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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JoeEldersburg September 26, 2012 at 07:05 PM
This is the biggest bunch of bologna I've ever read. You weren't elected to defend American culture, legacy, heritage or language! You are a Carroll County Commissioner and a not even a good one! Start doing your job instead of continually attempting to put yourself and your dopey supporters in the conservative spotlight by touting your ignorant beliefs. English is under less attack here in Carroll where we are 97.5% non-hispanic than in almost any place in the state (or country). Wake up and stop being just another Tea Party moron! By your same analogy, we should take preemptive measures to see this board of commissioners is never re-elected by removing you from office right now. Please support a voter recall referendum for Carroll voters for our delegation to get approved in Annapolis next year. We can't afford to wait 2 more years to get rid of you and this board!
JoeEldersburg September 26, 2012 at 07:22 PM
It's not about accomplishing anything. Nothing they do generally is! It's all about perceived politcal gain and pandering to score points with ultra conservative nuts. They rarely think of the consequences of what they do, because they only surround themselves with people who think like them. People that disagree with them, they tune out. They talk of freedom and rights and American patriotism, but instead they are actually closer to fascists who want to control what we do, restrict our freedoms and make our decisions for us. They are self-righteous, thinking they know better than anyone what is right...just ask them. They know everything and the facts never matter...just believe them!
Jessica Halima Masten Tye September 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Regarding David's comment about the Chippewa, Lakota, Cherokee, perhaps if they spoke the same language, they would have been more unified. What happened to the Native American culture isn't the point of this conversation, however. Do you insist on speaking English when traveling abroad? I try to speak as much of the country's language as I can. However, because English is essentially the de facto language of business, most people, world wide, know enough to communicate. Asking people to learn the language of the country they have chosen to live in is not racist or bigoted. It is practical. I would not move to another country and expect to speak English. I would learn the language of that country. While the US does not have an official language per se, the majority speaks English, plus laws, official documents, etc. are written in English. In addition, more than half of the states have made English their official language. I assume that everyone above who does not see the importance in having a common language is fluent in Spanish. If not, you should be.
Richard Rothschild September 27, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Kathy- You state, "If the Commissioners can name one actual .thing that this bill would accomplish, one tangible improvement that this resolution is designed to make to Carroll County, then I (you) will consider supporting it." ...Fair enough, so I'll give you a legitimate reason. Other government attorneys in the State have advised me that in the absence of an official language, citizens can submit official documents in any language they choose, and government has to locate translators at government expense to perform translation. In one instance, a citizen presented a lengthy petition for a planning and zoning matter. It was written in Armenian, and a lengthy debate ensured wherein the municipality ultimately had to locate an Armenian translator with a legal background to perform the translation at taxpayer expense. Thanks for asking a legitimate question! -Commissioner Richard Rothschild
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 02:33 AM
There has been no documentation that the rare incidence that you have brought as an example has been a regular problem that costs taxpayers large sums of money...simple cost of doing government business, very weak Richard...grasping at straws in an attempt to justify bad governing...the creating of an idiotic ordinance or law such as this one is a total waste of tax dollars...you can do better...maybe not.
David from VoxPop September 27, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Obviously one learns the language of one's country...eventually. But there will be a learning curve, and there will be a benefit for you encountering vital information in your native tongue so that you may more quickly apprehend things. Tis is why traditionally, even in America (gasp!) there are ghettos of immigrant communities; clusters where people can speak their native tongue while learning to live in a new place. Is part of the imnigrant experience, and that IS the American experience. So, I really don't understand how the speaking of multiple languages somehow erodes a culture. If you have traveled outside of the US, say to Europe, you'll fin that people are, more often than not, polyglots and not afraid of it. There may well be a lingua franca, but it's not like the presence of multilingual communication somehow erodes it or destroys European culture. To suggest otherwise seems a bit of a stretch to me. Bottom line, this effort from the Carroll County Commissioners smacks of xenophobia and sends the wrong message. Mr. Rothschild actually taking the time to DEFEND such foolishness in the comment section here--rather than actually do something to improve the county--is just the icing on the cake. It's pretty clear that he--And perhaps the rest of the Commissioners--is more committed to "unwavering conservative leadership" (TM) than he is to unwavering constituent service.
