Taos Valley Acequia Association Meeting -Photo taken by Taos News
Acequias have a long history of annual meetings and have their customary ways of running their meetings. This year, NMAA is asking acequias to use their annual meetings to engage more families and youth. Some of our recommendations for strengthening community, culture, and youth participation intertwined with the acequias this spring include the following:
- Primer Agua – Include in your annual meeting agenda, along with plans for cleaning the acequia, some type of Primer Agua celebration on the first day that water is released into the acequia.
- Youth Involvement – Invite youth to the annual meeting and recognize or introduce them at the beginning of the meeting. Establish a youth acequia advisory position or committee to give young people the opportunity to learn more about acequia governance.
- Have a meal (or at least snacks) – Invite your parciantes to have a pot luck on the day of your annual meeting. Food always makes meetings more festive and enjoyable.
- Reports to Membership – Have an update on positive projects relating to the acequia, highlight the work of farmers and ranchers, invite a speaker to talk about an acequia topic of interest to your acequia, etc.
In addition, acequia elected officials have important business to conduct at annual meetings. The following are some suggestions for having an effective membership meeting.
- List of Parciantes. The annual meeting is a good opportunity for elected officials to update the list of parciantes in good standing. One important responsibility of the Treasurer is to ensure that parciantes are up to date on assessments. According to statutes governing acequias, an acequia can require that the only members in good standing are eligible to vote. In case any decisions are made at the annual membership meeting, the acequia commission should have a list of members in good standing who are eligible to vote to avoid any confusion at meetings.
Open Meetings Act Compliance. Acequias are required to comply with the Open Meetings Act, which means that acequia meeting are open to the public.
- Resolution. Acequias should adopt an Open Meetings Act resolution that defines what is adequate public notice. NMAA has a template available for use by acequias that recommends 10-day notice for membership meetings and 3-day notice of commission meetings.
- Posting of Notice. For the acequia annual meeting, NMAA recommends posting a notice in a public place 10 days in advance of the meeting with information about how to get a copy of the agenda at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting. An acequia can provide additional, optional notice through mail, email, or newspaper publication.
- Agenda. The final agenda for the meeting should be available 72 hours prior to a meeting. The agenda can be included on the posted notice for the acequia or the notice can indicate how a member of the public can obtain a copy of the agenda. Action items are required to be on the final agenda (72 hours) which means that no actions at the meeting should be taken unless they were specifically included on the agenda. It is allowable to add information items on the day of the meeting but not action items. Sticking to this rule will make meetings much more manageable.
- Minutes. The Secretary should present minutes of the last membership meeting for approval by the membership. The minutes should follow the same format of the agenda and should describe each action taken along with the vote. Discussion items need not have extensive detail but only a brief synopsis of the discussion.
Note: It is also a common practice to have annual meetings in the Fall, particularly among acequias who prefer to follow dates specified in statute, either in October or December, depending on the county. Statutes also suggest that a meeting can be called “as soon as practicable thereafter.” Therefore, it is fine for acequias to have their annual membership meeting at the time deemed best for that acequia.