June 10, 2010; Source: The Daily Journal | Foster City, California doesn’t have a big budget, much less a lot of money to give to nonprofits. The City Council went through requests from a dozen or so nonprofits, from theater groups to legal aid providers—the requests totaling only $33,000. Three members of the Council voted to fund all of the requests, though mostly at lower levels than requested. The Mayor voted in favor of only two.

But freshman councilman Charlie Bronitsky rejected the entire lot. His theory is that it’s wrong for municipal governments to fund nonprofits at all. As he wrote on a municipal blog, “ . . . if you or I want to give our money to those agencies, it should be up to you or me. I believe that governments have no place giving tax dollars to nonprofits, especially when we do not have enough revenue to meet our own expenses without going into our reserves.”

The mayor isn’t entirely unsympathetic to Bronitsky, contending that “when we have to reduce expenditures . . . I don’t know why we give money to some of these groups.” These are the small nonprofits and small tiny government grants that don’t register on the radar screens of big funders and big nonprofits. But on a locality-by-locality basis, this tug-of-war over minuscule amounts of funding is increasingly common and creating tensions between two sectors—government and nonprofits—that are natural allies in responding to human need.—Rick Cohen