Non-English-Speakers May Face Restrictions During Loudoun Board Meetings

By Olivia Ausnehmer

County supervisors are considering changes on the rules for non-English speakers giving input during their meetings, stirring alarm from New Virginia Majority.

The current rules allow most speakers two and a half minutes to share their thoughts during Board of Supervisor meetings, and non-native English speakers a total of five minutes, allowing time for interpreters to translate their speech.

Non-English speakers were rare in the boardroom until organizing efforts by New Virginia Majority. Now, Spanish-speaking Loudouners are a regular part of public input sessions, often with interpretation provided by New Virginia Majority organizers.

Supervisors are considering limiting their speaking time to two and a half minutes, the same amount of time as English speakers. Supervisors had been scheduled to vote on the policy change July 5, but put it off until Sept. 20

Some told the Board of Supervisors they find the consideration of shortening the time limit for non-English speakers unfair and unjust for those who can only speak other languages.

“Currently, non-English speakers give their testimony in their own language, followed by English interpretation. The proposed amendment would have non-English speakers choose whether to either give testimony in their language and provide a written transcript for the board, or allocate their full time to an interpreter to make their comments in English. Let me be frank, the changes proposed in this item would limit the public participation of speakers of other languages,” said New Virginia Majority organizer Sofia Saiyed.

“I’m not sure it’s fair to give some people twice as long as other people when it comes to providing their message,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “Out of fairness to everyone, I think everyone should have the same amount of time to speak.”

Delaying the vote until after the board’s summer recess will allow county staff members to reach out to community members and stakeholders for their ideas on the best ways non-English speakers can participate in board meetings and to research what other jurisdictions in the region do with regard to non-English speakers.

“It has nothing to do with wanting people to not speak in their language, that’s not the issue. The issue is giving one person double the time to give us the same message, and how do we do that differently so everyone feels like they are being treated fairly,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).

Olivia Ausnehmer is a rising junior at Penn State interning at Loudoun Now.

16 thoughts on “Non-English-Speakers May Face Restrictions During Loudoun Board Meetings

  • 2022-06-29 at 4:40 pm
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    The small Democrat mind can’t get beyond the idea of “equity.” Meaning, they can’t see beyond the warped idea of equal results for everyone, even when equity is grossly unfair or just wrong. So, when Democrats encounter a scenario like this, their tiny little minds spin in circles. The speakers aren’t getting any more time than anyone else when half their time is gibberish to the listener.

    The fact that they need to “debate” this policy is stupid, and par for the BoS course.

  • 2022-06-29 at 4:43 pm
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    Here’s an idea… learn English like most other immigrants had to do. It did not mean they did not speak another language in the home… but when they went out and conducted their every day business, they did it in English. My parents did it. Friends did it. It also means that maybe I learn a couple of phrases to help or honor my friends.

    And remember… it was by one vote that the US stayed with English when they founded the country. The language that lost by one vote? German.

    • 2022-06-29 at 11:13 pm
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      Exactly right, Kronos.
      What a difference we have seen in our country! While looking through old documents when trying to piece together some family history, I found documents written by my great grandfather and great grandmother. In these documents, it was clear that these two people, who were “fresh off the boat” from Italy were very happy to come to this country, declare loyalty to it, learn the language, and do their best to positively contribute to society. My great grandfather worked as a truck driver and butcher while my great grandmother worked hard to learn English and teach their kids how to be good Americans. My father always recalled how proud they were to come here and how thankful they were to be able to work and be a part of a great and free society.
      Nowadays we have people who come to this country and all they seem to do is wave the flag of the country they left behind, never even considering themselves Americans. They demand that we speak their language and they have no intention of becoming one of those great American success stories that this country was founded on. We were all immigrants once, but it sure feels like people are now just coming to this country to see what they can take from it, rather than what they can give to it. I’m not talking about all immigrants of course, but way too many of them. I guess this happens when you reward them for breaking the law and sneaking into the country.

  • 2022-06-29 at 5:55 pm
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    I have an idea. Why not give each speaker five minutes! I don’t think that’s an excessive amount of time. In a related matter, I love Chair Randall. I think she’s the cat’s meow. But I do have a pet peeve. Too often she mangles the names of public speakers when introducing them. With so many staffers at her disposal, there must be someone who can advise her regarding everyone’s correct pronunciation. Happy July Fourth Loudoun!

