County considers adding bilingual program for those who don't speak English
by Jon Gillooly
April 01, 2013 12:00 AM | 3836 views | 19 19 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb officials are considering their options for meeting standards set by the state and its regional comprehensive planning agency.

To achieve a certification of excellence from the Atlanta Regional Commission, the ARC is advising counties and cities to offer bilingual services in key government operations for non-English speakers, create a land bank, promote community gardens and ensure pedestrian and bicycle access in and around bus stops.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners discussed whether to pursue those objectives at its Tuesday meeting.

At issue is eligibility for state grants and loans.

Dana Johnson, the county’s planning division manager, said the state requires metro county and city governments to have what is called “qualified local government status.”

To achieve that status, the ARC puts together a regional plan that coordinates growth in the 10-county region. Three years after the ARC approves the regional plan, communities must come into compliance with it.

The three-year anniversary is July 2014, but counties and cities have until Jan. 1 to turn in their proposal showing how they are complying with the plan.

In the past, compliance entailed such basic tasks that governments were doing anyway, such as designing a transportation plan.

But this time, the ARC has given governments an option: Sign up for minimum certification or for excellence certification.

It is the excellence certification that requires the bilingual program and other goals, Johnson said.

According to the ARC planning guidelines, a local government can satisfy the requirement in a number of ways, including providing a multilingual website; providing multilingual contact information through mailings, telephone or online; employing staff trained in foreign languages; printing pamphlets and other materials in multiple languages; and performing outreach work to organizations representing ethnic groups in the community.

Debate over certification

Commissioner Bob Ott said the county should stay with the minimum certification. To begin with, Ott said, his district has people who speak many different languages. He questioned how the county would go about picking which one to offer as part of its bilingual services.

Yet Commissioner Lisa Cupid argued in favor of achieving the ARC’s excellence certification. Cupid said she was “quite dismayed” when a woman recently came before the board regarding a taxi cab driver permit who had trouble speaking English.

“We had inadequate service to make sure that she was able to participate, and I don’t think it’s out of reach for us to consider that there might be other people who don’t speak English as fluently as others who will be doing business with the county, will be adding to our tax base, who can benefit from being able to communicate with us,” Cupid said.

Lee told Cupid the woman’s English was fine until the board began asking her tough questions.

“Her English got a lot poorer as the night went on because earlier she was good at it, and as the questions became more intense, she got worse at it, and she also has available to her, anyone who comes in front of us has available to them the opportunity to have a translator,” Lee said.

Cupid asked Lee if the woman in question knew she had that opportunity, to which Lee answered yes.

“I just find it difficult to believe that someone can go through a hearing prior to this hearing and nobody detects that there’s a language gap,” Cupid said.

Yet Lee said his entire point was that she didn’t have a language gap.

“There wasn’t a language gap at the earlier meeting,” Lee said. “The language gap became obvious as the questions became more intense.”

County spokesman Robert Quigley said three years ago the county provided translators, but cut that service due to budget problems. However, the county does notify someone who is coming before the board to do business that they are free to bring along a translator at their own expense.

Cupid said she also liked the goal of increasing walking and bicycling access near transit stops.

“This has significant bearing on what takes place in District 4 when you have a population that has significant dependence on transit,” Cupid said.

Lee directed the county staff to come up with a plan to submit to the ARC that met the basic certification requirements. He also asked staff to bring him back a plan on what it take to achieve the goals of obtaining a certification of excellence.
Comments
(19)
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To MK
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April 03, 2013
As much as you worry about what is going on all over metro Atlanta and spend so much time on every nit picky thing, let me rest assure you that the end of America is not near. Honey, don't worry your paranoid little head about that one at all. Ain't happening. Now you go worry about what is happening with Peachtree Industrial and you be sure to let us know all about that in Smyrna, you he'a?
Demidiow
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April 02, 2013
electing a new people. We have traitors in every branch of government.
Cobb Resident
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April 02, 2013
Perhaps we should consider NOT taking these state grants and loans. The money could then be used to hold down college tuition and perhaps lower the now $1,300 deductible that state employees have on their health insurance.

It seems that using tax dollars for bike paths, creating land banks, etc. is far less important than isuring that Georgia citizens can afford an education and that state employees can afford to see a doctor when they need too.
DEMIDOW
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April 01, 2013
Very stupidly following in the footsteps of bankrupt and illegal alien bloated California, that state where signs in Spanish are getting more numerous than those in English. STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES-----GEORGIANS.
Uncle Bob
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April 01, 2013
It should take abpout another 3 mos for the stupidist person in Cobb County to realize that Lisa Cupid is dumber than they are. Geeeeez
daveyy
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April 01, 2013
What about Cantonese or Szechwan? Japanese? Hindi? It seems to me that these are the languages of the immigrants coming into Cobb county that actually want to assimilate. I bet if we gave them a little helping hand these groups would help the county shore up its tax base immensely with their highly sought-after college degrees and work experience.