Concerned Citizen September 27, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the basic premise of this proposed ordinance, it should be noted that many of you seem to misunderstand it. Although, I admit that Mr. Shoemaker has done quite poorly in explaining it, both in writing, and in his appearances on local newscasts. This ordinance does not seek to control what language anyone speaks. It simply will state what language the county will use in an official capacity. If passed, the county will only print documents, accept documents, etc. in English; county governnent business will be conducted in English. If one wants to do conduct business with the county government, it must be done in English. No where is this ordinance attempting to control what language is spoken in any other way. Private businesses are still free to offer their services in any language, or as many languages, as they choose. Private citizens can continue to live their lives using any language, or as many languages, as they choose. Again, agree or not, this is the point of the ordinance. Do you think that any particular private business that chooses to operate only in English is bigoted and mean-spirited?
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM
For the County to create an ordinance that focuses on a particular segment of society in an exclusive fashion by design is not necessary, and no good will come of it. It is merely a display of the bigotry that exists, and seems to be going strong at this low level of County government. There is no justifying exclusive law. Shoemaker has a history in Hampstead of attempting to create exclusive law that got snuffed a few times by me. Hampstead taxpayers are currently stuck with a legal bill that has exceeded one million dollars as a result of his use of Eminent Domain to violate private property owners rights...and still counting. Could you explain this JoAnn?
Kym Byrnes (Editor) September 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Thank you for participating in this conversation, your intelligent feedback is appreciated. Just a reminder that posts that don't adhere to our Terms of Use guidelines will be removed. Please use this comment section to add intelligent discourse to a community conversation -- personal attacks and off-topic comments will not be tolerated.
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 01:55 PM
JoAnn, You seem to revel in the posting of old case law in attempts to justify most of your stands regarding the Constitution in particular. To deny the same effort with regard to similar violations in a local Carroll community because the violator is a part of the good ol boy network would seem...well...you know.. You really don't know the facts that are associated with Shoemakers use of Eminent Domain...as with many other assertions and I would recommend that you make more of an effort to educate yourself before speaking to topics of such importance to the community. I seek the truth..not revenge JoAnn..silly gal.
Trish September 27, 2012 at 02:10 PM
While this may be important to some - there are REAL issues going on in this county, such as the possibility of 3 school closures county wide. If three schools close, this will impact ALL students in the county (as shifting of jurisdictions will have to take place), 100 teachers will lose their jobs, and class sizes will increase. Lets spend some time on this SERIOUS topic, and not worry about what number you have to press to hear English!!
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 02:45 PM
JoAnn, Perhaps you are not reading all of my posts...I have stated facts associated with the reason for Shoemakers failed use of Eminent Domain, and have not attacked him, but rather have challenged the integrity and legality of his actions as they pertain to this case. He is the one that seems to be hiding behind people like yourself that struggle to defend his in appropriate actions. For the record I have repeatedly e mailed Kym Byrnes of Patch asking that she do a followup to this community taxpayer tragedy....she responded that because it's Hampstead and that this is Westminster Patch it's not high on her priority list. Eminent Domain is not the topic here... to give this story the attention that is deserved should be a complete story by Kym since there is no Hampstesd Patch and Shoemaker IS a Commissioner. Please explain the reason Shoemaker remains in hiding JoAnn....I'm right here.
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Regarding the surplus of school space issue....Shoemaker was also the Mayor that pushed really hard to have the massive school built between Hampstead and Manchester that incurred huge cost over runs and is currently only filled at half capacity....how on earth does he explain this one??? You won't need a detailed study to verify the school debacle...
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM
From the eyes and minds of the Native Americans...we all were the illegal immigrants...no stretch to this truth...unless you're in denial of it...
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Here's one fact for you to drool over regarding the Eminent Domain case... The ruling of the Jury was over turned by a corrupt judge brought out of retirement from Howard Co. Think about that for a moment JoAnn...and please use your own talents to fact check this one. Once you have ...I'll teach you some more, as this perceived legal maneuver is a little complexed in illusion..
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Facts remain that Shoemaker was the guy that put the hard push on for this school that was not needed and then boasted during campaign time as though he had made a great accomplishment......Another topic worthy of blog would be the way that the Old Hampstead School was literally GIVEN to a private development group that had a history of working professionally with Shoemaker and the current Mayor, Christopher Nevn of Hampstead...
WestMonster September 27, 2012 at 03:18 PM
JoAnn Gov O'Malley's political future is not the topic of this forum- it's the Commissioners and their support of the "official language" proposal. Your attacks and arguments with Mr Harman have degraded this conversation. I wholeheartedly agree with Trish- making English the "official language" of our county is not worth the time, especially while we have school and major budgetary issues looming.
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
JoAnn...once again you seem a little confused, the topic here is with regard to Shoemaker creating an ordinance that would make English the "official" language of Carroll for un know logical reasons...