    • 2022-06-30 at 10:53 am
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      5 minutes each? Thanks for proving my point that, “The small Democrat mind can’t get beyond the idea of “equity.” ” With 5 minutes each, the same problem exists. Keep your mind spinning.

  • 2022-06-29 at 6:39 pm
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    Simple solution. Non English speaking individuals should provide their remarks to the interpreter ahead of time in writing.

  • 2022-06-29 at 6:42 pm
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    I’m surprised the “double-time rule” was ever implemented to begin with, as it’s much harder to remove a privilege than to add a new one. The Board has two fair choices, they can either give everybody five minutes, or can limit everybody to 2.5 minutes. Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity that elected officials can dole out to their constituents. And the fact is that as it stands now, a select few are getting twice the time as everybody else.

    If a non-English speakers wants to express the same approximate number of words as an English speaker, all they’d have to do is write out their comment and give it to their translator to read straight through.

  • 2022-06-29 at 7:40 pm
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    I think it is a well written article by Ms. Ausnehmer. One issue I wish she would have mentioned was how this became an issue. One is left to wonder if it was a complaint from another resident or an issue for the supervisors of the meetings running too long.

    I hope Ms. Ausnehmer has a long and successful career upon her completion at Penn State.

  • 2022-06-29 at 10:11 pm
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    I’ve worked in two-language (or even three language) meetings for 2 decades. You need to give time for the interpretation. Even when you think you know what they are saying, often times there are nuances that only a native speaker and the interpreter can provide. And yes, it often takes twice as long, so doubling the allotted is merited. Happy National Hot Dog Month Loudoun!

  • 2022-06-30 at 1:11 am
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    Who will be paying for the expensive interpreters? Why do local leaders think that money just grows on trees? We all pay for govt expenses, and your property and sales taxes just go UP and UP. Let’s show some restraint, as we are heading in to a long stagflation economy please. Sure, celebrate diversity, and if need be let’s increase the ESOL classes and training, which provide huge support for our new citizens that pays off in the long run for all. They can practice their English at these meetings, eh? Comprende?

  • 2022-06-30 at 9:36 am
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    Providing written to translator ahead of time is an excellent idea. I am way over being PC in every darn thing that arises. We go overboard on everything these days, bending over backwards so the playing field will never be level again.
    Learn English! Too many use that as an excuse when it’s convenient for them. I work in customer service and it’s constant, but short them 1 penny on refund or change and they know THAT!
    I’m not a racist or bigot but tired of so many exceptions and bending over backwards because of something that happened hundreds of years ago or because someone moved here and they feel we should make accommodations at every turn for them.

  • 2022-06-30 at 11:45 am
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    Welcome to America, become an American without a hyphen. Learn English.

  • 2022-07-01 at 12:08 pm
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    I’m wondering how often such “double-time” comments actually happens during meetings. On the one hand, it is pointless for someone to deliver comments in a language where the vast majority of the audience does not understand that language. On the other hand, giving a tiny fraction of speakers time to have their comments translated seems to be a reasonable accommodation. Haven’t these same people lectured us on tolerance and diversity endlessly over the past decade? It’s not like the board itself doesn’t waste hours during their meetings. I know. I have attended many meetings where the boards drone on pointlessly for hours.

    Of course, the solution would be to have the speaker submit their foreign language comments and English translation together and have someone read the English translation to the board.

    Frankly, both county and school boards seem to dread facing their constituents and that seems to be the real problem. The extra 30 minutes spent hearing from residents and taxpayers cannot represent an intolerable burden on the boards.

  • 2022-07-02 at 10:36 am
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    Cat’s meow? What planet is this guy from?

    Learn English.

    No million dollar study needed on this one BOS. I just saved the county come cool cash.

    Have an English Speaking Day Loudoun County!!!!

  • 2022-07-03 at 12:51 pm
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    Isn’t it funny that if you went to another country, they expect us to learn and respect their language and culture versus the “immigrant” forcing their own language and culture on them? Not in America where citizens must adapt to the immigrants (many illegal) way of life, otherwise you are a racist or bigot. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, but that was a century+ ago. And, those immigrants that came, learned to respect their new country and take pride in it. Nowadays, immigrants that come only want want want, while spit on our flag and values. And the lefties love it. SMH

  • 2022-07-03 at 2:11 pm
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    Non English speakers should submit their questions ahead of time. The translated questions should still conform to the existing time limit for English speakers.

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