Or am I being a racist/bigot by not going with the obvious (for a nanny state afraid of alienating our neighbours to our south and their illegal invasion)choice.
Watcher...
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April 01, 2013
I already miss Woody Thompson!
Bob Andrews
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April 01, 2013
The Bureaucrats and the Leadership in Cobb County might learn something from Vladimir Putin, Russia's President.

On February 4th, 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the Duma, (Russian Parliament), and gave a speech about the tensions with minorities in Russia:

"In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and should respect the Russian laws.

If they prefer Sharia Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that's the state law.

Russia does not need minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud they yell 'discrimination'.

We better learn from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to survive as a nation.

The Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of culture or the primitive ways of most minorities. When this honourable legislative body thinks of creating new laws, it should have in mind the national interest first, observing that the minorities are not Russians.”

The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a standing ovation for five minutes!

mk-rip usa
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April 01, 2013
Bob, Putin is obviously not going to bend over for the Muslims that are spreading throughout Europe , Africa and Russia (& America, North & South).

I have relatives in the UK that are very fearful of the noticeable change the growing & spreading illegal immigrants, primarily Muslims are having on their beloved homeland.

I fear the end of America is near. We have been betrayed by greedy men that have used their power wrongly.

We no longer have real men, nor true leaders in office, local, state & federal.

We have traitors , period.
ole man
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April 01, 2013
The ARC is looking for justification for it's existence. What purpose would a "certificate of excellence" really serve?

Why cater to one group of immigrants over the many other more productive groups. This is not Mexico if they want to have the advantages of America . . . learn the language!

With all the problems in the 4th district, spend the money encouraging tax paying business growth.
Pam J
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April 01, 2013
By "bilingual" I suppose they mean English/Spanish instead of French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese...We are bending over backwards for people who refuse to learn English. Every person I know from the other countries learned English. The Mexicans refuse to because they know we will do whatever we can to help them. Just keep making it easier for them to exist here and they will never learn. I watched that meeting where the girl was being questioned by the commissioners. It was stupid.
Be Careful
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April 01, 2013
This is the United States Of America.

Our language is English.

Live here? Speak the language.

And someone PLEASE explain to me why anybody should care about what the the Atlanta Regional Commission says about anything?

Just Wait
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April 01, 2013
Great idea! Let's continue to cater to everyone but the people who were born and raised in this country and have a real stake in it.
Pat H
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March 31, 2013
Ms. Cupid, I am more dismayed that you are concerned about providing a TAXI CAB license to someone who has trouble speaking English, but you have no trouble requiring developers to be IMAGE certified.

Why are you more concerned with the needs of one resident with marginal English skills who should require competency in both reading English signage as well as speaking English as the majority of our Cobb County taxpayers, than the thousands impacted by loss of jobs, stolen identities, hit and run accidents, sexual assaults on children, and road injuries and deaths from drunken drivers? We as taxpayers are stuck with bills for feeding, educating, free health car, food stamps, welfare, earned income tax credits.

We don't understand your loyalties; however, based on a best assumption it looks suspect.
Unacceptable2
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March 31, 2013
I am a Latina and as one who had to learn the English language, I feel offering services in Spanish is unacceptable to obtain a status of Excellence. Why shouldn't the Board place that language acquisition upon their citizens or the non-documented individuals that desire to be citizens of the USA?

If individuals desire to be part of this society, they must enculturate and the major way in doing so in learning the language of the land.
David W
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April 01, 2013
Good for you, @Unacceptable2. You may be Latina, but you have the quality of good citizenship.

I also appreciate the comment from Bob Andrews:

The Bureaucrats and the Leadership in Cobb County might learn something from Vladimir Putin, Russia's President.

On February 4th, 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the Duma, (Russian Parliament), and gave a speech about the tensions with minorities in Russia:

"In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and should respect the Russian laws.

If they prefer Sharia Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that's the state law.

Russia does not need minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud they yell 'discrimination'.

We better learn from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to survive as a nation.

The Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of culture or the primitive ways of most minorities. When this honourable legislative body thinks of creating new laws, it should have in mind the national interest first, observing that the minorities are not Russians.”

The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a standing ovation for five minutes!

tired of it
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April 02, 2013
I have no problem with anyone being in this country legally its when they are illegal thats the problem. People like "unacceptable2" are the people we want in this country they come here learn the language and make this country greater. Catering to any outher language is not a good thing because then no one learns the language they expect us to cater to them instead of doing what is right. They need america not america needs them. LEARN ENGLISH TO LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY.
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