City forms Race and Equity Task Force to help maintain diversity, further inclusiveness

Want to join? Applications are due Feb. 16.

The Hyattsville Municipal Building

By KRISSI HUMBARD — The City of Hyattsville has a new advisory committee focusing on issues of race and equity.

The mission of the Hyattsville Race and Equity Task Force — an ad hoc committee — is to develop an equity plan for the City of Hyattsville. The plan should include recommendations to advance equity in the city in administration, public services and community development to further support the city’s goals of being an inclusive community. The committee may be adopted as a formal and permanent task force at the conclusion of its ad hoc period upon approval of the Council.

Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said she was “propelled to action” while attending the National League of Cities conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, where racial equity took center stage in the conference plenaries and breakouts.

“While an equity plan is new to Hyattsville, it’s not a new concept,” Hollingsworth said. “Cities across the country have begun to develop their own equity plans that have — in some cases — created radical shifts in priorities and investments. I feel it is time for us to double down on our efforts to be an inclusive community and be intentional about our city’s future.”

According to the Hyattsville City Council Agenda Item Report, the city has adopted a strategic goal of “strengthening the city’s identity as a diverse, welcoming, and creative community” and has made significant efforts to communicate this goal. These efforts, however, have moved forward without a shared and adopted roadmap. The committee will be initially tasked with answering the following questions:

  1. What policies, programs, and/or practices should the City of Hyattsville adopt within the next five years to help maintain its racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity?
  2. What are the top five issues facing low to moderate income families and individuals living in the City of Hyattsville? What new programs should the city consider to support economic mobility? How can/should the City of Hyattsville redesign existing programs to better support equity goals?
  3. How should the city measure its progress toward these goals?

“My vision for the city is that everyone can experience Hyattsville and all that she has to offer in the same way — if they choose — no matter where they live or who they are,” Hollingsworth said. “I recognize that the tapestry of our community is not always on full display — certain people and certain communities are not always or even significantly represented.”

Hollingsworth says her vision isn’t purely social, though.

“It’s also about economics and how we as a municipality can strengthen our communities through policies and investments that empower and promote economic mobility,” Hollingsworth said. “Hyattsville is uniquely positioned to be able to address the pains that growing metro-adjacent communities face before they have the opportunity to degrade what makes us a thriving city. I am certain there are areas where we may not have honored the expectations of all members of our community and we have to face the music and make a commitment to doing good, better.”

Hyattsville has seen rapid growth in recent years but remains a diverse community.

But, said Councilmember Erica Spell (Ward 5), “It’s not enough for our city to be diverse. We must be inclusive.”

Councilmember Carrianna Suiter (Ward 3), a co-sponsor of the measure, called Hyattsville a strong, welcoming community open to all people. “But no town is immune to issues related to discrimination or bias,” Suiter said. “… If we are to truly serve all our residents equally, we need to first understand how the city is serving them and to get feedback on whether those services could be improved, or if any residents feel underserved.”

Issues of responsible economic development and affordable and accessible housing have been at the forefront of recent council discussions. Both Spell and Suiter cited concerns over those areas.

“My hope is that all corners of the city are equally safe and wonderful places to live, work, and play for all people regardless of our differences,” Spell said.

The city needs a team of eight to join the task force and support the goal of becoming an ever more inclusive community. Interested in joining? The application can be found on the city’s website. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 16.