Should city council meetings include translators?

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A woman spoke up at the Durham City Council meeting Monday. But most city council members couldn't understand her because she spoke in Spanish.

A man who spoke Spanish was there, but refused to translate, saying:

"It is the city's responsibility to provide this language-access service for the very reason that you have a constituent here that speaks Spanish and is unable to properly communicate with this council," he said.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel responded, saying it would be helpful if they knew about the need for a translator ahead of time and that the city is working on a language-access plan.

Councilmember Javiera Caballero stepped in to translate.

The most current numbers, from 2016, show nearly 47,000 Hispanics in Raleigh and more than 39,000 Hispanics in Durham. It's unclear what percentage of those residents speak Spanish. But in Fayetteville, a whopping 57 percent spoke Spanish between 2011 and 2015.

All those cities have online forms for those wanting to speak at the city council meetings. None mention language but all say they will provide a translator if they have advance notice.

In addition, Raleigh said that if somebody calls the city and doesn't speak English, it has a translation service.

Durham said it hopes to implement the language-access plan within the next few months.

"It is very important that we have this plan so that our employees understand how important providing meaningful access to residents who don't speak English is, and that we have a coordinated way to do that," Beverly Thompson, spokeswoman for the City of Durham, said in an email. "That is what this plan aims to do ... from preparing for meetings to translation of brochures and vital documents."

Request to speak at Durham City Council meetings
How to speak at Fayetteville public forums
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