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Commissioners to Weigh Making English the Official Language in Carroll County

'I'm tired of pressing #2 for English' -- Carroll County Commissioner Haven Shoemaker

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners will discuss a proposed ordinance to make English the official language in Carroll County this Thursday, a move that would be modeled after a similar measure in Frederick County.

The ordinance (a draft is attached) says that using English as the official language in government business would promote English-language "proficiency" and "efficiency" in Carroll County's "role as employer and as a government accountable to its citizens"

The proposal also says that official actions of Carroll County government or "which give the appearance of presenting the official views or position of Carroll County" would be taken in the English language.

The proposed ordinance offers exceptions to English-only, such as to protect public health or safety, to comply with federal or state laws and to collect payments or fines.

Tell us in comments: Should English be the official language of Carroll County government? 

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said this ordinance is patterned after Frederick County's recently adopted similiar measure.

"Neither of these ordinances are radical," Shoemaker told Patch in an email. "My reason for proposing this is I'm tired of pressing #2 for English."

Frederick County adopted an ordinance declaring English as the official language on Feb. 21, 2012.

According to a Frederick County news release, all official actions in the county must be in English, but exceptions allow for the use of a language other than English such as teaching another language, public health and safety policies and complying with the Native American Languages Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, the Voting Rights Act and other laws.

David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, said the Carroll County proposed ordinance is "a pointless, mean-spirited, and self-contradictory law that seeks to address a non-existent problem." 

"The government of Carroll Co. should be the government of all persons, regardless of their primary language, and should seek to serve all of them, rather than declaring official hostility to their language, or making them feel like second-class residents," Rocah said in an email to Patch.  "If the commissioners of Carroll Co. were truly concerned about expanding English-language fluency, instead of proposing petty, hostile, and divisive ordinances that serve no useful purpose, they would work on expanding access to English as a Second Language programs."

Rocah said the ACLU would be concerned if the ordinance was used to deny services, or deny access to information about a government program, including by not providing a necessary translation.

But he said it appears that the ordinance won't be used in that way.

"The proposed ordinance serves no purpose except to express official hostility and contempt for the small minority of persons in Carroll Co. who have limited English proficiency," Rocah said.

The proposal should have no impact on Carroll County's day-to-day business, according to Shoemaker, who said that what it will do is officially memorialize English as the official language for conducting County business.

Shoemaker said that historically, immigrants have assimilated by learning the English language.

"Throughout our nation's history, wave after wave of immigrants have come here and assimilated by learning the English language, while retaining their value systems," Shoemaker said. "I believe that's how we've become such a great nation.

"Unfortunately today,  many immigrants don't embrace our language or culture," Shoemaker said. "This, in the future, will have a deleterious effect on America from a social standpoint, and for our ability to compete economically."

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss this ordinance in open session Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the County Office Building. 

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WestMonster September 28, 2012 at 05:05 PM
So back the topic... Anybody catch that they're trying to do this during "Hispanic Heritage Month"? Also at the Smithsonian AMERICAN History museum tomorrow will be a concert including a chorus singing the Star-Spangled Banner en espanol! Should be a great time for us communists!
Kathy September 28, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Okay, anecdotal or not, Mr. Rothschild raises a legitimate concern. The County should NOT have to pay to translate (civil) documents from other languages. I know that I once had to file papers in another country, and I had to pay an attorney in that country to translate/draft the document in the language of that country. That only seemed fair to me. However, I'm not sure if this happens enough in Carroll County to warrant such a resolution--perhaps it would be sufficient to clarify the County regulations to provide that legal documents need to be submitted in English, or that the submitter must pay for translation services. (I am also curious about who would submit a document in Armenian--one would think that anyone who has enough of a business interest in the US to submit a planning and zoning petition would probably speak enough English to be able to hire a attorney to write the petition.) . And Jack, this resolution would not prevent anyone "illegal" from taking a job--if the employer doesn't care that he is breaking the immigration laws, this resolution is not going to make him suddenly take notice.
Charles Yates September 28, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Ms. Nicholls, does your labelling me liberal make my comment any less correct?

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