Sugary-drinks industry sweetens pot for Philadelphia City Council candidates

Posted: November 13, 2011

If you want evidence that the sugared-beverage industry and its friends are worried that Mayor Nutter may try to tax their product again, look no further than the most recent contributions to City Council candidates.

Since the May primary, industry leaders and political action committees gave at least $49,000 to Council incumbents and hopefuls.

The bulk of the contributions, $31,000, came from the family of Harold Honickman, owners of Pepsi and Canada Dry bottling operations in New Jersey that provide nearly 20 percent of the city's soft drinks.

Two industry political action committees, the Liberty Bell Beverage PAC and the New York City Pepsi Cola PAC, gave $13,600.

Teamsters Local 830, which was front and center in the fight against the soda tax, gave $500 each to Mark Squilla, who just won the First District Council race, and Brian J. O'Neill, who was reelected to the 10th District seat Tuesday.

Two other Teamsters locals, 115 and 628, gave $3,500 combined to O'Neill and Squilla.

O'Neill and Councilman Bill Green were the two largest recipients, receiving $9,500 and $10,100 since the primary.

Larry Ceisler, a spokesman for a coalition of bottling companies, local businesses, and union members who opposed the soda tax, said the Honickmans donate to politicians for many reasons.

"Harold Honickman is certainly a key member of the coalition and his contributions carry the message of his continued opposition to a tax, but in fairness to him," Ceisler said, "he also supports people who share his vision of stricter gun laws, providing for the homeless, and a vibrant arts and culture community." - Miriam Hill

Clarke appears in line for Council presidency

By the end of last week, it seemed accepted wisdom that Darrell L. Clarke would become the next president of Council. Clarke, never one to show his hand long before the game is over, has not yet claimed victory.

But with new GOP Councilman Dennis O'Brien saying he will back Clarke, his presidency seems almost inevitable. Mayor Nutter has been backing Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, and it's possible he could do some last-minute horse-trading to swing a few Council votes her way, but consensus among political observers is that the mayor does not have that kind of pull.

One option for Nutter might be to back Councilman Jim Kenney for president instead, but chances of that appeared to be fading last week. - Miriam Hill

Oh hoping 122 is a luckier number this year

Finally, an item from Heard in the Hall, Twilight Zone edition: For the second time in four years, David Oh finds himself facing a tedious counting of ballots to determine whether he or his opponent, this time Al Taubenberger will get a Republican at-large seat on Council.

In 2007, deciding who had won that race took two weeks, with Jack Kelly finally defeating Oh by 122 votes.

On Tuesday, voters had to push button 122 to vote for Oh. Coincidence? You decide. Counting in the Oh-Taubenberger race resumes Monday. - Miriam Hill

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