We’ll soon know the answer to that question.
The Commission is pondering which of two levels of certification to obtain from the ARC: “minimal” or “excellence.” Some of what is required for the latter designation is ho-hum stuff, like ensuring pedestrian and bicycle access in and around bus stops and promoting the creation of community gardens. And some of it is not, like its heavy emphasis on providing tax-funded multi-lingual services in key government operations for those who do not speak English, and who might have little or no inclination to learn it.
Governments can meet the ARC “excellence” threshold by taking such steps as providing multilingual websites, providing multilingual contact information via mailings, telephone or online; employing staffers who speak more than one language; printing documents and pamphlets in multiple languages; and doing “outreach” work to organizations that represent the various ethnic groups in their community.
Commissioner Bob Ott of east Cobb argued at last week’s Cobb Commission meeting that the county should stick with “minimal” certification. As he put it, his district has residents from all over the world, speakers of many languages. Why should the county pick and choose which of those languages to focus on for its bilingual services?
On the other hand, Commissioner Lisa Cupid of southwest Cobb argued in favor of attaining the ARC’s “excellence” certification, commenting that she was “quite dismayed” recently when a woman who had trouble speaking English came before the board regarding a taxi cab driver permit.
Leaving aside for now the absurdity of why the county would consider granting such a taxi permit to someone who apparently would have difficulty reading road signs, there is Cupid’s complaint that the county “had inadequate service to make sure that she was able to participate” at the commission meeting. That is, she seems to believe it is up to the county — and its taxpayers — to close “the language gap” to ensure that all those who come before the commission can be understood.
Indeed, the county formerly provided translators, but ended that service due to budget problems. And it’s not a service that should be resumed even when the budget picture improves.
There’s nothing to preclude someone who comes before the commission from hiring their own translator, or bringing along a friend who is more fluent. But using taxpayer dollars to provide translators in such situations? The county doesn’t provide attorneys for those who come before it seeking zoning changes, for example, so except in very rare circumstances, why should it pay to provide translators? If someone desires to address the commission, it should be his or her responsibility to ensure that the message can be understood.
And why should the county bend over backward — at taxpayer expense — to slow down the assimilation process for those who have chosen to come to this country? Cobb (and the state and Washington) should be pushing policies that encourage assimilation, not hinder it.
And that goes for the Atlanta Regional Commission as well.
So the Cobb Commission would do well to pay heed to those elected them — and not to pie-in-the-sky ARC bureaucrats. A “minimal” ARC certification for Cobb should do just fine.
Sometimes “minimal” is maximal.