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Making choices without government help
July 06, 2010, 01:42 AM By Charlie Bronitsky

I would like to take the opportunity to clarify my position in the July 1 article "Struggling nonprofits bracing for more cuts.” The largest source of income for most cities is property tax. Owners of real property are required by law to pay tax at the rates set in accordance with Proposition 13. If they do not pay the tax, the city may lien and foreclose upon their property to obtain payment.

Cities provide primarily public safety, water, waste water, sewer, infrastructure maintenance, trash collection and many things that affect a resident’s day to day life. It is for that purpose, which benefits the residents and businesses in a city as a whole, that taxes are used.

Individuals can, if they choose, freely support agencies that provide services for those in need. I and most of the people I associate with, strongly support those agencies with our funds and our time. However, if we choose not to, or if we are financially unable to, then we have the choice not to do so.

When a city takes taxpayer money and provides it to private agencies, it removes the ability to choose from the individual. Taken to its greatest extreme, the logic that suggests that cities should give taxpayer money to private agencies also support the conclusion that the government should have the power to take everyone’s money and reallocate it in any way that government officials deem proper. It is that concept that I object to. No city government should have the power to take money from someone and, without their consent, give it away. It is within the ability of every individual, every resident to decide for her or himself whether she or he has surplus income and whether she or he wishes to give that to an agency that provides social services. That is not a decision that a city council needs to make.

I just as strongly believe that everyone should decide to help those in need. I do not, however, see myself as any wiser than anyone else or empowered to decide to do with other people’s money what I wish, regardless of what they want. Each of us can make those decisions for themselves. The residents of Foster City work hard for their money and they should have the right to choose how it is spent to provide services other than those services that the city is obligated to provide. In fact, it was suggested to me that my comments had caused many more people to give and donations in the local area have since increased. I know that it is my intent to increase what I give this year, but again, that is my choice, not the city government’s.

Finally, as to Thrive, Thrive asked me to have lunch with them. What I told them was, one, I was not available during the suggested time and, two, that if Thrive wanted to talk to me about my vote on the council, they could do so at any council meeting in the public forum in front of the entire council, rather than in a private meeting with me. My rationale is that the business of the city should be conducted in public so that the public can have trust in its officials and thereby know and understand why they make decisions. Not only is that a good practice, it is the law.

Charlie Bronitsky is a member of the Foster City Council.

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