Amid the financial scandal at Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street (HJSMS), every Main Street organization should be reviewing its accounting practices and reassuring the public. But there also should be a review of the entire Boston Main Streets program and its blurry combination of private nonprofits with a city department.
Mayor Thomas Menino established the groundbreaking Boston Main Streets in 1995 to revitalize commercial districts. It consists of local, independent nonprofits overseen by a City Hall agency. Local Main Streets directors answer to an independent board, but also rely on City Hall for funding and political policy directives. The result is a city department by proxy. With Main Streets, it can be hard to tell where the buck stops—or starts. That could breed abuse of the system.
Main Streets is one of Menino’s brilliant brainchildren, and any review should aim to preserve and bolster its widespread successes. In JP, Egleston Square Main Street is a community organizing savior, and JP Centre/South Main Streets is an art scene powerhouse. Perhaps the relative quiet at HJSMS in recent years should have been a warning sign. But who exactly should be watching for one?