Last year’s Mercer Island National Night Out celebration brought a band to City Hall and featured tours of the police station, police cars, fire trucks and public works vehicles. Firefighters and police took to the grill and cooked up hot dogs.
The National Night Out celebrations this year will be a little different.
Due to a lack of city funding, there will be no city celebration. And no money allocated to pay the overtime hours needed for officers and firefighters to pay visits around local neighborhoods.
The city had to cut a number of non-essential programs and services following a rejected November 2018 Proposition 1 levy measure. The reductions were made to help balance the 2019-2020 Biennial Budget, city officials said.
A recent casualty was the largest and longest running Summer Celebration. It cost the city nearly $115,000 to produce and required 1,400 hours of staff time. And it appears that the city’s National Night Out gathering will be cut this year too.
Instead, residents are encouraged to continue holding their own block parties and outdoor gatherings during the 36th year of National Night Out on Aug. 6. The city will have bags of information for residents to collect before the day of the national crime-prevention event.
By Friday, July 26, eight residents had called Mercer Island Police Department officer Jennifer Franklin and said they planned to hold parties. Normally, there’s an average of 20 or more Night Out neighborhood gatherings held on Mercer Island, she said.
The neighborhood block parties — this year from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. — are meant to act as a crime deterrent and preparedness tool. It takes place all over the country, with an estimated 15,000 communities partaking. There are 1,000 cities and counties in Washington that celebrate. Mercer Island has participated for 11 years.
“The biggest part is getting to know neighbors,” Franklin said. “That’s who you need to rely on when disasters happen. Most cities do not have the ability to. When a big earthquake happens, who’s going to help you often times won’t be city staff.”
There has been no word yet on what next year’s events will look like.
“It all depends on funding,” Franklin said. “I hope they do get the money to do this. Anything to do with crime prevention and emergency preparedness … I do hope they find a way to fund these events.”