Business partnership works

Alex Stettinski is the executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership.

The RN&R’s May 16 editorial was premised on the erroneous belief that “small business owners are essentially paying taxes given to a nonprofit overseen by some of downtown’s most powerful businesses.” This is flatly wrong. No business in the Downtown Reno Business Improvement District is “taxed” or even assessed. The only people paying assessments to fund the work we do at the Downtown Reno Partnership are property owners, who elected to assess themselves in 2018 because the previous two city-run assessment districts didn’t achieve their goals after more than 20 years. The owners and the city believed our ambassadors, marketing and economic development efforts were necessary to stabilize downtown and revitalize it.

This information is readily available both on the City of Reno’s website and ours, where we explicitly explain the funding structure of our nonprofit and how it was formed: It is unfortunate that the RN&R’s editorial staff did not to take advantage of these public resources to learn more about us and the work we do in order to make a meaningful critique.

It’s unfortunate that the RN&R teased our ambassadors, who tirelessly walk, bike and Segway the streets 365 days a year. Calling them “glorified hall monitors” is churlish. We invite your staff to spend a day learning more about how they save lives, find services and housing for people, work with city services to clean up the streets and increase foot traffic for small businesses.

Further, our 16-person board of directors is made up of multiple representatives of the downtown community, including large business, small business, property owners, nonprofits and residents who applied for the positions, and appointed municipal representatives. Board members’ applications and those who were not selected are also available on our website for anyone to read. Because of the way business improvement districts operate, it is not only appropriate but expected for those people to be on our board.

Our board and meetings are consistent with the American system of representation. The people who are being assessed and the business district we are trying to help have a seat at the table and determine what we do and how we do it. We also hold monthly board meetings open to the public and quarterly Downtown Halls that further engage the community. We invite you and your staff to attend these meetings and become part of that community.

What we’ve accomplished in the first six months, who we work with, and how we operate are fully accessible to everyone. We welcome criticism and feedback, but we simply ask that next time your staff Google us, or pick up the phone, or look around, and couch your critiques in reality.