily slams residents of the Chicagoland suburbs, but is premised on a misleading, political lie: that it is intended to improve the health of the public. But, Preckwinkle intentionally left out the people who need healthcare most, the poor who rely on county, state and Federal subsidies. SNAP recipients are excluded from paying the tax

By Ray Hanania

Ray HananiaWhen Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pushed through the tax on Soda and sweetened drink – it’s misleading to make it sound like it’s only on soda – she had a specific purpose.

She claims it was to raise money and contribute to a healthier society. Sweetened soda pop and other drinks with artificial sweeteners are unhealthy, she claims.

Yet, one of her first acts was to make sure that many of her Chicago constituents, where her voter base is located, are excluded.

It’s the politics of poverty. Chicago has more low income residents than any other region of Cook County. There are low income residents in the suburbs, to, but the majority are in Chicago.



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Chicago controls the Cook County Board. Preckwinkle come from Chicago where she gets the bulk of her voter support. She has to keep them happy.

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinkle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Preckwinkle excluded recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) from having to pay the new Sweetened Drink Tax. There are nearly 1.1 million people receiving SNAP benefits in Cook County. The vast majority of them live in Chicago. They vote.

Preckwinkle doesn’t need our suburban votes because the county is crafted to dilute suburban voter strength. Several County Districts based in Chicago “steal” suburban areas for padding. In those districts, the suburbanites there are hostage to Chicago.

But I have another bigger concern about the outrageous Sweetened Drink Tax. If drinking sweetened drinks is so “unhealthy,” why does she think it’s ok to exclude poor recipients of SNAP?

Doesn’t their health matter?

This tax has nothing to do with health. It has everything to do with money and votes.

Preckwinkle also pushed through another ordinance to raise the Minimum Wage in Cook County. The bill basically incorporates the same minimum wage rates imposed by Chicago.

Fortunately, more than 70 percent of the county’s 132 municipalities Opted Out. The State of Illinois has a minimum wage ordinance that works. The hike would seriously harm suburban businesses.

Preckwinkle and the County Board are appealing to a hard core base of lower income voters, most of whom rely on retail jobs where the minimum wage would be impacted.

They want those suburban SNAP voters to strengthen their control of the county.

Every time Chicago has a problem, Chicago and its minions on the Cook County Board slam the suburbs. Why? Because the suburbs are disjointed and divided into 132 municipalities that don’t always see eye-to-eye.

The Chicago Schools have a problem so Chicago pushes the state to give its under-performing school system more money. Where do they get the money? They are taking millions from money that ordinarily goes to the “suburbs” which has the image of being wealthy but is not.

That means people who live in these suburbs have to pay more school taxes.

Did you ever wonder why the largest amount of money from your tax bill, as much as 60 percent to 70 percent goes to your local schools? Because Chicago, with Cook County’s help, push the money to Chicago schools by continually changing the school funding formula to benefit Chicago.

They do the same thing with the CTA, a system of transportation that can’t pay for itself.

Why do you think the State has a problem? Because the suburbs have been exploiting pension wages? The answer is in Chicago, which is why the only answer anyone has is to raise state income taxes on the people who work.

Am I being unfair?

Well, as a suburban Cook County taxpayer who works hard and pays a bundle in taxes, I think I have the right.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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