- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TANEYTOWN, Md. (AP) — English is now the official language of this central Maryland town of 5,000.

The Taneytown City Council has approved a nonbinding resolution, deciding against a charter change that drew complaints from civil rights groups and residents.

“This issue is not, I repeat, not about giving up your native tongue,” said council member Paul Chamberlain Jr., the resolution’s sponsor, after yesterday’s vote. “All we’re asking is if you become a U.S. citizen, please speak English. There are two reasons: One, you can have greater opportunities to realize the American dream, and two, so that we can communicate.”

Mr. Chamberlain, who made the English-only issue a key part of his failed bid for the Republican nomination for a state Senate seat, said the issue was not an election-year ploy.

Although town officials have not had problems dealing with people who don’t speak English, Mr. Chamberlain told the Carroll County Times that he wanted to be proactive.

He said he thinks the majority of residents support making English the official language.

Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said the nonbinding English Language Unity resolution was preferable to a charter change that would have been costly to implement and probably would have prompted court challenges.

A 2002 state law requires all state agencies to provide interpreters and to translate crucial documents into any language spoken by at least 3 percent of the population.

The resolution calls for all city government business to be conducted in English except where prohibited by state or federal law.

Elizabeth Alex, Baltimore manager of CASA of Maryland, an immigrants rights group, told the Baltimore Sun that the resolution might withstand a legal challenge but changing the town’s charter to make English the official language could violate state law.

“Where it becomes tricky is when an agency has a mix of city and state funding and employees. There definitely could be some legal ramifications,” said Miss Alex, who attended the meeting.

Council member James L. McCarron denounced the measure as unnecessary and divisive, saying that in his more than 22 years on the council, no one has come forward with a comment or complaint who didn’t speak English.

“I have no problem making English the official language of the state of Maryland or even America, but to make it the official language of Taneytown is simply a nonissue,” Mr. McCarron said. “It’s not a unity resolution. It’s a disunity one.”

More than 50 municipalities nationwide have at least considered a similar resolution, including Farmers Branch, Texas, outside of Dallas, which voted Monday night to make English the town’s official language.

The impact of the Taneytown resolution is not clear.

About 1.5 percent of Taneytown residents described themselves as Hispanic or Latino in the 2000 U.S. Census, with 37 Taneytown residents saying they spoke English less than “very well.”

In Hazleton, Pa., town officials passed a law in July to make English the official language and fine landlords who rent to illegal aliens and businesses that employ them.

The Illegal Immigration Relief Act has been put on hold until February because of a court challenge, but illegal Hispanic aliens already have started to leave the town, City Council President Joseph Yannuzzi said.

“Just passing the ordinance has caused the illegal immigrants to leave,” Mr. Yannuzzi said. “Most of the towns that surround us are passing it, too. Now they’re going to Scranton.”

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