WestMonster September 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I'm not "deferring" (I think you meant "deflecting") the conversation from THE (not my) Governor and his policies, you're deflecting the conversation away from YOUR idiot commissioners. I'd rather use a pseudonym and make intelligent comments than use my real name and waste people's time with dribble like yours.
JoeEldersburg September 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM
JoAnn-two noteworthy clarifications to offer...1st, Shoemaker told many lies about Julia Gouge in his numerous campaign mailings in an effort to paint her as a self-serving politician, which couldn't be further from the truth. Unfortunately it worked, but it is not surprising that while Mayor, he supported the use of eminent domain to take property from private owners at a huge cost to the taxpayers and then turns around and claims he's a loyal Tea Party supporter of "property rights". Pity voters couldn't see through this hypocrasy. As to the schools, it wasn't Krebs who built MVHS. She was elected delegate in 2002 and was long gone from the school board when the decision to build it was voted on (you are thinking of Winters Mill & Century).The past Board of Ed pushed MVHS (and yes, Shoemaker supported it) and the last Board of Commissioners approved it 3-0 without a cent of State funding. They didn't even ask for any, as they knew it wouldn't be approved. Carroll is the 1st county in over a decade to build a school without state funding, so this stupid decision cost us a cool $37 million extra. Just imagine all the things that $37 million would buy for our schools. Operating 2 half full schools also likely costs us over $5 million a year in wasted operating expenses. This lame board you support has shown zero financial leadership and is very unlikely to fix the problem, preferring to blame it on a school board that cannot be trusted to fix a problem they created.
JoeEldersburg September 27, 2012 at 06:29 PM
@JoAnn- There's nothing wrong with this article. Julia did push for the school, against Budget Director, Ted Zaleski's counsel after the school board recommended its construction. It was a bad decsion. Had they merely waited for the Hampstead Bypass to be completed, the issue with busing kids 45 minutes from Manchester to Hampstead would have resolved itself. Shoemaker's support, consistent with everything he does, came after the fact, in an effort to take credit for supporting the school to gain votes. During his campaign, he took credit for numerous things in Hampstead, which he had little or nothing to do with, including the large senior housing conversion. He still supports both MVHS & N. Carroll emphatically. He managed to dodge blame for the Oakmont Greens emininent domain case, which cost Hampstead dearly. I actually feel pretty much the opposite as you about Krebs today. She used to be much more moderate, but now she's all about conservative politics. It's probably all the bruising battles with that nut Helminiak to prove who is more conservative. It's become tiresome and I'm no longer a fan. Kittleman is the only member of our present delegation, who seems real and will stand up for what he believes in. The rest are all a bunch of whiners. You'll get no argument from me that O'Malley's isn't corrupt, but they need to figure out how to get things done in Annapolis, instead of crying incessantly about Democrat oppression. It's a poor excuse.
Charles Yates September 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
A while back I read an article on the founding of Carroll County. According to the article, the ballots presented to citizens to vote were printed in German and English. According to History of Western Maryland, Carroll County, Chapter 38: "A very large meeting was held at Westminster and an able address issued, which was published in pamphlet form in the English and German languages and very freely circulated in the counties.". If anything, the current board is going against county tradition.
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I used it as an example of other bad decisions that have wasted large sums ox tax dollars JoAnn...This is not his first screw up..
Buck Harmon September 27, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Well said Mr. Yates...Bachman Valley was established by Germans that came to port in Philly, and if you look at the old stone house on the corner of Bachman Valley and Bixler Church Rd. you'll see a 1796 date stone just below the pigeon hole written in old German script that says.."may God bless he that passes through this home"
Bonnie Grady September 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
One of Shoemaker's "English only" supporters posted the following above: "When a state is DEAD LAST in job creation and at the FRONT of the line in UNEMPLOYMENT GAIN, and there is ONE job offer that requires a candidate be Spanish speaking in order to qualify in America/Maryland, you've got some serious priority issues going on." For once I agree with the person who wrote that. Carroll County does have "some serious priority issues going on" and it's time for the Commissioners to start paying attention to those issues.
Buck Harmon September 28, 2012 at 12:31 AM
You are the only person that I know of that seems to spend a lot of time on strange web sites that promote Communism...the only person JoAnn...speaks volumes...
JoeEldersburg September 28, 2012 at 02:30 AM
JoAnn seems preoccupied with Communists the same way Rothschild is with the UN Agenda 21. They clearly come from the same conspiracy theory club. It must be very difficult to sleep when they are so paranoid. Kinda surprised that these Commissioners didn't seize the opportunity to end the school holidays for Yom Kippur and Roshashana, but maybe they felt they needed to save something stupid for next year!
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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