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Proposed English Language Ordinance Goes to Public Hearing

Carroll County residents will have a chance to weigh in on Commissioner Shoemaker's proposed ordinance that would make English the official language of county government.

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.  

Judith M. Smith September 28, 2012 at 02:22 PM
this proposed ordnance does absolutely NOTHING but make a political statement...it does not change one law...this is a waste of money and time that should be focused on real problems in CC...we do not have to resort to any inflamatory words to make a reasonable point...that goes for both sides of the aisle...I hope that people will download the proposed ordnance before they give more heat to the discussion in place of light. We don't need it, like many others do not want it, and it is unnecessary...it makes a negative impression about our county which I dislike. I am not an apologist, nor a self-loathing leftist...so don't bother to make that sort of statement....
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Here's a great example of what I was talking about: "We are fighting for the preservation of our heritage, freedom and way of life in the United States and much of the Western World. Ultimately, we are working to secure the most important civil right of all, the right to preserve our kind of life. Massive immigration and low European American birthrates coupled with integration and racial intermarriage threatens the continued existence of our very genotype. We assert that we, as do all expressions of life on this planet, have the right to live and to have our children and our children’s children reflect both genetically and culturally our heritage." ---David Duke
EBurger September 28, 2012 at 02:46 PM
English is the official language in 31 United States. Since we will never see Maryland on that list, the Commissioners need to move forward as is the rest of the country.
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Wait. What?!? The "manipulation of the Communist regime"? What are you doing, channeling Joe McCarthy? For someone who routinely (as far as I can see here on Patch) castigates those with whom you disagree as somehow out of touch, you've really outdone yourself. -d-
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Additionally, I find it rather amusing that you would on the one hand decry "tyranny" (which should be understood as undue governmental control on individuals) whilst on the other hand enabling the very same (which is what's happening when the government decides, by fiat, what language we must all speak when conducting our business).
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Well said, Judith. Well said. I'm very angered by the Commissioners' actions, and what motivates most of my ire is the total lack of substance offered in their defence. As a business owner, I demand good information and FACTS from my team before we change course or enact new policies. As a constituent, I demand the same: Give me facts to support your actions. Otherwise, it smacks of agenda politics in an election year. -d-
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Oh, I see what you're doing. You're taking one organization's statement of principals and extrapolating that, if anyone else also happens to believe in any or all of these things, they are obviously a COMMUNIST (tm) and not a Real American (tm), and hence should be duly ignored? That's interesting logic. My only rejoinder to you would be that the Republican party of my father (himself a devout Reagan supporter) actually embraced things like inclusivity, civil rights, social security, etc. Apparently that party died with Mr. Reagan.
JoeEldersburg September 28, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Just in case anyone really believes this is not an action that has racisim as its roots, they might be interested to read the Wiki on the founder (John Tanton) of Pro English, the so-called advocacy interest group that promotes this particular agenda. Pasted from the link below... "Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has met with leading white supremacists, promoted anti-Semitic ideas, and associated closely with the leaders of a eugenicist foundation once described by a leading newspaper as a “neo-Nazi organization.” He has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were outbreeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required." Sounds like a good friend of Jim Simpson's, the former County PR guy that Rothschild defended, but not somebody we want to be getting policy advice from. Who's next the KKK? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tanton
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 04:18 PM
@Kym: The only problem with that line of defence is that no actual facts have been presented to support translation service as being an undue burden on taxpayers. On Patch, Mr. Rothschild offered only anecdote and emotional appeal. He did not offer facts--heck, he didn't even give us the cost to the anecdotal county! For all I know, they passed it through Google Translate--like I did with my letter to the Commissioners, written in English, translated to Spanish. The primary concern I have is that my government is creating policy based solely on anecdotal evidence and emotional appeals for "unity," "heritage," etc. I'm interested to see the Commissioners present some data to support how Frederick County and Queen Annes County are economically better off with the passage of similar laws. I'm keen to see some metrics from the 31 states which have passed similar measures. Because, until and unless the Commissioners can come up with a compelling, fact-based case for passing the English Only law, it's a waste of time and smacks entirely of agenda politics in an election year. In fact, it smacks of the English Only movement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement Have you walked down Main Street lately? Have you counted the empty storefronts? What does Shoemaker's quest for English-only do to resolve that problem? How does it HELP the people of this county? That's the real question, and that's what should be asked of each Commissioner who supports this garbage.
