Spanish translation at City Council meetings will no longer need to be requested by residents, the city announced Thursday afternoon.
The city had resumed live public comments in June but did not start offering translation services until August after months of outcries from community organizers who said that not providing it was blocking immigrant communities who don’t speak English from getting important information during the middle of a health pandemic.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, people wishing to hear public meetings had to request those services at least 24 hours in advance. If they did not, the chances were high that they wouldn’t be able to participate in the meeting in a language they fully understood.
Now, Spanish translation will be automatic.
“It’s about time this happened and I’m extremely proud of all of our community members who advocated to ensure this became a reality,” said Gaby Hernandez, executive director of the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition, one of the groups who had advocated for better access for non-English speakers. “This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for their voices and courage.”
Thursday’s press release from the City Clerk’s office said that translation services for Spanish would now no longer need a request to be filed but the new program would only apply to City Council meetings. The move followed a vote by the council to mandate that Spanish translation be required going forward with the council carving out additional funding in the most recent budget cycle to make that possible.
Residents hoping to listen to the meetings in Khmer or Tagalog would still have to request the translation service in advance. Any resident wishing to listen to other city commission meetings would also need to request translation services in advance.
“The City remains committed to removing language barriers to ensure equitable access to available City services,” the release said.