Community members voiced their concerns at the Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday about the city budget for the 2020 fiscal year, specifically the amount of funds allocated for language interpretation services.
Over 15 people spoke, with the help of interpreters, during public comment to oppose the proposed budget.
”We need the city to employ translators who understand the needs of us as residents, and this includes having translation and different ways to express the same idea,” Veronica Villicana said. “The $15,000 proposed is not enough.”
Members of the public held signs in English, Vietnamese, Khmer and Spanish that all requested the city council support their proposal for a budget increase.
The current budget plan includes $80,000 set aside for speech access, and an additional $40,000 for language services for each department. The group’s goal was for the council to increase the budget from the proposed $120,000 to $200,000.
The proposed budget also allocated $15,000 for full-time positions for interpretation services. Currently, the positions are part-time.
“We should bake it in and not sprinkle it on, and a full-time language access position bakes it in and not sprinkles it on,” Councilmember Rex Richardson said.
Councilman Roberto Uranga expressed his support and spoke to the community members in Spanish to show that he understood their frustrations.
“I want to ensure the people of Long Beach that we are providing language access and that is important, and we hear you,” Uranga said.
After nearly five hours of deliberation, the council members voted to not increase the budget for language interpretation.Though, the council and the mayor said that they take the issue very seriously.
“I think everyone on this body is supportive of providing access to all of our community. It’s important to the city and council,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “One of the shifts we tried to do is make sure every department is working on language access programs within their budget.”
The next city council meeting will be held Sept. 10 at 5 p.m. at Long Beach City Hall.