JoeEldersburg September 28, 2012 at 04:20 PM
@JoAnn-you and those Communists again! What's really up here? Are you worried perhaps that after the election drubbing, the Communists may actually outnumber the people who will ever admit being involved with the Tea Party? Oh, that's right once the Koch Bros stop funding it, the fake Tea Party and its nuts will simply melt back into the Republican party and continue to be the cancer they now are for America. If you are so real and righteous, why can't you just go out on your own? The rest of us true Americans have a country to fix and don't need the Tea Party running us over the cliff!
Jack September 28, 2012 at 04:21 PM
How comical that you would call Carroll and Frederick the "fringe" areas. The fringe areas are Baltimore, Prince Georges, and Montgomery counties, the rest of the state is no different than our county.
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM
My friend, I never told you my party affiliation. Again, facts before conclusions. It's a helpful way to understand the world. Cheers, -d-
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 04:28 PM
@Joe: You are wrong to infer that JoAnn is somehow not a real American. I wholeheartedly disagree with her politics as expressed in this narrow venue, but I do take umbrage, sir, with your assertion that she is somehow unfit for citizenship. Ditto with the name calling. JoAnn is a human being with whom you have a disagreement. She is not a "cancer," and I presume--not really knowing her--that she is likewise sane. Let's stick to the facts, such as they are, and keep the dialogue collegial, please. There is no need to sink into the very same swamp we're attempting to drain. Cheers, -d-
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 04:29 PM
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-only_movement
Chris E September 28, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Actually learning a new language is not that hard. My mother in law did not speak a word of English when she moved to this country. She learned English on her own without taking any classes. Just because people do not speak our language and come from another country does not mean they are stupid or unable to learn something new.
Jack September 28, 2012 at 05:30 PM
You may want to take a refresher on the "Queens English" before you write posts such as this. "dear I reply?" , "Nope that's all she going to get for me" , "youse not one either" , "learn or understand the right way". It's dare I reply and you need an is between she and going in your second sentence. Also, you need is between youse and not. Lastly, it should be the correct way, not the right. You're tarnishing the Queen's good name.
Sherine Gayle-Slater September 28, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Jack, I thank you for your corrections, however, I saw my mistakes after I posted my comment. Let me make myself clear, I did not say that my grasp of the English language was superior to anyone. I said that I found fault with quite a few things. Tolerance and patience are the best practices to employ. I believe that Mr. Shoemaker is placing your county on a losing track and a very fast one at that. I don't care which political party he or anyone identifies with, it's just wrong!
Valarie September 28, 2012 at 06:32 PM
The Supreme Court said that declaring English as the state's official language deprives people of their fundamental First Amendment rights to access government and deprives government officials of their rights to free speech. "Language Rights Are Protected Under Civil Rights Law." MALDEF on OpposingViews.com: "Language is not only a barrier to communication, but also an identifying characteristic of an individual’s ethnicity and national origin. [...] Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, ancestry, national origin or ethnicity. Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based "on the ground of race, color, or national origin," in "any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act provides the foundation for ensuring nondiscrimination in all federal programs and services, including those provided to language minorities." So what gives Commish? As I see it individuals involved in this movement are driven by racism and an anti-immigrant stance. Time and again I have been hard pressed to be a proud Carroll County immigrant. And after all, aren't we all immigrants from somewhere or another.
WestMonster September 28, 2012 at 06:56 PM
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!
David from VoxPop September 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Michelle, the onus is now on you to provide data proving your assertion. Please show me the year-over-year savings to Prince George's County for offering translation of official documents, and, further, please demonstrate how this expenditure represents an undue burden on taxpayers. And it's really, really interesting to me that you lump people who are not quite fluent in English in with "foreigners." In fact, it's quite telling. Your entire argument seems to hinge on the idea that if you don't speak English, you obviously don't belong here. I have a marketing agency here in Westminster, and several of my clients are recent immigrants--from China, Greece, Costa Rica, etc.. All of them are AMERICANS but they are not all fluent in ENGLISH. Do you get how that can be possible? And do you see how deliberately shutting people out of government for no demonstrably beneficial reason is kind of a bad idea? After all, my clients are coming to me because they are entrepreneurs, starting BUSINESSES in Carroll County; creating JOBS; paying TAXES. They are citizens, not "foreigners." Your assertion to the contrary is frankly repugnant. I'll tell you this: I'm more happy to pick up the tab for a translation service than I am for the prosecution of the homeless, the addicted, and the afflicted in Carroll County. At the end of the day, it comes down to priorities and my mind boggles to understand who in their right mind considers English Only laws as a priority.
