[lg policy] California: Advocates will press Long Beach City Council for language access policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 12 14:07:26 UTC 2013

Advocates will press Long Beach City Council for language access policy
By Eric Bradley, Staff
Writer<eric.bradley at presstelegram.com?subject=Press-Telegram:>
Posted:   08/11/2013 10:25:12 PM PDT
Updated:   08/11/2013 11:31:01 PM PDT

LONG BEACH - A community coalition seeking better access to government for
non-English speakers will hold a 4 p.m. rally on Tuesday at City Hall
before the City Council considers a new language access policy.

Though Long Beach spends $900,000 annually on translation and
interpretation, there is no language plan in place to deliver services to
the more than 45 percent of city residents who speak a language other than
English at home.

Officials have worked for almost two years to develop a new policy, and a
draft document was released last month.

Language access advocates criticized the plan, saying it did not make
meaningful changes for residents with limited English proficiency.

Additionally, only Spanish speakers qualified for enhanced accommodations
because they were the only group of limited-English proficient speakers
that met the state standards used by the city. That standard is 5 percent,
or 21,480 Long Beach residents.

Susanne Browne, senior attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles,
said the city has since amended the draft policy to include Khmer even
though the number of people that speak that language in Long Beach who are
limited in English don't meet the threshold.

"Unfortunately, the policy does not include Tagalog and it still makes no
real meaningful, enforceable
commitments, so there's still a lot of work to be done," Browne said.

Long Beach was the most diverse in a USA Today study of the 65 largest U.S.

According to U.S. census data, there are 62,814 Spanish speakers living in
Long Beach with limited-English proficiency, along with 8,607 Khmer
speakers, 5,181 Tagalog speakers and thousands of Thai, Vietnamese, Urdu
and Gujarati speakers in the same category.

Many city forms and services are available in multiple languages, and
neighborhood resource centers have staff and equipment that help with
on-site translation.

For elections, the City Clerk's Office provides voting information in
English, Spanish, Khmer, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean.

The city also maintains a database of about 3,000 multilingual employees,
out of a total of about 6,000.

The amended proposed plan allocates an additional $357,023 to language
access to provide translation of written materials, interpretation for
meetings, recorded telephone messages and compliance monitoring.

Council members may also choose from parts of a "best efforts"
recommendation report -- with $648,775 available -- that would allow the
city to hire bilingual employees in point-of-contact positions, train staff
members for translation and educate the public on the city's language
access policy.

Browne and a coalition including the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition,
Housing Long Beach, Centro CHA and United Cambodian Community are
recommending a 5,000-resident threshold for the language policy and want to
see a plan returned for consideration in 60 to 90 days.


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