An open MainStreet

Posted 1/23/20

Taos MainStreet, like all other MainStreet programs around the state, is a private-public partnership and nonprofit meant to foster economic health in the historic downtown district.

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An open MainStreet

Posted

Taos MainStreet, like all other MainStreet programs around the state, is a private-public partnership and nonprofit meant to foster economic health in the historic downtown district.

That means, according to the state, it does not have to operate under the rules of open meetings and access to information required of governments and nonprofits that directly receive public money.

Even if it isn't required, Taos MainStreet should meet those standards of transparency and openness anyway. It will help its reputation and projects in the long run. Taos is known to be suspicious of just about any projects planned for its downtown area that are more extensive than hanging flowers and stringing holiday lights.

Taos MainStreet is barely up and running, with a newly hired director who is just beginning the organization's work. It will take time for the group to get rolling. This is the perfect time for the group to consider how to conduct business.

Reporter Jesse Moya this week details more about the group and its new executive director.

According to the group, this is what Taos MainStreet is about: "To facilitate a shared vision for our downtown, encourage economic vitality and celebrate Taos' cultural and historic assets.

"We coordinate economic development opportunities for local businesses.

"We work with merchants and property owners to improve their businesses and structures. We make downtown design improvements and restore our proud history."

Taos should appreciate the efforts the group undertook to qualify under state rules as a MainStreet program.

Here are actions the Taos MainStreet group should take now and into the future in the interest of transparency and building public trust.

1. Post meeting dates on the Taos MainStreet website and invite the public to attend, even if that is not required. The organization can still hold closed discussions of contracts, legal matters and personnel, the same as local governments. But a simple posting of the date, time and place of meetings is important.

2. Taos MainStreet does not directly receive public money since the town of Taos manages public funds that benefit the MainStreet program. Nevertheless, where those funds are spent should be public record.

3. The names and affiliations of each director should be posted on the website, as is done in other MainStreet programs.

4. Taos MainStreet should work closely with the town's Historic Preservation Commission. This is an expectation of the state since the two share a common goal - preserving downtown while boosting its economic vitality.

5. As a nonprofit, Taos MainStreet - listed as Downtown Taos for nonprofit filings - is required to file a federal tax form 990 each year. That report should be posted on its website. MainStreet, along with every nonprofit in Taos County, should also register with GuideStar and send reports to the site, which rates the quality of these organizations.

6. As it proposes and accomplishes projects for downtown, those also should be clearly listed on the Taos MainStreet website.

It will be exciting to see what Taos MainStreet accomplishes in the year ahead and it deserves community support. The more openly it involves the community, the more support it can generate.

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