David from VoxPop September 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM
CORRECTION: Please show me the year-over-year COST to Prince George's County for offering translation of official documents, and, further, please demonstrate how this expenditure represents an undue burden on taxpayers.
Buck Harmon September 29, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Bigot~ a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion. If this ordinance is not wrought with these kinds of people supporting it then all is well in our Country....no need to change anything......Bigots do in fact rule Carroll County, MD. The displays and actions of these Commissioners...and their supporters wreak of intolerance at many levels. There is no defense for this bad behavior, and it's not name calling but rather descriptive and accurate. Ever notice how Michelle makes a rather bold statement and then never elaborates with fact ....typical tea toddler talk with no substance. Bigotry....
Buck Harmon September 29, 2012 at 02:21 AM
History has proven Teddy to be wrong JoAnn...grasping at straws won't justify the current bigotry being displayed by the Carroll County MD Commissioners. Why not attempt to provide some facts that would justify the time taken away from much more important pending issues in Carroll while this silliness is pursued.How exactly will tax paying citizens of Carroll benefit ? This is purely political agenda, not responsible leadership.
Buck Harmon September 29, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Native Americans would beg to differ the claim of English as the official language of our Country, and would most likely see those that think otherwise as communists by your method..
Native October 01, 2012 at 01:48 PM
As modern communications technology improves, it is imperative citizens & governments alike keep pace. One way to do this is to adhere to one standard, thus the push for an official language. We can't have more then one option to communicate officially or else it becomes detrimental. According to the Pew Research Center in June of this year (as well as other surveys), Asians have overtaken Hispanics as the fastest growing & best educated racial group in the US. So if government language has to include Spanish as well as English, what is that saying to Asian-Americans (that they don't deserve to be included), or the Hispanics (that they are too uneducated to be able to assimilate as well as any other immigrant)? Also, the public safety agencies are moving along the same lines. As mandated by the National Incident Management System, police & fire departments across the country have been moving to a simple, common, way of communicating. This was in the news here recently when the police moved from using "10 codes" to plain english. This is germane to the discussion because of the parallels to the need for English to be the official language in the US.
David from VoxPop October 02, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Well then, OBVIOUSLY there's no cost issue to Carroll County then, right? Just find a way to partner with embassy translators and have it done as a service to constituents. What a fabulous idea! You should mention that to Haven.
David from VoxPop October 02, 2012 at 12:44 PM
But, Native, the issue is not being framed as efficiency. It's being framed by Mr. Shoemaker as being for convenience (I'm tired of pressing 2 for English) and by Mr. Rothschild as a step toward preserving "culture and heritage." It's very telling that the Commissioners are on record supporting this useless legislation for reasons OTHER than efficient operation of government. I'm going by what the sponsor and his biggest advocate have said on record to justify their position. If they have something factual to offer, then by all means. Until that time, it's just political posturing.
Buck Harmon October 02, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Current translation technology also nullifies the extreme perceived future costs that Rothschild and Shoemaker speak of as well. Most simple lap tops have the technology to type and translate many different languages , and are very cost effective and efficient...
John Culleton October 02, 2012 at 04:00 PM
When the issue of language came up at the Constitutional Convention the two candidate languages were English and German. English won out. However the nation's Spanish speaking population has increased to the point that bilingual or multilingual government documents have become the norm in many jurisdictions. Since no one has proposed such activity for Carroll County the Shoemaker proposal seems to me a waste of time. Our non-English speaking population is still tiny. The commissioners have better things to do. For example, school closings are being proposed because of declining enrollments yet most schools in South Carroll still have and presumably use portable classrooms. And criminals who commit major felonies are given minimal or no jail time, the excuse being that the County Lockup is overcrowded. Now there's an issue that should be addressed. There was a proposal at one time to build a new School Board headquarters building, repurpose the present School Headquarters building for the Sheriffs Department and additional courtrooms and expanding the current Lockup into the space thus vacated by the Sheriffs Dept. This would retain a single Lockup but with sufficient room for more inmates, keep the Sheriffs Department and the Lockup near the Courts, and provide more courtrooms in the same vicinity. This plan was rejected because "The school board doesn't need more space", a total misunderstanding of the purpose of the proposal.
Buck Harmon October 02, 2012 at 04:20 PM
These Commissioners seem to be stuck within the realm of the tea party political agenda, and lack the ability or expertise needed to tackle the much more important issues that currently face the County.

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