By Serafina Lombardi, NMAA Staff
The acequia meeting is a time to visit with friends, a stage to quarrel with neighbors. Will anyone show? Will everyone show?! Whether you look forward to meetings, or can’t wait for it to be over with, we can agree on one thing: Acequia meetings are a cornerstone of Troja in family trastero- Photo taken by Deborah Rivera
our democratic institutions and important decisions are made here. So let’s get it right.
Regardless of being an expert at Roberts Rules or a novice to community meetings there are some steps you can take to achieve your goals of holding transparent, productive meetings that comply with state statute and why does state statute matter? Because acequias are political subdivisions of the state, local governments (I know you knew that already, but it is my job to repeat this whenever I can).
Recipe for a good meeting:
Preparation Before Cooking
Like calibrating your oven to ensure things cook evenly and at the right temperature, adopt the Open Meetings Act Resolution. This will support the acequia in being prepared with the right ingredients. See our webpage or contact the office for the template and guidance.
1 Good Agenda
Like a good sourdough this takes some preparation. The Commission should create an agenda including any topics that need to be voted on, this is your guide to what you want to accomplish, get input on controversial issues, approve changes to bylaws, get buy-in for a new infrastructure project etc. Any items added at the meeting (by a vote of members eligible to vote) can be discussed but NOT voted on.
10 Days Public Notice
Letting the dough rise. The agenda must be posted (in accordance with bylaws and the Open Meetings Act). This means, at a minimum, posting in a public place – often at the local post office 10 days in advance of the meeting. The commission may opt, or your bylaws may direct you to snail mail email or call parciantes to give them notice (if the acequia has a website you MUST also post there). You can always go above and beyond what the bylaws call for, like adding shredded coconut or rosemary when it’s not called for (yum).
1 heaping cup of Quorum
This means a majority of parciantes according to your bylaws – this could mean only counting those members current with their dues (this can be like sorting beans – you don’t have to count the non-conforming ones). Also, only 1 person is counted per household (or co-tenancy). Quorum could be tallied using proportional votes based on acreage, or one vote per parciante – again, see your bylaws and/or call NMAA if you have questions. OJO: the public – anyone can attend the meeting and have comments – but do not count towards quorum, only members can vote. If you cannot obtain a quorum you can still discuss the agenda without voting on items. You could also re-post the meeting and do more outreach, or you may need to revise your bylaws to determine an attainable quorum. You may find this to be a very special ingredient that acts differently according to altitude/attitude.
1 Generous Tablespoon Decorum
Let’s all be on our best behavior and listen to each other – at the end of the day this is what most of us want, to be heard. The acequia has the right to conduct business and no one should obstruct or disrupt that. Many people are not accustomed to formal meetings and need to be open to learning and kindly being coached on the norms and practices of the acequia. All parciantes can model this. This is the sugar that makes the medicine go down.
Options for making it exceptional
– Consider sprinkling some celebration in your meeting, food, music, social time . . .
– Do you have special traditions that could be revived? Could a meeting be paired with a celebration of el Primer Agua or something else that engages youth and families?
– Can you make time to ask bigger picture questions?
– Is there a guest speaker who would add useful information or inspiration to the meeting?
– Can you invite local youth to share about their relationship with the acequia?
– Any room for forgiveness? Any grudges we can let go of? Hugs that can be shared rather than withheld?
Regardless of how past meetings have gone – or what you envision for future meetings of the acequia, NMAA is here to offer technical support and advice to achieving meetings that bring life to the community and support the acequia in moving forward – because before and after the meeting there is a whole lotta work to do, in our fields, families and along the bordos.
Good luck and God bless! We hope it turns out delicious.