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Glenwood City Council approves Spanish translation for meetings

Councilors discuss how to include Latinx community in conversations about local government

Glenwood Springs City Council is working towards having simultaneous Spanish-language translations for its meetings.

In the Feb. 4 Glenwood Springs council meeting, City Manager Debra Figueroa shared the rates of local interpreters and how much it would cost to have City Council meetings translated to Spanish.

The rate from local interpreter Elizabeth Velasco was $65/hour and from Natalia Lupi-Peata it was $130/hour, which would come to about $12,480 per year, or half of that if the council went with Velasco’s service.



The general consensus of the council was that there needs to be a way to welcome mono-lingual Spanish-speakers into conversations about local government and the community, but council members varied in opinion as to what would be the most cost-effective and beneficial way to go about this.

Council member Ingrid Wussow said an important step in this process was to seek out and include input from the Latino community. Wussow said past translated meetings with Police Chief Joseph Deras at the helm showed strong participation from Latino community members, but she thinks there also may be more efficient ways to serve those who only speak Spanish in Glenwood Springs.



“I think for me a priority would be more signage around the community for just our recreational opportunities that they have, like maybe signs could be more bilingual before we do (translations for) meetings that potentially aren’t even being watched,” Wussow said.

Council member Paula Stepp, however, said mono-lingual Spanish speakers face the challenge of even feeling like they are a part of the community due to the lack of translated resources.

In an interview about the meeting, Stepp said she thinks the community is making good progress on adding more Spanish resources, but she thinks the addition of a simultaneous translator for meetings will be a good way to invite the Latino community to the conversation and show them their voices are valued by the council and community.

“But we should be ready for some of those things… like citizen comments at the beginning, you know we’re going to need someone there if someone stands up and speaks in Spanish, we need to know what they’re talking about…or if they’re speaking to a certain issue that we’re talking about at council, we need to hear that voice,” Stepp said.

Council member Tony Hershey said he wants to make the meetings accessible but that the council should consider translations on a request basis only. An example Hershey brought up as an alternative use for translations was some of the Parks and Recreation information for Glenwood Springs. Hershey was in agreement with Stepp in the sense that there needs to be an effort to make Glenwood Springs more welcoming for Spanish speakers.

“Right now, Spanish speakers may feel like these parks and outdoor activities aren’t for them because (information) isn’t in Spanish,” Hershey said.

Hershey also said another way to improve access for Spanish speakers could be to arrange for Spanish classes for city staff and officers. The motion to continue the conversation about cost negotiations for translations of official City Council meetings and special sessions was passed at a 4-2 vote.

However, Hershey said he found it most important to use the money to impact as many people as possible.

“There are ways aside from meeting translations to help (Spanish-speakers) in accessing the things they really need,” Hershey said.

jpeterson@postindependent.com

 


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