Carroll County Commissioners voted on Thursday to hold a public hearing for a proposed ordinance that would make English the official language of county government. A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.
The comissioners voted 4-0 to move the ordinance to a public hearing. Commissioner Robin Bartlett-Frazier was not present at the meeting.
Commissioner Haven Shoemaker presented the proposed ordinance to commissioners, saying that "this isn't a radical motion."
According to Shoemaker, 31 states and two Maryland counties (Frederick and Queen Anne's) have passed similar legislation.
"It doesn’t single out any segment of the population, it merely says that for the purpose of Carroll County government, English is the official language," Shoemaker said. "It doesn’t preclude people or businesses from using any language they want. It doesn’t preclude emergency services to folks who can’t speak English."
Suzanne Bibby, director of government relations for Pro English, a Virginia-based advocacy organization, gave a presentation in support of the ordinance.
"Official English simply makes English the default langage in communications and business. It will enable the county to more effectively enforce policy," Bibby said. "Contrary to what opponents claim, it doesn’t mean 'English only.' It means for the county to act officially or with legal authority, it must act in English.
Commissioner Doug Howard said he's concerned that no standard of English has been noted
"This board has historically not been vague," Howard said.
Richard Rothschild said he supports the ordinance and believes that defining an official language promotes unity.
"When you have a common language in a country, it promotes national unity, it promotes quality of opportunity in business, it promotes equal opportunity for all," Rothschild said.
"This board welcomes people of all national origins to Carroll County but I believe that with rights come responsibilities and if any individuals want to come to Carroll County, Maryland, the U.S., they’re welcome but have a responsibility to learn our language so we have the unity of being one people," Rothschild said.
Westminster resident Rebecca Orenstein addressed the commissioners first in Spanish during the public comment portion of the meeting. She then translated her statement, suggesting that the ordinance is "stupid" and "bad for business."
Carroll County resident Judy Smith said the ordinance is a waste of taxpayer money and it sends the wrong message to business.
"I'm embarrassed by this ordinance. If you're going to do that [pass the ordinance], then I suggest you change the 'Feel right at home in Carroll County' signs placed around the county," Smith said.