By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — Half a century after the Civil Rights Act was passed federal, state and local officials continue efforts to improve government services for residents with limited English proficiency.
Wednesday’s City Council meeting included a resolution to adopt a plan bringing the city into compliance with federal mandates, and to reach out to those in need of assistance.
City Administrator Brandon Fouriner presented the plan to elected officials, and outlined a strategy and goals “to ensure our City is providing appropriate access to services and activities for persons with limited English proficiency and not engaging in discriminatory practices.”
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act had been clarified by an executive order signed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, which said that, “Individuals who do not speak English well and who have a limited ability to read, write and speak, or understand English are entitled to language assistance.”
According to U.S. Census data from 2012, nearly 10 percent of Southgate’s population — more than 2,800 residents — speak a language other than English at home, with primary languages including Spanish, Indo-European and Asian-Pacific dialects.
Yet, a survey of city employees concluded that less than 1 percent have had encounters with residents that have limited English skills.
“The nature of the services that the city provides is important to an individual’s day-to-day life,” Fournier said in his report to council.
Included in the program will be making every city employee aware of Title VI policies and complaint procedures to assist residents with basic services or to file discrimination complaints. Documents as needed will be translated upon resident request.
Non-discrimination includes making available all government services and assistance to residents with disabilities, and the plan includes a review of city facilities to ensure compliance with the American Disabilities Act.
The program includes methods of communicating to residents that language assistance is available, including signs and outreach documents.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])