Tractor trailers, many emblazoned with soda name brands on their sides, surrounded Philadelphia City Hall two hours before a public hearing Wednesday evening on Mayor Jim Kenney's proposed "soda tax."
The drivers were joined by other groups who objected to the tax, including corner store coalitions and beverage distributors, which rely on soda and other sugary drinks for revenue.
Most of the organizations and businesses against Kenney's proposed 3-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks are part of an umbrella group called Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax Coalition.
Protesters with that group spoke at a rally outside City Hall before the 5 p.m. budget hearing in council chambers. The hearing was one of two chances the public will get to speak to council about the entire city budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The budget would begin July 1, if approved by council.
Speakers at the rally included Dany Vinas, owner of CTOWN Supermarket; Anne McNally, owner of McNally Tavern; Danny Grace, business manager for the Philadelphia Teamsters; and Miguel Martinez, the head of the Dominican Merchants Association.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined in on the soda tax debate, contributing an undisclosed sum to a nonprofit group starting an $825,000 ad campaign in support of the tax.
Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully to ban oversized sodas in New York, and supported successful soda-tax efforts in Mexico and Berkeley, California.
The American Beverage Association has already spent more than $1.5 million on its Philadelphia anti-tax campaign.