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Our View: Time has come to rescind useless English-only ordinance

An ordinance that has done absolutely nothing but tarnish the perception of Carroll County as an inviting place for all to live, work and play could soon be rescinded. The sooner, the better.

An ordinance was passed in 2013 that made English the official language of Carroll County. At the time, the claim was that it would save the county money and headaches in translating important official documents as well as to encourage assimilation.

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The county commissioners discussed the ordinance Thursday at the weekly Board of Commissioners meeting, eventually voting unanimously to hold a public hearing about rescinding the ordinance, which requires all county documents, publications, hearing notices and public business be written and/or conducted in English only.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, raised the subject of repealing the ordinance, saying it has done nothing to change the way the county operates, has “tarnished” the way Carroll looks to outsiders, and makes the county “look bad” and appear “divisive.”

“I think it puts a stain on Carroll County, and I would like to get that off," said Frazier, a second-term commissioner who noted he has been hearing negative comments about the ordinance from Carroll citizens since he was first elected. After the meeting, Frazier told us he had spoken to those who work with politicians in Annapolis who mentioned the ordinance to him — and not favorably.

Before voting to hold a public hearing, the commissioners sought out a compelling reason for the existence of the ordinance, adopted by the 59th Board of Commissioners. The 60th board, which included two holdover commissioners from the previous board, did not seek to rescind it, even after Frederick County in 2015 repealed a similar ordinance after only three years on the books.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, asked County Attorney Tim Burke how much money the ordinance has saved Carroll County government.

“We’re not aware of any cost savings,” Burke said. “There was no change. The documents were produced in English before, and the ordinance was adopted and they continued to be produced in English afterwards.”

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said: “Why is this in place if it’s done nothing?”

Why indeed?

“I think the original motive for this ordinance was purely political to appease a very small minority politically in our county,” Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said.

Absolutely right.

A public hearing is required before a repeal could be voted upon. Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, suggested that instead of just holding a public hearing that might attract only a few people, an online survey should be posted in hopes of hearing from thousands on the issue.

Sounds like a good idea. Maybe we’ll be surprised by the response, but Carroll countians are generally not in favor of governmental overreach. If it could be demonstrated that the English-only ordinance was helping the county, monetarily, that would be one thing. But that isn’t the case.

As for encouraging assimilation? Please. Pretty much everyone living here who doesn’t speak fluent English is actively trying to improve because they know better communication skills with the vast majority of their neighbors and others with whom they have daily contact will be of benefit.

The only thing the ordinance encourages is for those who are offended by it to think twice about moving, starting a business or spending discretionary income here.

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