Hyattsville’s National Night Out gets international twist -- Gazette.Net


Hyattsville’s National Night Out, an event that promotes crime-prevention efforts and greater collaboration between police and residents, might have a more global flavor this year. But that’s not cutting it for some council members who want a separate International Street Festival.

At a June 17 meeting, the town approved an additional $15,000 to the police department’s budget to support funding for National Night Out, which is scheduled for Aug. 6, and include elements of the recently discontinued International Street Festival. Previously, the police department relied on donations from sponsors for funding.

The town is in the process of planning the details for National Night Out, but community services director Abby Sandel said the event will feature two internationally themed performing groups that have not yet been named. .

Councilwoman Paula Perry (Ward 5) said the International Street Festival — which took place annually in the summer until 2011, when scheduling challenges ended the 15-year-long tradition — should have its own event, but acknowledged National Night Out could be a worthwhile alternative for the town.

“I am not happy this year that we even had to combine it. But I also know that National Night Out is a very big deal to the community. So you’re caught between what do you do or don’t do,” Perry said.

According to 2010 Census data, African-Americans comprised 35.6 percent and Hispanics made up 34.0 percent of the city’s population.

The International Street Festival was designed to celebrate the town’s diversity with musicians and food stands representing different cultures in the town, officials said.

In past years, Hyattsville budgeted $18,000 for the International Street Festival; however, the city is facing a $1.27 million loss in revenue from property taxes and is creating a $1.6 million trust fund to pay for retired city employees’ health-care costs in fiscal 2014.

As a result, officials are using money from the city’s reserve fund to help make up the difference in the proposed $16.6 million budget for next fiscal year.

Last November, the town spent $46,000 on Handmade on Hamilton: An International Festival of Craft, Food and Music, an alternative to the International Street Festival.

“I was upset that they had done away with [the International Street Festival], and I wasn’t happy with last year’s result when they changed it to Handmade on Hamilton. I knew then that wasn’t going to work because of the time of year that they chose to have it,” Perry said.

Councilman Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) said council members from wards 4 and 5, which are in the western part of the city, wanted a festival on Hamilton Street.

During a May meeting, officials agreed to move National Night Out from Magruder Park to Hamilton Street as a compromise. Relocating required expanding National Night Out’s budget to $15,000, with street closing expenditures accounting for a large portion of that total.

Sandel said the western part of the city has a reputation as being less safe, so hosting the event on Hamilton Street could ease some of those concerns.

“Putting a public safety event where there is this concern about public safety, it addresses a lot of community needs,” Sandel said.

Five of the 11 officials voted unsuccessfully during the June 17 meeting to table the decision for 48 hours.

Sgt. Chris Purvis, Hyattsville Police Department spokesman, is optimistic the hybrid event will draw a crowd.

“We’re always open to change,” Purvis said. “We’ll see how it goes.”