Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bellevue plans to help Spanish speakers

Bilingual staffing and translators required by law

Express Staff Writer

Federal grants often come with strings attached. One of those strings is serving to provide easier communication for those lacking proficiency in the English language in Bellevue.

Federal grants used to fund infrastructure projects like sidewalks and lighted crosswalks come with requirements that the city fulfill federal guidelines that serve to help minorities, including the disabled and those who are not fluent in English.

The Bellevue City Council unanimously approved a Limited English Proficiency Plan last Thursday, asserting that the city currently provides bilingual (Spanish language) staffing at Bellevue City Hall and the Bellevue Marshal’s Office. 

The move was made to meet a federal requirement aimed at reducing discrimination toward minorities.

“At this time, the city provides accurate and competent language services and will continue to monitor and evaluate its service provided as the demographics change,” the plan states.

The Limited English Proficiency plan also states that a translator will be provided for public meetings as needed. The 2010 Census reports that 15.6 percent of Bellevue residents, or 263 individuals, speak a language other than English at home. That language is predominantly Spanish.

About 5 percent of those who don’t speak English at home are reported by the census to speak English “less than well,” a statistic that triggered the city’s need for a Limited English Proficiency plan.

Water and Sewer Deputy Clerk Yadira Robles is the only person at Bellevue City Hall who is fluent in Spanish. She said she speaks in Spanish to residents at least once each day, usually the elderly.

“They either call in for a quick questions, usually about their bills, or about keeping things on city rights of way. Sometimes they want to know why their water has been shut off,” Robles said.

The 15-page Limited English Proficiency plan is available at City Hall. It includes a Spanish-language complaint form to be used in cases of alleged discrimination. 

Tony Evans:

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