Latino group asks for Spanish in city documents


The president of the Long Beach Latino Civic Association appealed to the City Council Tuesday night to expand its outreach to Hispanic residents by placing more city documents into Spanish and other foreign languages.

Helen Alessi, the organization’s president, said that about 15 percent of Long Beach’s population of about 30,000 people are now Hispanic, and many may now need translated versions of city documents.

In particular, Alessi said, Long Beach needs to update its Language Access website page to include 2020 census demographic data and other pertinent information. Additionally, she said the city needs to make its website accessible and more easily translatable into other languages on smartphones.

It needs also, Alessi said, to provide the calendar for regular city council meetings in Spanish at each meeting, and it should translate community updates into Spanish and “share widely at city council meetings.”

Finally, she said, the council’s form for “good and welfare” sessions, in which residents are given three minutes to speak on any topic they choose, should be translated into Spanish.

Alessi handed the council a petition she said contained 247 names of people asking for the changes.

In a statement, the association noted that in 2015, the city council established a Language Access Policy to “ensure the provisions of appropriate translation and interpretation services for Long Beach residents with limited English proficiency.”

Yet, the statement continued, the policy “has not been enforced during city council meetings.” During discussions as to whether the city would decided to opt into a state program allowing retail marijuana sales, “No information was provided in Spanish,” the organization said.

Alessi asked for a meeting with city council members.

John Bendo, who Tuesday night was selected as city council president to replace Karen McInnis, who decided to step down from the post but will remain on the council,  asked Alessi how many of the 15 percent Spanish population are unable to “get by” in English?

Alessi said the number could vary, depending on how long a person has been in the United States. But, she added, the translations are needed

Liz Treston, the council’s vice president, said the city had just obtained a new copier and that it has the capability to translate into Spanish.

Acting City Manager Ron Walsh said in a statement, “Long Beach is already well ahead of the language access curve, with solutions like Language Line, a website that translates into more than 100 languages, and a multi-language emergency alert system.”

“We are always looking to do better, though, and will gladly explore other opportunities with the Long Beach Latino Civic Association that make Long Beach more inclusive and accessible to all,” Walsh said.